Repenting

I have been thinking a lot lately about Derek Webb‘s song Repent.

I’ll quote it at the end of this, but I just want to say it’s been really challenging for me. I know, that to some of you who know me, this may seem odd. I don’t believe in a lot of things that Webb is repenting of. God knows, I don’t want the white picket fence in suburbia. I don’t usually trade truth for unity. But in some ways I’ve realized that doing differently, doing the opposite, is just as wrong.

I had a boy say to me recently that I like to do things because they are different. Well, that’s no surprise. My mum has said that for years. I should’ve listened, but since when do children listen to their parents? Especially during a second adolescence? Bah. But this boy, he sat across the table from me at Garbanzo’s as I shoveled falafel in my mouth and nearly caused me to choke as he said it so simply. “I have this impression that you just like being different.”

Have I made an idol of my differences? Have I become obsessed with how I see God, rather than how God sees himself?

Webb talks about domesticating God into our own image. Molly read to us last week from The Barbarian Way that the safest place is in God’s will and that may not be what we deem safe. Have I turned God into one who pulls me out of America which is the place that terrifies me most of all? Have I made a saviour of him only in so far as he does what I need and sends me to danger and adventure?

Of course, I think I do genuinely have a heart for these places. And I’ll be the first to say that Pak scared me a lot. A lot. But perhaps, maybe the challenge for me is in repenting of who I wanted to be: different and exciting; and realize that God calls me to serve him and his glory, not mine.

I thought of it on the way to work this morning, tired and bored and loathing the job to which I went because it is the same monotonous work each day. I thought of how I’d rather be in school, or teaching, or dodging bullets and binding wounds in another country. I know this is messed up. I know, as Davis always said, I have a martyr’s syndrome. It’s just, on the winding road that wraps around the mall where I work, I’m so bored. There’s no challenge here.

But then, I did spend Friday night at a party with friends who hug me and love me and want to be with me–and though they don’t know it–it’s because they see Jesus in me. It isn’t me that draws them in, because I”m not much. I was given the chance to love on one of my workers this weekend in the church nursery I run, and that is such a good thing.

Maybe, most of all, I should repent of thinking so little of Americans.

After all, they have worth too…oddly enough.

I repent of my pursuit of America’s dream
I repent of living like i deserve anything
My house, my fence, my kids, and my wife
In our suburb where we’re safe and white
I am wrong and of these things i repent

I repent of parading my liberty
I repent of paying for what I get for free
The way I believe that I am living right
By trading sins for others that are easier to hide
I am wrong and of these things I repent

I repent judging by a law that even I can’t keep
Wearing righteousness like a disguise to see through
The planks in my own eyes

I repent of trading truth for false unity
I repent of confusing peace and idolatry
Of caring more of what they think than what I know of what they need
And domesticating You until You look just like me
I am wrong and of these things I repent

Oh I am wrong and of these things I repent.

saturday afternoons

today is sunny and warm.

today I worked in my parent’s yard.

{and I got sweaty}

today, I was picked up by a boy and twirled around.

today, I decided I’m a banker by trade but a writer by design.

{as I write on paper towels and scraps of receipts}

Sara: Guys are complicated
S: Guys think very linear-ly.
Sara: Is it horizontal? or is it vertical?
S: well, it’s always trying to get horizontal.

when exchanging passengers on the side of the road at 130am
I: it’s a drug deal
Sara: Ethan is a pretty hot commodity

also, I would like to be known that I took off pantyhose today while driving a stick shift in traffic. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am that good.

cigs

I learned how to roll a cigarett tonight. It was great. We were sitting at the Olde Mill, Ethan and I had just split a Mediteranean Burger, we met some seminary kids writing papers (in a brewery? how do you concentrate?!) and we were cheering Jon to celebrate his graduation from gun smithing school.

