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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Happy New Year!

“There are times in our lives when we feel like exiles—living in a foreign land, oppressed by forces beyond our control, held captive by our own inner impulses or by external influences. We can feel alienated from God, from people, even estranged from our own selves—not really the people we know ourselves to be. Like soldiers returning home after a stressful tour of duty, we can feel that we need help to rebuild our lives, to reconnect with those we love, to find new meaning and purpose to our lives—to rediscover our mission” (The Living Word, January 10, 2010).

I read the above today in our church bulletin and immediately resonated with what the author so eloquently was describing. I don’t know about you, but for me the day after New Year’s Eve looks so different than that glittery, exciting, anticipation that so colors my thoughts leading up to the countdown. The world seems united on New Year’s Eve as everyone together, time zone by time zone, watches as the clock ticks down the hours, minutes, seconds, to the New Year. However, oh-so-shortly after, the seeming unchanging onslaught of ‘stuff’ left over from the year(s) before remakes the New Year into a clone of the past. At times, the treadmill of work and duties becomes less of a familiar routine and more of an estrangement, a distancing, from authenticity. Why this continual wrestling with what should be and what must be? Why do the trappings of life so often seem to overwhelm life itself?
I am learning that I am not alone in this post-New Year’s reverie. How do we continue with the layer of tasks that flow from our legitimate responsibilities and relationships, yet not have the tasks themselves supersede the role, or relationship itself? How do we rediscover our mission in the pile of stuff still on our desks from last year?
GK Chesterton, in Orthodoxy, says, “The real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite.” Chesterton goes on in his amazing essay to describe how Christianity proves itself in essence by its utter embracing of paradox, or what Chesterton called duplex passion. An example of duplex passion in Scripture is the image of the lion lying down with the lamb. The essence of ‘lamb-ness’ and ‘lion-ness’ is unchanged: they continue to be lamb and lion, not a rubber-toothed lion or a lamb on steroids. Chesterton continues:
“The real problem is –Can the lion lie down with the lamb and still retain his royal ferocity? That is the problem the Church attempted, that is the miracle she achieved … This is what I have called guessing the hidden eccentricities of life. This is knowing that a man’s heart is to the left and not in the middle. This is knowing not only that the earth is round, but knowing exactly where it is flat. Christian doctrine detected the oddities of life. It not only discovered the law, but it foresaw the exceptions. Those underrate Christianity who say that it discovered mercy; any one might discover mercy. In fact every one did. But to discover a plan for being merciful and also severe—that was to anticipate a strange need of human nature.”
 Talk about thinking outside the box! This recognition of the paradox of living a spiritually authentic life in the 21st century in the material West is a unique—or should I say a duplex par-ality in itself! In the weeks following I will continue to reflect on this theme, as I sense that it is an important key to understanding the frustration of living polar realities: the mundane and the essential –both utterly necessary to life and relationship in our world.
Living in the moment,
caught laughing in the eye of whirling paradox:
time and matter frozen, floating:
a reminder of gum on the bottom of your shoe,
 and papers growing like spring grass on your desk.
Duplex para-lity:
lion and lamb,
passion and asceticism,
blind justice and wide-eyed benevolence,
Imago Dei.
Blessings on our New Year! May we meet Christ in the many present moments that make up our days.

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