Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Four days filled with life

It has been a weekend filled to overflowing with both rest and activity. Lots of changes in the last ninety-six hours...

God smiled on Chicago on Friday - cool breezes and temperatures in the low seventies. By 2 PM Friday, I had a severe, near-fatal case of spring fever - somehow, sitting and printing off donor thank-you letters seemed completely useless while a respite from the summer heat and humidity waited outside. My boss had left for the weekend, and my "other boss" was amenable, so I left early, and drove straight downtown to the "Taste of Chicago" festival.

"The Taste" (as it is known here) is a big deal - lots of food and entertainment down at Grant and Millenium Parks downtown. I hadn't been too drawn to the entertainers - Donna Summer, Clint Black, LeeAnn Rimes, etc. - but in a way, I wish I'd stayed for Steve Winwood. But to be honest the food was plentiful, but pretty lame - not much above what you'd find at a good-sized county fair midway (and sometimes below!). And the crowds were, well, stifling, even at 4:00 on a Friday afternoon. So I walked through it all, did my best to find non-lame food, people-watched a bit, and then headed out. I can check the "Taste of Chicago" box off my list...

Friday night at 10 PM, I got the phone call from school that my new roommate had arrived. He was supposed to have arrived the prior Monday, and was rescheduled for Saturday - but anyway, here he was. Erkan Kurt is a Muslim teacher and doctoral student from Istanbul, Turkey, doing his thesis on understandings of creation across faith traditions. He'd been on the plane for 11 hours, and had been taken out to dinner by 3 of the other Turkish students at LSTC, so he got settled, and went to bed.

There isn't much visual evidence for it, but I did a goodly amount of cleaning this weekend. All the winter clothes are clean, and waiting to be put away; all the summer clothes are clean (and mostly hung-up or put away!). I've emptied a dozen boxes, and have been filling several more - a box of theology books to send to my former sponsoring church, a box of clothing to be donated, a box of miscellaneous books to go to the local library, and a box of heavy stuff that's going to the trash. It still looks bad...but there is progress.

Sunday afternoon, I took Erkan on a driving tour of the lakeshore - just to give him a sampling of what's available in Chicago. A couple Turkish students had taken him on a walking tour around the University of Chicago - but I thought it was worthwhile to let him see the bigger picture. He has a pretty good handle on English - vastly better than my handle on Turkish - so our conversations were good, if a little slow.

I had the blessing to be able to spend time with folks from Fourth Church on Sunday evening - a massive potluck organized by my new friend Larry Nicholson. Then the special treat was going to one of his friends' luxury condo a couple blocks away, and going up on their rooftop patio to watch the city's massive fireworks display. It's the first time I've seen live fireworks in, oh, forever - so that was a really good time. The travel back home on the El and CTA buses was a nightmare; even after waiting an hour for the crush to die down, it didn't. Add to that enough personalities fortified by alcohol (or whatever) and it was..."interesting." But worth it - and the CTA was vastly preferable to driving...

I made several journeys down to the apartment I was going to rent in the way-south parts of Chicago - and determined that it's just not the right fit. I'm putting in an application for a studio apartment in Hyde Park, and only if that doesn't work will I take that one. In fact, I think that if I had to choose between that apartment, and staying in Chicago, I'd head back to Toledo instead. I wish it were different, but it's just not the right choice. More on that later.

Through a post on Bagga's Blog, I just discovered a cool term - "liminality" - which describes the state of being on the threshold of something, or at the beginning of a process. Jodi McLaren, on whose blog Bagga found the term, defines it as "this in-between state of letting go of the past, but being uncertain of the future." Of course, this didn't sound familiar to me at all...

I've had two offers recently - both to "pack up and go home," to leave the Big Bad City and run away. And frankly they sound terrifyingly tempting. Except...

Except that whatever I have been brought here to see, to do, to learn...I haven't done it yet. In fact, in some ways, I've been running away from it for a year and a half. I can't live life the way that I was - and I've been too afraid to live life the way I'm called to. All I know is that there is more honesty, more being "real" to do - and I don't think I can do it where I came from.

It seems I've been brought here not to study, not to be ordained, but to wrestle - perhaps with demons, perhaps with the better angels of my nature...I don't know. But I haven't wrestled with anything, yet - or perhaps I've just started. I don't think I'm going to escape Jacob's outcome - but perhaps a limp (or a different kind of limp) is what I'm going to need in order to improve my walk. But I've been doing the "float like a butterfly" part - avoiding the fight for fear of the punches - for far too long.

I'm really starting to feel this, strongly - it's time to make contact. It's time to come out swinging - knowing full well that it's going to hurt, and knowing I'll be limping at the end of it. But having really "lived" this last weekend, I know this - living in limbo sucks. The alternative is far preferable.
Look to this day, for it is life,
The very life of life,
In its brief course lies all the realities
And verities of existence:
The bliss of growth, the splendor of action,
The glory of power...

For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision.
But today, well lived, makes every yesterday
A dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day.

(a Sanskrit proverb, from the Twenty-Four Hours a Day devotional)
That will be my goal for today...and all I can add to it is, "Amen."


Michael said...

Glad you had such a great weekend. It shows you what life can be, and it is good.

I had a similar CTA experience coming home late Sunday night. At Addison a group of about eight young people got on. They had been celebrating with some form of mood-altering substance for some time by then, and they proceeded to sing at the top of their lungs every partiotic song they knew (actually, it was clear they knew few of the words and less of the tunes), punctuated by rousing and endless chants of USA! USA! USA! When they finally departed at Washington (heading for the fireworks, I imagine) the rest of us heaved a sigh of relief.

When I got to the overpass at the Dan Ryan to wait for my bus [the dreaded and frequently late #55], I discovered I had a great view (though distant) of the fireworks, so God had provided entertainment during the nighttime wait I had been dreading.

Finally, as a child I always found the story of Jacob wrestling with God/angel fascinating. I realize now that part of the fascination was charged with eroticism. (Wrestling is still a turn-on for me, although NOT the foolishness of WWF, etc.) But it is a powerful image of the struggle you face now. You will undoubtedly wind up with a limp, but the important thing is that Jacob went on from that place having seen the face of God. You will, too.

Bar Bar A said...

STEVE! Why didn't you stay for Steve Winwood? He may have done "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" or "Higher Love".

Just giving you a hard time, but if I was with you, I would have made you stay.

This is a great post. It seems like you are getting closer and closer to discovering what is next...

I love the new word, liminality, and think I am pretty much there too.

Take care,

[rhymes with kerouac] said...

It's amazing to me how God's plans for us unfold exactly the way they should, despite our intentions to the contrary. As the Psalms say, "A man makes his plans, but God orders his steps."

I'm hardly qualified to say 'this' or 'that' is 'right' or 'wrong' but it sounds to me like you've made a courageous decision to meet - and wrestle - with God. Rest assrued that He will reveal Himself there, in that wilderness, in that night, when you think you are all alone.

And here's the fifty thousand dollar question...do you think that, perhaps - just perhaps - Jacob's limp perfected him? That without it he was incomplete? Unfinished?

And I definitely would've stayed for Steve Winwood!

Mychal said...

It will be interesting to see what having a Turkish Muslim in your life right now, even tangentially, does for you. What unexpected gifts God sends to us!

John said...

Dear Brother Steve,
At least you did not go to Canada! With Grandma and Rick. I know the lord will direct you where he needs you most. Remember your friends will always be there for you!