Kitchen Floors

So, as I think I mentioned at one point: I washed the kitchen floor on Saturday. It’s linoleum, or vinyl, I don’t know the difference. It’s a greyish blue with mottled brown bits that I struggled not to see as stains that needed scrubbing to be freed from the clutches of the floor. It had been swept already, probably wiped down too. But there was no sheen, and I knew it wanted to be washed, not moped, not wiped not vacuumed. It wanted washing: on hands and knees with bucket, cloth and brush.

It was a decision I pushed off for sometime. I was tired, after all. It wasn’t required of me anyway. It probably wouldn’t be good for my knee to be impaled against such an unforgiving surface. Not to mention, I just wanted to read my book and maybe write. Not to mention, I wanted to be selfish and lazy. But somewhere, something got the best of me, and I scrounged through the closet in the hall to find a bucket and the cleaner that was in front of me for half an hour while I googled various home remedies for vinyl washing soaps–not only am I blind spiritually, it would seem I am also blind to the obvious reality in front of my nose, at eye level, on the shelf, in a giant purple bottle glowing under the gaze of “Mr. Clean.”

It was a very domestic evening. I listened to a sermon by Mark Driscoll and dreamed about Seattle. I wiped around corners of cabinets and floorboards with the paint peeling off in tiny flakes. The dirt is nestled into the groves where vinyl floor embraces uneven floorboards and crooked edges. But the cloth so gently dipped down into the crevices, and with gentle arms brought the dirt to service, the crumbs and bits of life forgotten and she cradled them in her fibrous clutches until I sloshed it all through browning water and moved to the next square. I scrubbed at sticky spots, scoured away chunks, swabbed under counters and stove alike, where the debris was greater but the fighting less. It was a bit painful at some moments, there’s not point in pretending that my body isn’t angry with such actions, or that my knee doesn’t abject to such trials. In fact, it does so quite vehemently, with dull aches and shooting pains, that joint let me know: I’m a crotchety old man, even if genetics and calcium density claims age 22. I do not like this attempt at relaxation via domesticity.

But the house was cool and quiet. The wind outside rustled the leaves that have turned to their brilliant interpretation of the summer sun that nursed them until this month when it whispered goodbye and began a slow but steady retreat. Mark vacillated between shouting and calmly calling for repentance.  I hummed a tune that’s been stuck in my head for days on end. The flowers on the counter smelled sweet and graceful, dipping down in a delightful curtsy as if to say “why thank you for cleaning the home we’re now to share.” The candles snapped and the light wavered as the water grew darker and thicker.

I scrubbed and scoured and it was a perfect evening. I don’t know that I have ever washed a floor before, on my hands and knees. I have taken a toothbrush to floorboards and insistent blemishes in the past. But to scrub the floor clean with diligence and attention to this extent? Doubtful. It was work, I won’t lie. I am,  by nature, fairly lazy. I prefer to read, to write, to make lattes, to bake and to go for long walks. So I will admit to being entirely surprised by the adventure of scrubbing a kitchen floor. I thoroughly enjoyed it, sermon, music, prayers and all. It was relaxing, in a bizarre way. It was uncomplicated, refreshing and restorative.

Which is all to say: I think I’ll be listening to more Mark Driscoll and scrubbing more floors than expected over the next several months. I might pine away for Seattle, dreaming of the massive dark sanctuary where i could sing as nowhere else. Thinking of the rain on the stairs outside my dorm room, or crashing against the window of my apartment. I might long for the walks on Queen Anne, the Halloween parade in Fremont, the bridge to Ballard, the delight of watching a city be washed and reborn day in and day out. This is, after all, what comes of listening to Mark. But in a strange way, it is also what enables me to be content where I am: suburbia. Colorado. October. 22. Single. and deeply in love with Isa.

Alimelech

something to ponder from a sermon I listened to while scrubbing the kitchen floor tonight (more on that later):

“would you identify yourself as someone in the story [of Ruth]?… I am Alimelech. I asked my wife: “which one am I?” “Alimelech!” She didn’t even breathe! … And his name is what? My God is King! That was me, if you asked me, “Jesus?” (pause) “Sovereign! Lord! King! God! …and if I ever need him I’ll call, but I don’t think I do, cause I got this all taken care of… Alimelech-ish.”