An old friend of Jon’s, or perhaps a new friend of his, had come along as well to celebrate. We thought it would be just Jon, Ethan, Alanson and I. But it turned out to be a bit larger of a group to celebrate the achievement of a good friend in our community. In the end, Steve came (which I always find so amusing–his eclectic appearances are so haphazard), Ingrid stopped by and then from almost start to finish there was Hipster.*

He used to have dreadlocks down his back. He once protested the protest of the Westboro Baptists. He lived in Bolivia. He’s studied every major world religion. He lived out of his van at one point. He now drives a beautiful honda cruiser motorcyle. He’s pretty much a hippy. He’s so much a hippie, he pulled out his bag of tobacco and proceeded to roll a cigarette right there at the table.

Ethan, being from the south and a good pipe smoker himself, leaned across the table and asked what kind of tobacco it was. Hipster held up the bag and Ethan nodded with that sideways slant of his mouth that connotes approval. I stared in raptured awe. I’ve only seen this done in movies. “how–how–” I stumbled over the simple phrase “how do you do that?”

“You want to see?” So he unrolled it and started over, carefully explaining step by step as I just watched him: like a character who had stepped out of a John Wayne movie or the more recent rendition of True Grit. I was fascinated as the little white paper rolled up and down, sliding against itself between his round forefingers and thick stubby thumbs. “You want to try it?” he asked as Ingrid laughed at the wide eyed look on my face. It was like a cowboy come to life. He even had the facial hair and narrow cut jeans to fit the part. I nodded furiously and jumped from my seat.

“Yeah I wanna try it!” I said with delight. He scooted over to the booth and let me sit in the chair we had pulled up for him since there wasn’t any place where we could fit in the restaruant. I settled into the seat and he walked me through, step by step. It was amazing. You couldn’t have smoked the one I rolled. It was thick and uneven. I don’t know how he does it. We had to dump it out and trash the white paper that I had licked in a desperate attempt to seal the little leaves snuggly inside their covering. But it was a rather unique experience to sit at the table, load tobacco into that thing white waif paper and pretending to be a good old Coloradan westerner.

But then, I went outside with Ethan and Hipster and we smoked one of those cigarettes. It was sweet and warm. I can still smell the tobacco on my hands, in the gap between my thumb and forefinger. It is earthy but not like dirt, it is soothing and calm but not like sickly chamomile that finishes so poorly and has no lasting reward. It is sweet and deep and rich. It is like the scent of Joshua’s pipe at Christmas time, or the cigars in summer that blew from next door.

Yet, the most fantastic part of the evening was not the cigarette. It was the discussion that somehow came alongside the rolling of leaves and the cool night air on the porch that made me draw my sweater closer around my shoulders. Hipster asked Ethan and I how we were still in the church.

I didn’t know how to answer him.
I don’t always know myself why I’m still here.

We had the more lgical discussion. We talked about synoptic gospels and gnostic gospels. We talked about Vishnu and Buddhist monks, reincarnation and setting one’s self on fire without even flinching. We disucssed Jesus and the Jesus Seminar. We laughed at Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and I cursed Joel Osteen for heresy. We tossed around the idea of having a book club on the gnostic gospels or an apocryphal book from the Catholic Bible. And in general, I t hink we mostly listened to Hipster.

I think he’s processing. Of course, I think many of us are processing. Steve said he thinks Hipster’s journey is great, exciting even. He said he thinks it will be interesting to see if he comes back full circle to the church he left nearly seven or eight years ago.I nodded my agreement and Ethan did his. We sort of argued,  in that pleasant way of presenting both sides and apologizing if we stepped on toes.

And then, at the end, we had to disburse for reasons of sleep. But I stood in the parking lot with Ethan and Hipster while Hipster smoked another and let his bike warm up. I said to him, in the orange yellow light of the back lot where the cars are parked crooked because there are no white lines marking the rules and boundaries and laws, I said that the only thing keeping me in the church is love.

