Monday, March 15, 2010

The Exit leads to.....

Sometimes I start a blog post with a clear idea of where the post is heading....then there are those other posts, like this one. I just start typing because there is something I want to process. I have no clear goal in sight, I'm not even sure whether what I write will lead anywhere.

On Sunday in the Contemplative Service we opened with a series of simple reflections. The final one was worded as follows:
  • I open my eyes to find some symbol of my yearning for God...a candle, a portion of stained glass, an image on the screen, a word, an object, a piece of clothing. What symbolizes my hunger for God today?

Where I was sitting I had my back to the candles, the wall obscured the stained glass, the screen was directly above my head. I could see the congregation and the way out of the chapel, and one object that seemed to be fighting for my attention.

Directly in my line of sight was the sign over the Emergency Exit. It's a door that gets used surprisingly often, usually when we have a fire in one of our candle banks from people being over zealous with their prayers. As it's the other side of the Chapel to the piano it's a door I've never personally used.

So why an Exit Sign? I have no idea. My brain tried to chase down a reason all through the rest of the service. It actually became a bit of a distraction as there was a point where I was changing key in a song, and while my hands modulated up a minor third I started singing the melody a major fourth higher, and as the song started on the third of the tonic chord, that meant I came in with a very strong tritone! I know that won't make sense to some of you, but just trust me, it wasn't pretty and it took me a few moments to work out whether to raise the key on the piano or lower the key of my voice.

A simple question rattled around my brain. What is on either side of the door? What am I stepping out of, and what am I stepping into? The answer to both questions was the same.


I found myself imagining all the things in my life that I refuse to let go of like a crowded room on the TLC show 'Hoarders'. All the things I have trouble forgiving myself for piled in one corner, all the attitudes that I don't like to admit I have stacked by the window. Blocking my way to the exit sign was a massive stack of promises I had made to myself that had just fallen where they were broken. There was a thick carpet of shame over everything and some large regrets were threatening to collapse on top of me as well.

I imagined climbing over all the detritus and stepping through the door, and it was at that point that things got really surreal.

I loved that movie, it was wonderfully strange.

When I imagined walking through that door, the first response to 'Where am I?' was simply 'I'm inside myself'. Inside myself without clutter, shame, regret, fear, or broken promises. Inside myself at my most real, authentic, vulnerable, alive. It felt like seeing all the glorious possibilities of the future.

All this while trying to play piano and lead worship.

The closing Benediction for the service caught me by surprise. It was written by my friend Jerry and is a part of his reflections on Psalm 143

Show me the first steps of the path into my future, the steps that will draw me deeper into Your heart, the steps that will draw out of me my most authentic self, the steps that will lead me to lay down my life on behalf of those You love and gave Your life for. Deliver me from the fear of taking the next risky step...for my heart's desire is to walk with You into the days ahead.

If I stay in my room I have a feeling of safety, but that safety comes at a stifling cost. The mountains of items stacked up threaten to collapse onto me. I become so attached to them I may never discard them.

The hardest journey to make is the journey into vulnerable authenticity. It's only when I stop living my life driven by what I think other people are thinking about me, that I am able to show my true self to others and be loved by them. I need to trust that the voice that I hear is God calling me out of the tomb of my own existence and leading me to stumble forward like Lazarus into the bright light of a new day.

(When I first typed that last paragraph, I switched into the Plural Voice ''s only when we stop living our lives...' etc. It was a struggle to go back and edit it into the Singular. Somehow it made the sentiment more real and more challenging)

Parts of my life I live on the other side of the door, and other moments I remain in my room. God in his grace allows me access to both sides of the exit. He knows that too much freedom all at once can feel intoxicating, and yet he continues to woo me onwards until that glorious day when I step through the door and close it behind me forever.

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