Friday, January 25, 2013

Welcome to Real Life

"Welcome to real life, Jaime."
The words of my Hebrew professor this morning in class. I had shared (easy to do since there are only two other students with me in the class) that yesterday I had had the realization that it takes an enormous amount of energy to learn. My professor was very excited to hear of my epiphany; however, I am still trying to become comfortable with this feeling.
You see, I have been able to skim my way through life. And since my life has been mostly concerned with academia, I believe I have been able to "cheat" my way through it. This realization has been building over the last week, as I have been trying to actually do all of my work. Last night, I was shocked to find that I may simply not have the time to do it all (or that I will need to cut other things from my life). Furthermore, I felt--quite acutely--the exhaustion of making myself open to learning. True learning, in my (premature) opinion, is simply being open and allowing the knowledge to seep in and through you. Openness allows for the whole process to even begin, and the seeping through is the processing and integrating part. My previous tactic for "learning" was to keep myself very closed; yet when I so chose, I would reach out, grab a select stone from the knowledge conglomeration, and then just stuff it within myself. That was it. It didn't require much energy. And I was smart enough to know what pieces to grab so that I could project an image of wise. But it was just an image!
My professor continued to explain that people who are intelligent often don't realize that they have to work like the rest of "us." But, he said, if someone is capable of combining intelligence AND work--that is "dangerous" and when something wonderful can happen. Bottom line: my professor is excited that the light bulb has gone off in my head. However, I'm not so sure I feel the same way. Not only does it mean that I will have to apply myself more (wow, I sound lazy--sorry, it's true), but being "open" sounds extremely terrifying and threatening and....well.....dangerous.
However, even after acknowledging my feelings and saying all of this, I do understand that openness is important. Now I do not mean being open to the extent that I am pushed back and forth by the waves of this world. What I do mean is that I want to be open to the probable impossibles of this creation, of which I am a part. Let me elaborate:
The concept of openness began for me with a willingness to explore to role of the Holy Spirit in my life (read my entry "Jumbled Thoughts on Life, Light, and Longing"). Only if I am open to seeing more of the Holy Spirit will God reveal these things to me. Yes, I am convinced that God can force Revelation; however, I think He prefers to fulfill our desires for Revelation. So I have been practicing the discipline of spiritual openness.
Openness was further pressed upon my heart by traveling the journey of Forgiveness. I have chose to forgive four significant people in my life over the last three weeks. This has not been an easy journey. I have hidden most of my life behind a solid brick wall of protective unforgiveness that I have erected myself. Forgiveness requires me to take down that brick wall. Forgiveness requires me to be vulnerable. However,--as I will explain shortly--there is Hope for another protector.
Another current and difficult path of openness that I am journeying on is the path of openness in relationship. This openness looks a little bit different. Let me explain...
The old Jaime, used to operate in the role of people-pleaser. I realize you may have heard this term overused and under-emphasized, but allow me to explain its twisted, deadliness in my life. I don't please people just because I want them to be happy and therefore I can be happy. I please people because it gives me a sense of control over them. If I can manipulate your emotions so that you are always happy, you will then want to be around me, and possibly do as I ask, and I will feel safe. However, the problem is that in order to manipulate your emotions, I must manipulate myself first. And that turns into bondage--where you are actually the one controlling me. If you are upset (especially if you are upset with me), then I will scramble to do everything I can in order to make you happy once again...even if it means making myself miserable. As I have described it, the role of people-pleaser is coated in deceit. I myself am deceived into thinking that I can control others and am therefore safe; when in reality, I am vulnerable to every whim of the individual I am trying to please. And if the person I am trying to please is extremely aware and crafty, then that individual can manipulate me as much as he or she wants. That is deadly.
So how does this tie into openness? Well, part of the process for me over the last few days was learning to let go of people--as in not cling tightly to them so that I can "manipulate" their emotions and control them. I then allow others (as well as myself) to react and respond in whatever way they so choose. This has not been easy. Although it gives me freedom, it also requires me to be the recipient of emotions that I am not controlling. Yes, I still might be the recipient of positive, encouraging, uplifting emotions; but I might also receive negative, degrading, dark emotions as well. This openness is terrifying, but it is also freeing--and, ultimately, part of real life.
As I mentioned earlier, this openness makes me feel vulnerable, unprotected, unsafe, raw, etc. If openness is such a good thing, then why do I feel this way?
I have spent my life with a self-erected, impenetrable boundary shutting me off from anything external to myself. But this is not how God created me to live.
Let me use a Biblical reference to help explain this. Zechariah was a post-exilic prophet to Judah during the time when the Jews were rebuilding Jerusalem and the Temple. Zechariah has the following vision one night: "Then I looked up--and there before me was a man with a measuring line in his hand! I asked, 'Where are you going?' He answered me, 'To measure Jerusalem, to find out how wide and how long it is.' Then the angel who was speaking to me left, and another angel came to meet him and said to him: 'Run, tell that young man, "Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it," declares the LORD, "and I will be its glory within"'" (Zech 2:1-5).
Okay, so first off, consider the idea of Jerusalem without walls. The city has already been destroyed by the Babylonians during their siege many years prior. So the goal of rebuilding a city would inherently mean rebuilding a wall to protect it. But, upon reflection, the wall was destroyed anyway--so what good will another wall really do? Then look at the description of the city: it is filled with men and livestock. This is a healthy, restored city. So why does the city not have a wall? Because Adonai will be the wall around the city. And He will not be a physical wall that can be destroyed and torn down; He will be a wall of fire. And, not only a wall surrounding the city, but Adonai will also be the glory within.
This is what I am beginning to see in myself. Initially I am terrified and confused: Why am I supposed to not have a wall to protect myself? But God says: Trust Me--I will be your wall. And the wall of God--who is now Christ, crucified, dead, and resurrected--is a boundary that keeps out Darkness, but also lets in Light.
God says, Welcome to real life, Jaime, but fear not, for I myself will be a wall of fire around you.
Thanks be to God.

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