Sunday, March 11, 2018

Grace and Unreliable Narrators

I come from a family of unreliable narrators.  —Luis Alberto Urrea

I read that in part of a news article caption the other day and was immediately taken by the honest truth of the statement.  In some respects, we are all unreliable narrators when laying down or letting out our versions of life lived.  How much that matters all depends on what we are hoping for as readers or listeners or would-be believers of tales spun, told, or set forth in a variety of different sensory mediums.

If I am the teller, can I accept the fact that my version of something is nothing more or less than precisely that…my version, my experience?  I don’t think that diminishes truth in anyway…it simply respects and acknowledges that there is a larger one.

And, as a consumer of media, I might find a voice or a collection of voices (a particular news source, for example) entirely reliable; however, do I consider that I might believe in the inherent truth of what is being reported because what I am reading or hearing agrees with what I already think?  In which case, as it is clear that not everyone thinks as I do, it is reasonable to assume others have found different news sources that are also reliable because the narration that issues forth from them agrees with what They already think or believe.  Or, is reliability related to a broad perspective? Reliability=reliable sources? Reliable sources=???  It could also be that in a given moment, a particular, if limited, perspective is precisely what is necessary.  Life saving medical advice comes to mind.

Then there is fiction.  An unreliable fiction narrator could be a convention of the author for some purpose that gets revealed over paragraphs and chapters.  It could also be shoddy writing.  Fiction, though, presumes a certain suspension of the need for synching with a belief system or way of thinking.  After a certain age, no matter how much we sometimes might wish it could be otherwise, we know that fiction books are products of an author’s imagination and exist in that mystical plane we can access, pass though, revisit, but not live in on a permanent basis if we are to participate in the here and now of our daily reality with a measure of presence, honesty, productivity, relationship, etc.

I was thinking about all of this while reading this morning’s readings—particularly Saint Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.  …because of of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, he brought us to life with Christ—by grace you have been saved…by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.

Whatever it is that we do, what works we offer, it is not that alone that will save us…and when I think save us I think about bringing us home at the end of the journey.  This will not happen in isolation, with only our limited and unreliable narration to tell the tale and make our case.

The case, thankfully, is made by the ultimate—if wondrously mysterious—narrator, God.  And so are we.

And it begins with, ends with, and is composed of, love. Love in the land of Here there be Monsters, Love when we splash about in rivers or nearly drown in the ocean.  Love when we are deep in the grit of the desert and love when we rest in the easy company of friends.

We are brought home again, led by the word of Love that has been the grace of each footfall, the grace of each breath and restart, and reevaluation of perspective.  Not because we merit such company by virtue of the things we’ve done along the way…but because God is God.

Utterly reliable, with eternal perspective, and broad welcome for the diverse patterns and personalities of creation.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Stained with Light

~I have wrestled with the angel and I am stained with light…~ 

—Mary Oliver from her book Upstream 

I have wrestled...

It speaks of a vulnerable opening up and engaging rather than a protective crouching; honesty; courage and the acknowledgment of fear; a staying-put and a willingness to ache. And it calls for a “why.”  Otherwise, what’s the point of staying when one could easily turn, run, and hide? There are plenty of options for that and plenty who choose them.

With the angel... 

To wrestle with the presence of God…to hear the whisper and want for a windstorm, perhaps; to fear the honesty of that encounter; to waver in the strength of conviction that we are assured, “Nothing can separate you from my love…” or to grow hard of hearing…

And yet, to choose to engage with the angel.  To choose to wrestle…because in spite of whatever trepidation, there is an attraction that won’t go away…an attraction that will not leave behind a sense of peace if avoided or ignored.  

Stained with light…

To be marked by struggle and have that mark be a stain of light…I find that entirely beautiful:  To become more transparent through struggle…to become more whole, more human, in that revelation…and to have that look like light…feel like light…Be light.

This is all certainly something to consider in a unique way as the liturgical season of Lent deepens…

Though, it is something I consider each time I find myself engaging the angel in a match and over the course of our time together answering her question— What is my ‘why?’  

And I come back over and again to Love. 

Love in its fullness and complexity.  Love in its freedom and welcome and beckon and home and sending… Love in its relationship, its forgiveness and mercy…

Love in its light, in its light, in its light…

And then, for now, the tussle is eased and the stain spreads just that much more.