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Pushing in, settling down

Friday, March 9, 2018

From Hosea 14
You have collapsed through your guilt.

I have the same essential dream over and over. I am with friends in a city. We are headed for something important and fun. But then we get separated. The city becomes more and more of a maze. I am frightened, I am lost.

My vehicle becomes an enemy rather than friend, and every turn I make takes me deeper into places I can’t get out of. I’m either abandoned by others or abandoning them. They need me, and I need them, and we cannot connect.

Lately I have been free from this dream, but I expect it will return. This is no fun. Just writing these words kicks my adrenalin into another gear.

Waking up is a relief, but I am nightmarishly empty and exhausted, ridden with guilt. Hosea calls it “collapsed.” This is no way to start a day. Still, I am comforted by the fact that this all happened in a dream, while my body was “resting.” I have learned to stretch, yawn, take a shower, and open my eyes. Much of the hard emotional work was done last night; now I can pray to receive joy in the morning.

On the other hand, the dream points to two things in my life that are waking realities. I do need others, and they need me, and we often do not connect. I lose myself in work or play, or others do, and together we lose chance after chance for face time.

And secondly, I am “collapsing” physically. My strength is diminishing. Jon Burras calls this “hydrogen bonding,” and over time it changes my body. Muscle fascia dry out and start to resemble beef jerky. I become stiff and then sore. It’s more important than ever to move and stretch, and it’s harder than ever to get started.

But my waking life is NOT a nightmare. I often feel intimate with God, as long as I don’t too carefully define that. I meet with a friend for lunch, and I go to my stretching rock. Every day I read the Psalms. Yoga, Feldenkrais, massage and conversation are just one decision away. And I must remember in my moments of self-pity, how can I be found if I have not been lost?

Hosea’s listeners cry out, “We shall say no more ‘Our god’ to the work of our hands.” God’s response is to “love them freely” and turn his wrath away. He will be like dew on their new grass. In this aftermath of collapse, even as I recall the nightmare, I can “dwell in his shade and blossom like the vine.” My fear and loneliness fade in his presence.

I learn to live with this mingling of pleasure and pain, expectation and fulfillment. When I settle down there is really nothing to get over or push away, crave or clutch too close.

Jesus says, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” That’s just he means to say.

Lord, there is this settling down I always want to do with you. I want to rest, sit, close my eyes, be still. After the stretching comes the quiet. After the conversation comes the silence. You are in all of it, but I lose myself so often and want to get back to being with you. Maybe in the middle of the crowd, maybe alone sitting on my bed, but I want to be with you.

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