I’ve been thinking about Ruth a lot lately. I mean, everyone around me is getting married or getting into relationships and I’m just sort of cruising on by being single, learning to appreciate it, or at least tolerate it cause God seems to be content keeping me in this place. I’ve been thinking about Ruth because I want to be Ruth. I mean, I want to be like her. So I went back to this sermon series that played my freshman year at SPU. I haven’t listened to Driscoll in ages. Ah, but tonight, scrubbing the floor on hands and knees with candles lit, cursing aching knees, conviction stirring in my heart, re-meeting the brutal and glorious honesty of YWHW, well, it felt like coming home.

the sermon can be found here. The part I quoted is at about minute 60, or just past. The entire thing is great. But I was most convicted when Driscoll had wound himself up at the end and demanded we find ourselves in the story, amidst distrust, bitterness, fear and ultimately: sin. And then he calmly said that we might ask God that if we are in a place of hardship we might ask that the “affliction be sanctified,” and that we might be sanctified in and through the affliction. I think singleness and loneliness can count as an affliction. But there’s no need to wallow in it like a pig in the mud. But instead to go out in faith and trust Jesus to sanctify me, even while the world moves forward and I’m left rooted to the ground. Alone.

Fire!

10.

I’m passive aggressive.

 

case in point:

today a woman, Mrs. C Harrison, came into the drive up in her blue minivan, her boufant hair looking a bit puffier than normal, her frown a bit straighter and her wrinkles a bit tighter. She was preparing for something, though from her distant position in lane three, exactly what she might be preparing for was a bit more difficult to establish. Were those lines from laughter that creased in the corners of her eyes? Or were they from stress, from anxiety of the moment that was coming?

I pulled her tube out and dumped the contents onto my desk. Two straight deposits, no sign of cause for worry. But, what’s this? Bright orange and red beneath the checks and deposit slips? I picked it up and threw it down almost instantly. My stomach clenched and my chapped lips seared as they came together in a tight line of anger and malice. “You have got to be kidding me,” I muttered and with shaking hands I went for the deposits with a bit of savage speed. I wanted her out of my drive up, I wanted her out of my life from he weekly deposits with her rolled up windows and air of self righteousness that was in display on my desk. Cody asked what I was flipping out over, he clambered around the cash machine and came to my side.

“Oh God, one of those.” He picked it up in and in a mocking voice began to read.

It was a pamphlet about how I am going to hell (and for accuracy sake, according to the pamphlet and current statistics there is a good chance that Cody is coming along for the sauna in the lake of fire). It was a messy affair. The graphics were disproportionate, the fonts over done, the stats inconceivable, the Bible verses stripped of their context. I was hurting inside, feeling shame for my brothers and sisters who think that actions like this will somehow bring outsiders to the faith. This isn’t hte first time I’ve gotten a pamphlet through the tube. In fact, for a while, I was getting them on a regular basis. Apparently, I look like I need Jesus pretty badly.* I get them from the JW’s, the LDS’ and the “Christians” fairly often. This one was asking if I was deceived. Did I know that even as a “good person” I wasn’t going to make it? But wait, amidst these flames of despair, there’s hope! Jesus! Yeah, scare me into christianity, make Jesus my get out of hell free card, because that’s all he wants, really, if you think about it.

Right.

So, because I just put in two weeks, and because my  last day is next Friday, because I didn’t feel at risk for losing my job, I did something a bit impulsive. A bit self righteous and incredibly inappropriate.

I scribbled a couple Bible verses on the bottom of her receipt and sent it out with the pamphlet wrapped securely around the passive aggressive note.

I hope she looks them up.

I hope she realizes this isn’t hte way to love people.

Because telling someone they’re going to Hell without even knowing their name…

that isn’t loving people at all.

