Sunday, May 22, 2011

Passionate Intensity

The voice of wisdom speaks in different ways to different people. When I am awake, it speaks to me through an uneasy nausea in the pit of my stomach and an unsynchronized fluttering in my heart. When I’m asleep, it takes on the form of someone for whom I hold deep respect. In the past, it has been my father, my late mother-in-law, my late grandmother, a former pastor, and my former boss, Steve Hodges. Lately, it has been taking on the persona of Jay Reese, a man with whom I attend church and whom I consider to be a friend and mentor. A few days ago during a vivid dream, I sat on my mother’s front porch with Jay, drinking Starbucks coffee and talking about the choices that stand before me. You see, recently I’ve been turning over the idea of purchasing a home, going to graduate school, and pursuing some form of ministry. I have also been examining a deepening relationship with someone I’ve been involved with for the past year. These factors have blended into an uncertainty about the direction of my life, what is best for me, what boundaries I need to have, and how in the world I can make good decisions when I’ve never felt able – or allowed – to make choices.

I may be doing Jay a grave disservice when I say that during my dream, he quoted to me some lines from a poem as a way of helping with my various dilemmas. He said:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand.

I have no idea whether Jay likes poetry, though I suspect he does; particularly, I have no idea whether he likes apocalyptic utterances such as the above, written by William Butler Yeats, an Irish poet whose meaning for the words was undoubtedly much different than what I have taken them to mean for me.

During my discussion with Dream Jay, he asked me why I would even think about going into a valley I’d already walked through with poor results. He said, “If you are going to choose to suffer, then suffer for something that’s worthwhile. Is there anything that you're willing to bleed for?” I woke up with our conversation still fresh in my mind and the words “surely some revelation is at hand” echoing in my head.

His words speak to me in two different ways. First, on a wholly personal level as I contemplate a deeper romantic commitment, I am forced to consider whether I am ready to suffer with and for the person I love. Whether I am ready to bleed for him – not necessarily literally, of course, but when you tie your life to someone else’s, then their pain becomes your pain, their hurt becomes yours – you suffer what they suffer. Am I ready for that? In some ways, yes; in others, no – and that is something to consider. His words also resonate spiritually.

Passionate intensity. Has there ever been anything I’ve been passionately intense about? Anything that is central to who I am? Anything that defines me and to which I could dedicate my energy and my intelligence without feeling like I had been untrue to myself? Yes…and I’m doing it right now. Writing. But it isn’t just about crafting words and stringing them together with solid grammar and good syntax. It isn’t even about story-telling, though I do love that part. No, the writing is also about righting – putting things right. It is about exposing violence, lies, and suffering, so that others can see a better way. It is about telling the truth when it needs to be told. It is about communicating my hope to those who have no hope. And my hope lies in following Christ; the world's redeemer who, with his short life, taught us all how to be better people. It all comes back to that central point – that calling to be something more than I feel I am. To be what it is that God made me to be. To live with passionate intensity.

God - help me to be who you believe I am.

Yeats, WB. The Second Coming.