I’ve been in lots of churches. And I’ve seen a lot of ish. And God know’s it’s a miracle I was still coming to church when I arrived home in 2009, worn out and despising all that moved and lived and breathed. But I came back to Adullam, and I said to Hipster, something as different. Something in these people…Ethan nodded his head and muttered something about true Christianity.

These people are legit, I told Hipster. And that is the only reason I stuck around. Because there is something real going on here. Something, that unlike cigarette rolling, cannot be explained with words or hand motions.

It simply is.

___________

*clearly not his real name. But it was either calling him Hipster or The Fonz. I went with Hipster….not enough hair to be The Fonz.

change. or. perhaps the lack there of.

self recognition numero 17? maybe?

I haven’t done a self reflection recently. Trust me, I went back through my more recent history to figure out the number of self discovery that I am on now. I was lazy though, and didn’t go back  past March. March? I haven’t done one since March? So I estimated. 17. It’s a good number. There’s a funny movie about being 17 again. It highlights the horrors of going back to high school. It’s really quite amusing.

So, today I thought about change. I was driving to work, I thought I ws late, but as usual, I arrived first. I sit outside in my car, munch on some Jeremiah 31 and then slept to the sound of Eichelpop playing. I whirled through Southlands past the Red Lobster and thought about hte beauty of the sun rising and the crisp clean air and the way it snowed yesterday but people arrived in shorts to do their banking. I thought, it reminded me of Seattle again. And I thought about the ‘Couv and English Premier League. I worked in my parent’s yard on Saturday before going to a deeply disturbing and beautiful play with Molly. It reminded me of Jason and pulling weeds in his backyard before going hiking with Jeff. It made me think about how I had prayed over his house when he first moved in, when we cleaned it down from vaulted cielings to dusty floorboards. I prayed over that house, prayed for his wife–all the while thinking it would be me. I didn’ think about Nick so much today. I’ll think of him in summer months when I wander through the Canyon and hear people whistling for runaway dogs.

I drove to work and I thought about how, in so many ways, I’m decently content to be single now. Isn’t that odd? I have friends getting married, friends having kids, and I’m actually fairly pleased to be single. I can do whatever I want, and hang out with whoever I want, come and go whenever I want and in general I experience an incredible amount of freedom that is likely to never be repeated if I go the route of most Americans (90% of whom will be married at some point).

But, in terms of hanging out with whomever I want I have come across a few stumbling blocks. I have always been friends with guys more so than girls. Tonight, I stood in a parking lot with a friend after he was off of work and chatted about random (and some serious) things for about 45 minutes. It was really quite great. But I was also painfully aware of my gender in the conversation and the problems that sometimes arise between friendships like ours.*

So at work I, of course, snagged a sheet of paper and began writing in that zig-zag way that used to so amuse Kellie in college. I wrote a little about change. About growing up and growing into myself as a woman. In the midst of this whole growing into feminity thing however, I’m still sometimes frustrated by the gender issue. Here’s what I wrote. It doesn’t start out about gender and change. But it gets there. Promise.

Lately I long for hills run down with green blankets of vegetation and thick wet earth. I almost long for humidity as my hair clings to my face, desperately dried out to the point of spontaneously sparking in static electricity. I blame the email from Jared–that he and Teresa are moving to Papua. I blame the card that came yesterday with their faces on it, against a dark background that I assume to be trees in Vancouver. I somehow desperately desire the smell of the ground ripe with rotting undergrowth that makes way for new life. I want to feel the moisture between my fingers and stand in the midst of a cloud once more, the way we did when hiking that time on the peninsula with only a single water bottle between three stupid college kids.

So I texted Daniel. I told him I’ll go “home” with him at Christmas if we can make a hop to Papua. I told him that he has to come with me. Jared, Teresa and Uncle Wally won’t be nearly as fun without him. I want to talk Robb and Jamie into it as well. Funny how things change–we grow up, we get married, we move away. But I still want my friends all in the same place at the same time doing the same things we used to do.