_________________________________________

*granted, I do need Jesus pretty desperately. No one is going to deny that–least of all me.

loneliness… or the fear

Today I went to pick up keys from a friend who I am house sitting for during the month of November. Woot. A whole month! I told her that I had just given two weeks notice at my job on Friday and that I am hoping to leave the country in the near future and head to far off lands where I will “get to wear awesome clothes, eat awesome food, meet awesome people… not be allowed to look at men,” we laughed as I added, “that’ll probably be good for me right now.”

In the past week I’ve discovered Numero Nueve (#9 for you gringos): I, though terrified of marriage, am scared of the prospect of ending up alone.

This was perhaps most eloquently put on Friday when a couple friends and I had a shouting match (literally: we were all yelling at each other, and I hardly remember what was said because there was so much commotion). The situation: Sara texted a boy who she is still hung up on. Still trying to get over. A boy who, come the end of the relationship, did not treat her very well. But due to the lack of closure (there was never a “real” break up conversation) Sara struggles to move forward and admit the truth: he’s not that into you, honey.

So Abby and Danielle are yelling at me while Jessi just watches in a rather dumbfounded shock and finally Danielle, in a moment of clarity shouts: “WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?!” While I think that had been said a few times already, it was the first time I actually heard it. And one of the most amazing things came out of my mouth. My hands balled into fists, my elbows were bent as I waved my hands in tight circles, and my face must have scrunched up awfully, or maybe it relaxed a little as I finally let out what I’ve been feeling for at least a year–at least as long as I saw marriage go down the toilet in a rush of torrid water and the bowl never refilled with hope for a future.

“I’M TIRED OF GOING TO BED ALONE EVERY NIGHT!” I shouted with a fervor I hardly recognized as my own.

Of course Danielle reminded me that, being religious, I have to wait until marriage to do that. And she also reminded me that’s a long ways off–with anyone–be it Nick or the good looking new guy at church last week. And Abby shouted something about having to wait, about Nick being the epitome of the wrong person and Danielle made some other wise comment (in a loud, overbearing voice) and I shouted that I’m tired of everyone around me “F***ing getting married!”

Which stopped the conversation: more because I swore than because of what I was expressing.

Tonight, driving on the high way, on threadbare tires but a deliciously new oil change, with the windows barely cracked and the heater softly blowing on my sandaled toes (despite the scarf and sweater I am wearing), I finally plugged my iPod back in to the stereo. 93.3 has a nasty habit of making me angry. 95.7 has a tendency to make me lonely and want the wrong things in a relationship. So I went back to the iPod. Frightened Rabbit must be the last thing I listened to, because it popped on in the middle of a song called The Loneliness. It is a song that that I love, the beat, the instruments, the lyrics, the sound of his voice shouting, singing, crying. And I knew what he was saying. I knew it in the depths of my soul.

It is the winter of mixed drinks. It’s fall again and I am seeing autumn in much the same way as last year. I’ve been left, I am leaving, I am moving, I am going transient again. I am not settling. There is great joy in this, but there is great fear. There is great terror and yet great peace in the leap of faith. But there is a good deal of loneliness. My mum told me yesterday (bless her heart) she doesn’t understand what I’m doing exactly, though she is being supportive. But I heard Scott on the way home tonight. I knew what he felt. I’m lonely. I’m scared of being alone. I’m afraid of being that 1 in 10 among Americans who never makes it to marriage. I told Daniel that in dating Nick I was looking for love in the wrong place. I told Cody I gave Nick my number even though he wasn’t a Christian because “God knows, nobody else was asking for it.”

I don’t want to be that woman who loves everyone else’s children, is an “auntie” to everyone because she can’t have her own because she can’t find someone to settle down with. Yeah Scott, I have fallen in the forest, can you hear me? Is there a loud enough scream to prove that I exist? Would anyone notice?

But on the highway, with the string of lights in the middle, on my tires showing their cords, slowing down with gears not brakes, watching cars slip past and brake lights glow, I felt this sort of peace. It’s hard, you know, being alone. We aren’t meant to be like this. Abba said it wasn’t good for man to be alone, and he didn’t just mean the male gender. He lives in community–the Trinity–a divine dance of three persons going in and out of one another. We’re supposed to be the same way. It’s okay to admit my loneliness. It doesn’t make me weak. It doesn’t make me less. It just acknowledges that I struggle with this realization that I am sort of on my own. But in great weakness, Jesus has great strength. And he whispered to me, over those gleaming lines between the lanes, around the bend to 225, beneath the overpass and beside the reservoir, We’re going to do this. I did it, while I was there. And we are going to do this.

