let us meet in the borderlands

(This post is a contribution to the April Synchroblog “Bridging The Divide.” This month bloggers are encouraged to offer ideas on ways to heal divisions in the church.)

Existence mirrors God the best it can, though how arrogant for any image in that mirror, for any human being, to think they know His will. (St. Thomas Aquinas)

When I was young and impressionable, I was told my relationship with God wasn’t good enough. I believed it; there were many Scriptures and credible sources telling me that I wasn’t part of the one true church, therefore what I had with God up until that point wasn’t worthy. And thus began the first of many clear divisions in my life: before I was saved versus after I was saved.

On my high and mighty white horse, I rode into the town of my prior church, which shame-on-them, hadn’t done the job apparently. There, my fourteen year old fiery self argued with youth ministers about the need for baptism. They retorted, salvation by faith alone, not acts. I dug my heels in and stood my ground–after all, my new found interpretation of the Scriptures was the only one that mattered, so take that! God, and the mere but mighty 100,000 other true disciples of Jesus who had the keys to heaven, must have been so proud of me. In this contentious and arrogant conversation, another clear divide cracked in my life: THEeeee truth versus their truth.

Since I was one of so few of the saved on an earth so expansive, I was quite busy in high school, what with all the judging and proselytizing of the sinners–yes, the sexually active, the druggies, the ditchers, the cheaters; but, gasp, also the non-Christian (according to us) Christians (according to them). Sadly, they were misled and needed saving, thus ripping open another chasm in my life: me versus you, us versus them.

Early in college, despite my father’s failing health, I was told by various leaders that I could not go home to see my parents, because I would miss a meeting of THE Body. Deep within, I felt the whispers of a voice, a Voice?, urging me to use my own my mind, with which I loved God deeply. But, not wanting to be shunned, or considered prideful, I remained “humble” and open to the “advice.” Here, again, another boundary emerged: the voice of God through men and women versus His private stirrings in my soul.


 

The places in between places / They are like little countries / Themselves

287949cf29fdadef2bc9aa6828a7364aLater in college, I met a man who taught me how to play in the borderlands between all the binaries to which I held so tightly. His name was Richard Guzman, and I took his course Sacred Texts as Literature. He was a professor, but as I look back and realize his redemptive role in my life, he was much more like a soul whisperer. What I realized in that class was that there is an overwhelming and underaddressed gap between the signifier and the signified (to borrow the language of the deconstructionist Derrida). In other words, when my name is used, Mary, it does and and could not ever capture all the essence and wonder and chaos and disaster that I am. When someone says “I love you,” what does love mean? Does that one word do it justice? Isn’t my Western idea of love very different from the Eastern idea of love, though they are the same word with similar intents? Thus the signifier (the language) can never fully do the signified (the truth, the reality, the essence) justice. Therein lies the invitation to play, again to borrow Derrida’s language, in the gap between the two, to explore and embrace and savor the borderlands between.


All language has taken an oath to fail to describe Him; any attempt to do so is the height of arrogance and will always declare some kind of war: the inner ones that undermine our strength and the other conflicts that maim red.

"Lousy at Math" by Hafiz

“Lousy at Math” by Hafiz

It is hard to not notice the war, to use Meister Eckhart’s language, erupting from the many opposing sides of religion. As I scroll through my Facebook news feed, the left is attacking the right, the liberals versus the conservatives, the micro-leaders versus the mega-leaders, the traditionalists versus the post-modernists, the over-haters versus the over-lovers, the church-goers versus the church-refugees, all using God and the Bible to prooftext and and perform and persuade. I suppose in some ways, even the beginning of this post was my echo from across a certain crevice. Each of them claims, all of them, claim their language is THEeeee language to describe God, their interpretation of the Scriptures THEeeee only one, their perception of righteousness and holiness THEeeee only lifestyle. And again, the earth splinters, fissures in the heart of God.


John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us. But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”

All of these divides and boundaries draw me to the borderland, to see Jesus. In many ways, Jesus is the personification of the borderland. He is not the wrathful, violent God of the Old Testament. But neither is he the misogynistic, doctrine-obsessed God of the epistles. He is not here OR there; he is here AND there. No where, in my language which fails, do I see this more than in the story of the attempted stoning of the adulterer. If Jesus were the Old Testament God only, he would have stoned her himself. If Jesus were the New Testament God only, he would have taken the opportunity to preach a lesson and establish the procedures for handling an adulterer in the church. But, playing in the borderland, Jesus is quiet, an act of reserve. He bends down, an act of humility, and writes in the sand (don’t you want to know what he wrote!?). Jesus then calls the people to be self-reflective, rather than other-condemning, an act of grace. He does not condone her life choices, rather he connects with her (once all the religious imbeciles have left). His conversation with her is private, dignified, honorable, built from love not righteousness. Clearly Jesus understood no one ever wins a debate with loquacious assurance, even the Son of God.


 

2a87f6298fc48ceb94d62e9615eb0526I cannot help but hope that those engaging in the conversations happening across the crevasses in our religious landscape accept the invitation to play in the borderlands, to dissolve in God.

There, in the borderlands, are no stones–only insight into the weakness of the self; therefore mercy and humility breed.

