October 11th, 2005

Just prior to, during and immediately after a short-term mission trip to Brazil in August 2005, I simply didn’t write. I began a home improvement project that Autumn: leveling out a place in our back yard and building a storage shed. Our yard is quite sloped, and so “leveling” it actually required digging up about 8 cubic yards of dirt and moving it by hand. It ended up being another “hole” like digging the pond was a couple of years earlier. Over the years I have come to appreciate this kind of physical activity which results in a measurable accomplishment. For someone in my line of work it’s highly gratifying. It reminds me of farm work, my childhood and my father.

In recent months I have actually come to find that physical labor is one of the only ways that I can enjoy a work-out. I have good friends who can only work-out if it’s a game (basketball, volleyball, anything where scores are kept) and others who can only do it if it involves a machine and a monthly membership fee. I find both methods un-satisfying at best. However, if I can point to a big hole in the ground, barn full of hay, stack of fire wood, or a commute to work on foot or a bicycle…I’m a motivated fellow. I tend to get a certain kind of thinking and praying done at these times too…

In this entry I refer to “Tom” who is a rock star in the evangelical church world. He had recently moved to the Puget Sound and while he was employed at a different church, things weren’t working out and he was beginning to explore other options. An old friend of his was an attendee at our church and invited him to visit once. We had a chance to meet briefly and talk about his circumstances a little. It would be the equivalent of coaching a park-league basketball team and having Michael Jordan show-up one day saying he was unhappy with the Bulls and was thinking about getting back to basics by joining YOUR team. In other words…it f*cks with your mind a bit.

It’s been a while.

So, while I’m digging the ginormous hole in my backyard yesterday and trying to use the activity to focus my prayers, I’m drawn back to a sense of introspection and reflection. There is a component of confession and repentance in the feeling but I don’t understand why.

I have certainly become less tolerant over the last couple of months. But frankly, I’m thinking that’s good. Granted, I am less patient – not good. More judgmental – definitely not good. Less driven by feelings (good and bad) – strange, but I think good for me, and less motivated by what other think – VERY good.

But at the same time, there’s a deeper sense of the evil in me that needs to come out. Not behavioral but more fundamental – character stuff.

As I consider this Tom fellow and my conversation with him last week, I feel all those things I listed above, from the un-usual emotional disconnect all the way over to judgementalism. It’s a little test-tube, a microcosm of what’s going on deeper in my life:

  • Despite my efforts to the contrary, I am lead by my expectations. When he confessed that he was un-tethered and looking around for a new church situation, I SAID to him, “take your time, it’s not about church, seek God, blah blah blah.”

But that was just stuff I’m SUPPOSED to say – thoughts that I wish I did not have to manufacture. The truth is I am PANTING at the prospect of him dropping everything else and coming to our church to take my place as Music Director, lead us to the “big-time!”. I am still in the Matrix. What’s more, I forget that I am from moment to moment.

  • When he tells me of his plan to perhaps launch a consulting company rather than work at a church….my judgementalism shows up. He plummeted right off my respect scale. In my mind, He became just another career-centered person. When I heard that he “trusted God completely with his plan to come out here to Seattle”, but also managed to arrange for a pretty plush “severance” package…’just in case things didn’t work out”…I blanched again. He’s more enmeshed in the Matrix than I am. I totally judged him in that moment.
  • Oh and let’s not lose sight of the fact that in that moment of judgment, “Hypocrite” was added to my resume. HIS career mindedness was faithless and shallow, while the feather in my cap that winning him to “our team” would bring was holy. Sheeesh.

I can smell the fragrance of TRUE freedom wafting over the hillside and into this pit I’m digging; Freedom from being swept off my feet by hollow approval or even just association with “rock stars”, and freedom from being a judgmental asshole about it when I do manage to be free. I smell that freedom all the time. It captivates my attention. I structure my life so that I can get nearer to it. But as yet I have done little to get out of this hole except bitch.

I guess the key is to realize that while IN the hole…I am still free. I don’t need to get OUT of the hole to be free. I can be free inside it. Perhaps the fragrance of what I perceive to be freedom is just a different kind of hole. I need to find ways to be the free man God wants to be anywhere.

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