Maybe it’s the pounding. The beat that comes down hard and pulsing, like the Incredible Hulk is the one putting “one foot in front of the other one” and the repercussions are thundering shocks through the earth and leaving monster-sized craters in my gut. The pounding certainly doesn’t detract from the message, that’s for sure.
I close my eyes and hunker over. It’s too heavy to feel it all, but I’m feeling it all anyway and wondering what I’d look like if I could watch myself move. Like a tribal dancer? Like a boxer? Maybe more like a machine? Like a robot.
I remember when I had that ligament injury from basketball in high school and I had to wear that black brace that I velcroed tightly around my atrophied leg, so that it could become an extension of me. And I remember how the tall one used to tease me mercilessly as I walked into Chemistry class. He would make robot noises, the buzzing and whirring coming from his mouth synchronized flawlessly with my every step. One foot and then the other, buzzzz, whirrrrr, metal, gears, electric surges. Meanwhile everyone would laugh. Everyone except for me.
The song by Fun continues, reverberating ’till those two lines that take my breath away. The lines that hound and haunt me. The lines that say, “But I will die for my own sins, thanks a lot. We’ll rise up ourselves, thanks for nothing at all.”
“Why do they haunt you,” someone asked me. “Because they come from a self-assuredly dark and lost place?”
“No. Because I think they’ve been my words before,” I replied. And probably because they’re still my words now, so rebelliously terse, like a middle finger flashed and held with pursed lips and pinched piercing eyes.
When I hear the previous lyrics about the ongoings of an internal church that keeps people locked up in boxes, why, I feel my own Hulk-anger flare and like an over-exerted machine the smoke bellows out my ears. “Maybe I should learn to shut my mouth.” I’m certainly not making a good name for myself with ear spouting smoke flares warning people to stay away, but I can’t help but say out loud that the way of the church is just not working out like I’ve been promised. And no amount of paying homage is making my life clean up.
“But it’s not fair that he is going to get bicycling gloves, and I’m not,” one of my daughters whines.
“If you wait around for life to get fair before you enjoy it or before you take care of yourself, then you’ll wait around your whole life,” My husband responds.
“And you’ll be bitter,” I add, re-tasting my own bitterness as a sour film in the back of my mouth, a reminder of what it felt like to wait on God to clean up the messes of my life. Who told us life should be clean?
I remember when my husband had that stint between jobs where he drove a Red Bull van and carried cases of the energy drink into bars and strip clubs and gas stations, and as he drove from one stop to another he would yell at God for not doing his part. For abandoning us. For letting all these messes remain. “After all, after all I thought we were all your children.”
“I have R-rated conversations with God, Mandy. Those Red Bull van walls have heard it all. I don’t hold back.”
My friend recently said about her own f-words of anger with God, “I felt freedom to be mad at Him because I began to realize He didn’t need me not to be.”
Suddenly it feels very apropos to thunder my own shocks of “I will die for my own sins, thanks a lot. We’ll rise up ourselves, thanks for nothing at all.” And the adrenaline that flows along with it, might just be enough to keep me from a fear-induced paralysis.
But something has shifted in me. Most days, I’m surprisingly no longer angry with God. My screams of thanks for nothing at all are directed to that mirage of a God that I was promised in my desert days by a Christian belief system that told me A Healer was always available if I just said a little prayer. My prayer language has dried up and the ground is cracking, and when I sit across the dining room table from my friend who still sheds tears for her boy that died even though they faithfully drove him one night to that man that was supposed to have the gift to heal all, why the terse middle finger just has to have its way. And somehow I think God is on that side of the church walls too. The outside. The side of messes and mournings and middle fingers.
I’m like Dietrich Bonhoffer for an instant, and I am saying “Even if means I go to hell, I’ve got to take things into my own hands. I can’t just wait around for you to take care of me anymore. I have to find a way to enjoy my life in the midst of this mess.” Maybe this is more entirely what it means to sacrifice yourself for yourself?
I think the saying it, the dismissing God as the fixer and recognizing myself as the container for Divine Possibility sparks something. All my whirring and buzzing and smoke bellowing and finally there is a spark, a tiny spark like the tiny speck on Horton’s flower, that jumps the wire and ignites action, and suddenly I don’t have to feel so guilty anymore or so puny or so paralyzed or so bitter. I can muscle my way through putting one foot in front of the other one.
“I don’t need a new love, or a new life, just a better place to die.”
Don’t let me die amongst the whitewashed box walls of painted over unmet promises, let me die in a messy field of my own making, so at least I know that when I’ve died it was with my arms open wide, my heart feeling it all, and my humanity doing all it could to not thwart my divinity.
Maybe we all need that mirage of a god to throw stones at with the dark and mysterious power of the God that lives within.