So I’m quiting my job. Moving to lots of time alone at an empty apartment. And I’m going to trust Him. I’m scared of being alone. But he’s got this. Thank God, someone has it under control. Because we all know that I haven’t got a clue what the hell is going on.

_________________

btw [by the way] I hope you are not offended by my use of profanity. I did swear at work on Friday. I think it shocked the girls. I know it will shock my mother to read it, and I’m praying against a heart attack on my grandmother’s behalf. But I’m not going to lie. I’m not good at this whole righteousness thing. And there’s no point hiding that. Hiding, it would seem, would make me a greater sinner by way of hypocrisy.

while at my internship:

(please forgive the messy formatting thanks to copy and paste from outlook)

an email exchange with a favourite professor:

From: Bibb, Sarah – Intern
Sent: Thursday, October 07, 2010 11:09 AM
To: Davis, Reed
Subject: RE:

Also, I think you will appreciate this:

 There’s a coffee bag sitting on our counter in the kitchen area and it’s by a brand called Dazbog (which sounds Russian/Eastern Slavic to me) and the blend itself is called: “KGBlend”

 Do you find that as amusing as I do? Or am I just that big of a nerd?

Sara Bibb

Intern

Agency for Human Rights and Community Relations

 

From: Davis,Reed

Sent: Thursday October 07, 2010 12:02pm

To: Bibb, Sarah – Intern 

Subject: RE:

I think it’s pretty funny.  I guess that makes us both nerds.

that covenant thing-ma-jig

number 8 in the list of self revelations: marriage sort of terrifies me.

Perhaps to be more exact (and more broad): relationships sort of terrify me.

Last night I went to Old Chicago’s with a couple of friends. We were enjoying some good pizza, the boys were working through their “beer tours” * and we were all having a good time. The restauarant section had mostly cleared out, the bar was on happy hour (but we were banished by Anna’s lack of desire to use her fake id), the tables were being wiped down and even our cheerful waitress with magnificent blonde hair and sweet plump curves looked tired as she closed out our tabs and said goodnight. But we sat there, laughing about bride prices (how many camels are equal to an elephant? what about goats? And Sara, do you think you or Anna has a higher bride price? Travis, how many goats would you give for Whitney to whom you are engaged and currently living with since your lease ran out?), we teased Anna for her age, me for my innocence, and what! Brett had gone to church with you?! This also did not escape the sharp wit hidden behind Travis’ slack grin and lazy eyes that had grown dull from the alcohol.

And then, we asked Brett what had happened with his almost-ex-girlfriend earlier that evening. He shrugged. They are working things out. But what things? You’ve had problems since May, since we last hung out, Anna said. You mean you haven’t seen him since May?! Travis snapped, “god, man, you’re a terrible friend.” No, I jumped in quickly, it’s cause his girlfriend hates me.

“She doesn’t hate you, she thinks you don’t like her.”
“I’ve hardly met her once! Why would she think that? Did working things out include a compromise by which we can be friends and see each other again?”

He hung his head. No. She isn’t comfortable with us seeing each other unless she is there.

To monitor? To babysit? I’m not asking to see him one-on-one. I’m not asking for him to take me to dinner. I’m not interested. I won’t pursue him. I wouldn’t pursue him if he was available. He’s not a Christian, and I’ve walked that road once before. Besides, I almost blurt out, I’m not really even attracted to you. But I manage to hold my tongue despite my heavy eyes and the fact that at 1230am I am a little less composed and in control of my wandering tongue.

I hold my words back because there is something bleak in Brett’s eyes. His girlfriend doesn’t trust him. They argue. They manipulate each other, through guilt, through money, through sex. They break each other’s hearts daily. They complain about each other to their friends and in public spaces like facebook. I’ve seen it. I’ve read the trash. I’ve heard the insults disguised as jokes and harmless teasing. But he tells me later, he loves her. How can you love that? How can you say you are happy with her 80%of the time when all I hear are complaints and struggles?

