Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Nontraditional Advent: Loving God with mind, heart, and strength.

Duane and I got up early on Saturday morning so that I could pick up a couple things from Henry's.  I decided very last minute to make some bruschetta at a dinner party I was hosting that night and needed tomatoes.   Henry's goes all out at Christmas.  Decorations everywhere.  Christmas music through the store.  The clerk will even say "Merry Christmas," an increasingly rare greeting.  And so as I walked through the store, I reflected on this Christmas season.  I'm enjoying Christmas this year, and I'm working very hard to breathe and not let it get overly crazy, but I admit that the season is not magical.  My heart does not leap at the sight of twinkling lights or trees or the scent of Christmas tree.  And I wondered if this is as good as it gets.  If so, I'm okay with that, but I wondered what it would be like to just sit back and experience things without trying to figure them out.  I tend to internalize, analyze, understand, isolate.

I didn't have a lot of time to think about this thought.  Saturday was going to be a very busy day, a brunch in the morning, cooking all afternoon, and then dinner at night.  It's always a little complicated to cook in someone else's kitchen.

I didn't really know what the first event would be like.  A woman I've never met holds a Bible study about romance and the bride of Christ at a recovery center for women.  She was holding a wedding ceremony and reception for these women.  My friend Denise got invited and asked if she could bring a few friends.  And so Portia and I headed up to Ramona to join Denise at this wedding ceremony for the bride of Christ.

I don't attend these kinds of things very often.  First, I feel awkward at recovery centers.  And second, I don't like attending events where I don't know people.  Finally, bride of Christ events seem a little melodramatic sometimes.  Remember, I'm the one who laughed at the handcuffs at a worship event.  I love verbal metaphors, but tangible symbols always make me feel a little awkward.

Honestly, I'm not sure exactly why I said yes.

We arrived at a home in the hills around Ramona.  Okay, this was the most impressive house on the street.  The event was not being held in the recovery center, but in the home of the woman who leads the study.  Okay, now I feel a little more comfortable, but I still don't know anyone.  Patty, the study leader, greeted me at the door and gave me a big hug, totally unexpected.  Later, Patty opened the program by stating she had been praying for all of us, that the God who loves us would move in each of our hearts, speak to us, transform us.  I was dubious.  The canopy draped with silk and sequined fabrics seemed a little odd, and then Denise sat down on the front row.  I don't sit on front rows.  Too much exposure.  People can see you.

Long story short, this was nothing we thought it would be.

Interpretative worship dancers in long flowy clothes and bright colors interpreted songs, and I appreciated the aesthetics, the movement, the symmetry of the dancers, the way they used their bodies to communicate the lyrics in a meaningful way.  But I remained unmoved.

I thought, if I just close my eyes, I can begin to internalize the images and maybe they will speak to me.

And I realized that was a pretty ridiculous thought.  If I close my eyes, I can't see the dancers.  I don't allow their movement or their choreography to speak to me.

And so I tried, I really tried to just experience the dance.  Appreciate it without trying to analyze it.  Look at the faces of the dancers and see their heart.  And I know that sounds a little analytical, but I can't help it.

The thing is, I love this part of me.  God created this part of me.  And yet, this analysis is a safe zone for me.  A place where I can isolate myself from people, from experiences, from connection.

One of the dancers told her story of falling in love with Jesus, the things that held her back, something she hid from other people, and how the power of God strengthened her and allowed her to surrender to God's love, and then she began to dance.  Another dancer told her story, and at the end of her story, she invited us to stand, if we felt comfortable and to dance with her, following her movements.

I hesitated.  This is not something I do.  I don't dance--except in my imagination.  And so, exactly because this is something I don't do, and exactly because I had been having these "experience" conversations with myself and with God, I stood and began to move.  Of course we stood in place.  There were too many women in the room to go leaping and twirling around the floor.

The next dancer told her stories, and again we were invited to join her in dancing.  This time, however, we were invited to use our own motions.

The front row seats gave me what I considered a great advantage.  I didn't see anyone around me, and I didn't have to worry about hitting someone with my waving arms.  I set aside the desire to hold back, and I worshiped God with my arms, and with my heart.

I danced.

At the end, Patty invited to receive a white rose and to lay it at the foot of the cross, surrendering the thing we were hiding from other people.  And I thought to myself, I'm not really hiding anything.  I just don't live out of a whole self.

God created us with three parts, our mind, our spirit, and our body.  
I'm comfortable with the first two, but the physical part of me?
The part that experiences life?  The part that enjoys things just because they are and doesn't try to figure them out? The part that holds back and waits and listens?  The part that takes risks and doesn't worry about being right or wrong?

So, if I am hiding something, it's hidden from me as well.  And I hesitate to even share this story because, well, it just doesn't quite make sense to me.

How do I live out of the part of me that I don't know?  And so, I'm trying to figure that out.  Which, I suspect, may be counterproductive.

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