Thursday, February 07, 2008

Dissatisfied

There are days when I ask myself why I bother with this faith business. Goodness knows that it causes me no end of frustration---and convicts me every time I turn around.

But the truth is, I really seem to have no choice in the matter.

You may have gathered from things I've written before that I am a poetry fan. One of my very favorite poets is Mark Jarman, a professor at my grad school alma mater, Vanderbilt University. Jarman has written some of the poems that best capture my longing for, and my relationship to, God, including this one:

Unholy Sonnets: 11
Half asleep in prayer I said the right thing
And felt a sudden pleasure come into
The room or my own body. In the dark,
Charged with a change of atmosphere, at first
I couldn’t tell my body from the room.
And I was wide awake, full of this feeling,
Alert as though I’d heard a doorknob twist,
A drawer pulled, and instead of terror knew
The intrusion of an overwhelming joy.
I had said thanks and this was the response.
But how I said it or what I said it for
I still cannot recall and I have tried
All sorts of ways all hours of the night.
Once was enough to be dissatisfied.

---Questions for Ecclesiastes (bolding is mine)
I appear to be destined to be dissatisfied. Always longing for the ineffable. Always searching for the "right thing" to say that will bring a response. Always hoping for a repeat of that "intrusion of an overwhelming joy."

I am both blessed and cursed---alert, full of feeling, and anxious to know what it is that has entered my heart, mind, and soul.

This state of dissatisfaction is not all bad, of course. In truth, I have come to mistrust satisfaction. I have come to recognize that feeling content with my relationship to God is the surest sign that I am avoiding the hard work of kenosis.

That's why I love Lent so much. It brings me face to face with myself. Shakes me out of my complacency tree and spurs me to be honest with myself about where I am with God and with my neighbors.

This Lent, my focus is on honesty. I struggle to be a good steward of my time, and to be honest "in my daily life and work," as the BCP liturgy for Ash Wednesday says. I struggle to live an integrated life, in which I am the same person in all contexts.

In some ways, I am struggling to be the wonderful person that Jasper and Grendel think I am...

I wish this were easy. Sometimes I even wish that being a person of integrity didn't matter to me. I know people who see honesty and integrity as weaknesses. I've even voted for some of them... ;-)

But I have heard the call. I have known the intrusion of overwhelming joy. I am dissatisfied, and I have no choice.

I pray that the God of grace and mercy will give me the courage and the strength to respond. I pray that Doxy and Paige will be the same person online and in real life. I pray that I will live up to Jasper's and Grendel's good opinion of me.

I pray that I will never be satisfied if it means that I will be less than God's vision for me.