And speaking of things that change, I went shopping with my girls on Sunday. It made me happy to be a girl. Abba knows that doesn’t happen very often. Abby freaked on me a couple times, but it was sort of amusing and sort of precious. “This you would wear with leggings and a black belt or maybe skinny jeans.”
“I–uh–don’t have leggings or a black–”
“What?! Oh my god. Sara B— what do you wear? Oh my god. Oh my god.” she would exclaim and then tell me to hurry up and try on the next outfit she had chosen for me.

She and Danielle have decided to fix me up with this friend of theirs. He rides a bike. And he’s perfectly willing to wait till marriage for sex. Apparently these are things I’ve communicated as being requirements. Apparently sex is on the same level of importance as the motor bike. I’m not sure if the elevates the motorbike? lowers the significance of sex and marriage? Thinking…thinking….

I smiled, laughed and agreed to meet him. Ghena said I may have one ride on the bike and that’s all. I’m rather surprised I’m being allowed that much given the history with Nick. But I won’t belabour that point. It’s been months since I was on a motorbike. I’ll take that ride!

But despite this recent foray into feminity (and dayum I look fine!) some things never change. For example:

I still sometimes wish I was a boy.

This may come as a shock to some. But others will laugh and nod their heads at the statement I have verbalized in myriad ways without coming straight out to say it. Maybe it was growing up with Joshua–playing air force in the backyard in California or army crawling behind enemy lines in the snow past the dead end despite my raging bronchitis in Illinios. But today I lamented my gender for reasons other than my obscene laziness over hair and tinted moisturizer. Today I was sitting at work when Ethan texted me about the mens group which meets on Tuesdays and I thoght to myself how much I’d like to be a part of that.

I thought about how often women seem incapable of staying on topic long enogh to have a robust theological conversation. I thought about how most of my favourite-life-altering-conversations have been with men adn that this was perhaps the reasons Kelsie and I connected so easily with each other and the male theology professors we idolized. I’m not trying to remark on or disparage the vast intelligence of women. My coworker recently accused me of being a raging feminist. Clearly I value and appreciate women. But I had this moment where I wished that I had been born as Matthew instead of Sara (though to be honest, Cephas or Peter would have been preferred). I recalled reading a book about a Puritan family and a scene where the daughter laments that though she is the intelligent one, her brother is sent to school, purely for reasons of gender.

I did not understand her quarrel with society at that point in my life. I think I would have been enthralled to not be in school and I couldn’t comprehend her argument. I understand it now. I wanted to be at the men’s group this morning: listening to Alanson and discussing Mercy or the implications of Micah 6.8. I would have known what to say. I would have been challenged and convicted. I wish I could have listened. I wish I had been challenged to love and grace and forgiveness, something I struggle with more and more as my sleeping (and energy) become less and less. I would have loved to have sat there and listened. I stood in a parking lot tonight, cold and jumping from one foot to the other just to talk with Ethan about what it means to love someone and to be satisfied even when they don’t fulfill your needs (because they’re human and they can’t!). I stay up late to talk with Keeleh about theological determinism. I wish I could have been at that Bible study to hear and listen and pray over the waitress and leave a big tip and most of all, I just want to sit there. Most of my friends are guys. I wish I was a boy and I could be included rather than getting it second hand afterwards. I wish I could hear Alanson, since the boys won’t share him. I wish I could hear what was on their hearts in a more raw way than I already do. I wish I was a part of that inner circle, something I can never have because I’m a girl, and that is a space which I cannot enter.

Instead, I skimmed Jeremiah 31, in the car, outside work, alone, while waiting for everyone else to arrive, and why? Because of the simple fact that I was born a girl. Thanks God. thanks for that one.

[but heck… I look dang good in that skirt.]

_____________________________

*these types of friendships constitute the bulk of my community. I am mostly friends with guys. This singles group thing can be a bit odd at times. It sometimes feels like it’s “the boys plus Sara” (and maybe Liz when I drag her along).