I have another friend at work who has hooked up multiple times with a married guy.

I’ve been hit on by married customers. Men who could be my father.

I work with someone whose boyfriend doesn’t ask her about her day, because “in all honesty, I really don’t care.”

I have a friend who is “separated” from his girlfriend, the mother of his child. Separation means he sleeps on the couch and they are going to counseling though they don’t speak to one another between the walls of the apartment that is meant to house their shared life–their experience of becoming one flesh.

I have friends who are getting divorced because she went outside her husband to find fulfillment, sexually and emotionally (which is the greater betrayal? binding with someone in your being? or in your body? are both not intertwined? are both aspects not a binding of the soul to another person to whom you do not belong?)

Marriage terrifies me. So many people break apart. Everyone argues. Everyone falls in and out of love. Everyone hurts the person they care about. It may be entirely selfish, but I am sick and tired of being hurt. I’m tired of developing feelings just in time to be shut down. I’m tired of  knowing that I, in my sinfulness, in my broken selfish nature, I hurt the people I care most deeply for.  Celibacy does not appeal. Let’s be honest. I’m 22. I have a biological clock. I want to know someone, to be known intimately: all the emotional junk, all the pain I’ve caused as well as endured, all the disease of my sinful nature and then I want to be loved in the midst of that knowledge. And more brutally: I want to know someone in the Biblical sense.

But to covenant with someone? To be bound to them for all my life? To commit to love and serve them despite their actions towards me? I shudder at the thought. Who can do that? Who can be faithful? Who can endure? Who can persevere?

Definitely not me. Not on my own. Not in my honest, earthy filth.

Perhaps that is why the Bible speaks so often of God in relation to the church as his bride.

Marriage is hard. But I think it must be good as well.

And perhaps we learn to love and appreciate the unconditional love of God in the experience of daily love and reconciliation towards the one we are with. But that can only be done in the power of Christ.

_______________________

*Old Chicago has over 100 beers on tap. So a “beer tour” is when you go through and drink (over the course of weeks and months) every beer. You have your various servers sign off on your card that you’ve drunk each beer and I think at the end you get a free tshirt. Right now they are also doing one with rootbeers. I’m not sure if you get a tshirt at the end of that one. I’ll have to ask Travis when he finishes.

formidable weariness

#7 I despise feeling helpless.

This weekend I watched a friend’s six adorable children, all of whom are under the tender age of 8. I have never prayed for patience so much. I have never been so infuriated by a messy cabinet (I officially loathe all sizes and shapes of tupperware and cups with lids that are similar but not quite right). I have never been so completely confronted by my own sense of selfishness. I have never been so aware of my depravity. I have never, in all my life, known why the hymnal declares “I need Thee every hour.” That is, until this weekend.

Today I snapped at a coworker over something meaningless. Or perhaps, something that I simply apply meaning and value to despite the fact that there is no need for such value. I snapped that college and motherhood are not mutually exclusive, and not only that but I told her that her views on education and being a stay at home mom are narrow minded. frick.

Today I found out that a dear friend ended her relationship with a boy I once thought that she was destined for. And the worst part is, I’ve encouraged this relationship, I wanted to see it succeed, and I believed that in some small way the healing of my friend’s bruised heart could be experienced in this relationship. That God could work through this boy to reach out to her and mend her and reassure her of his love, by the manifestation of love through another broken human being.

Today I received an email from a friend who I think I am losing. But the worst part is this deafening realization that I may never have had him in the first place. I may have always been a project, a subject for conversion. Did I have meaning to you except to be another member?

Today another married customer hit on me. That’s three. And that doesn’t count the single guys, or the ones who never say anything but prefer to leer through the windows while I blush in the awkwardness of each situation and rush through their transactions so that I may send them away. Go home to your wives! Go home to your families! Leave me be!

I’m tired of the world, Abba. I want to go home. I’m tired of feeling helpless, wearied by the hypocrisy in my own life and mirrored back at me by those who surround me.

I want someone to go home to, true. I want someone to love and cherish. But mostly I want you. Because everyone else is so messy, and I with them.