There, in the borderlands, are not facts and concrete, proven points of knowledge–only faith; thus mystery and hope multiply.

There, in the borderlands, are not camps of isolation–only connections and conversations; hence compassion and love bloom.

There, in the borderlands, are not delineations created by versus, or, between–only with, and, too; thereby unity and harmony flourish.

There, in the borderlands, is not me against you, us opposed to them–only me with you, us alongside them; ergo trust and grace thrive.

There, in the borderlands, is not sufficient language which articulates His edges accurately and neatly–only words and questions grasping for the Infinite, the Undefinable, the More, the All; and so together, we wonder and adventure and play in His Beautiful Mystery.


 

I end with Nichole Nordeman’s song “Please Come,” which reminds us that God has the most generous, welcoming heart of all; his play in the borderlands is glorious and wondrous and majestic and unfathomable. Let us meet Him there in the borderlands.


This blog was inspired by Synchroblog’s topic of “Healing the Divides.” For other playful voices and healing hearts in the borderlands, check out these posts:

 

19 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tammy
    Apr 10, 2014 @ 18:37:47

    Your words….as always… Are a balm to my soul

    Reply

  2. Stefani
    Apr 14, 2014 @ 08:57:47

    I have kept this in my inbox since I got it, and read it over and over and over. You nourish my soul. I need your words. Thank you for writing them.

    Reply

  3. Trackback: Healing the Divides Link List / April 2014 Synchroblog | synchroblog
  4. Trackback: 10 ways we can build bridges instead of bomb them | kathy escobar.
  5. Trackback: Bridging The Divide
  6. Trackback: Speak Truth | Tending a Flame
  7. Trackback: Healing the Divide Begins Within | Praying the Gospels
  8. Trackback: Bridging the Divides | Caedmon
  9. Trackback: The Impossible Space Between Us | Burning Religion
  10. Trackback: You can’t get there from here | Grace Rules Weblog
  11. Trackback: Healing Divisions in the Body of Christ | Done with Religion
  12. Trackback: Church shopping at the wrong mall: A story of Easter Sundays. #FGJ2RW Part VII | Carly Gelsinger
  13. Trackback: When My Children Squabble | bronwyn's corner
  14. Trackback: A Catholic’s love letter to Evangelical women | Still learning
  15. Trackback: are we there yet? | Simple Felicity
  16. Trackback: Healing Division in the Church - GodsLeader.com | GodsLeader.com
  17. Trackback: The Lowest Common Denominator | Glenn Hager
  18. Trackback: what I wish I would have known as a newlywed | lifeinthedport

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

rob bell

writing into meaning.

Left Brain Buddha

mindful and thought-full living and parenting

www.unrulygrownups.com

writing into meaning.

Mom Voyage - Adventures of a Fulltime RV Mom

Just another WordPress.com site

affectiveliving

Teaching. Learning. Living.

Mostly True Stories of K. Renae P.

My Adventures in Teaching and Learning

synchroblog

diverse voices. monthly topics. good conversations.

Done with Religion

Various postings and thoughts from a non-religious viewpoint

candidkay

Taking the journey, bumps and all

jenny's lark

the beauty of an ordinary life

Nonlinear Compilations

Parenting, teaching, writing, and learning to find beauty in the present

Education Thunk

Thoughts and musings on education as it is, was and will be.

talk from chalk

What I've learned while teaching

Infinitefreetime.com

The blog of Luther M. Siler, Teacher/ Word-maker-dude/ Wanker for hire

Thoughtful teaching

Thoughts on teaching in the modern world.

Hope, Honor, and Happiness

A blog for the book “Kingdom of the Sun” and discussions on finding the Hope, Honor, and Happiness in education, life, and the seemingly impossible.

Secret Teacher

Life inside the primary classroom

A Confederacy of Spinsters

Sex, Dating, and Surviving Your Twenties

Miss Four Eyes

Everything is better through a pair of ridiculously large glasses

SCC ENGLISH

writing into meaning.

The Reading Zone

I am a reader, a teacher, a writer, a thinker, a reviewer, and a dreamer of dreams.

Gatsby In L.A.

My year of learning about education in Los Angeles by Ellie Herman

mariposayogi's Blog

This WordPress.com site is the bee's knees

The Snail on the Wall

Perspectives on Literature and Life, by Lady Vowell Smith

Harriet in Bloom

A place for educators to reflect, recharge, and revive

Pursuit of a Joyful Life

Finding Joy in Everyday Living

Working in Adult Literacy

For teachers of adult literacy, numeracy, adult basic education, GED prep and adult ESOL; about teaching and adult learning.

Avoiding Neverland

A nomadic teacher's thoughts on preparing teens for life

Christopher Lehman

Educational Consultant and Author Christopher Lehman's Blog

rob bell

writing into meaning.

The Underful Journey

My Journey Toward Health

and yadda yadda

By Jen Maidenberg

Storyline Blog

writing into meaning.

Love, Teach

writing into meaning.

writing into meaning.

writing into meaning.

kathy escobar.

love. mercy. justice.

writing into meaning.

Libbi Peterson: Practicing Presence

An attempt at mindfulness in life, learning, and love

wanderingbarkhumanities

Finding the Lost Humanities

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,560 other followers

%d bloggers like this: