Friday, October 20, 2017

Walking Alone on the Streets of Chicago

I walked the streets of Chicago alone tonight.  I felt such a bittersweet feeling come over me.  I felt like all was lost.  I felt like I'd stepped into a fading dystopia.  I was listening to the Kingdom OST put together by a brilliant musician called Toy Tree.  It really fit the warm night.  It was a Friday night as I jaunted along the streets pausing to look between the buildings, down the dark alleys, and avoid the eyes of passing couples.  And I asked God, I said God, talk to me.  Tell me things.  I don't even know what to ask, just tell me something. 

I was feeling hopeless, a bit discouraged. Probably the same way the Trojans felt as they saw the armies of Greece gathered at her front gates: Like, what can we do?  What can we do against all of this?  Few seem to understand what I mean, and just assume that something is wrong with me.  But it's not that there is something wrong.  It's that I'm looking at the fall.  I'm trying my very best to see reality as it truly is.  I'm seeing the brokenness of the world, and the people in it. And I'm seeing the brokenness of the world itself.  That's what makes me sad.  And it should make all of us sad.  Though we tend to ignore it, and pass it by.  I try to see it, comprehensively, and consider what I ought to do about it.  

I've read that an introvert intuitive feeling perceiving (INFP) like myself can become overloaded with everything they see that is wrong with the world, and begin to feel overwhelmed by it.  I suppose that's fairly accurate.  But aren't we allowed nights of bitter lament for the fall of humanity?  Oh I think we are.  I've spent many such a night, in such bitter laments.  

In fact the Bible is full of laments, broken psalms, bitter Ecclesiastes, and lamentations.  Broken neighborhoods I see.  I see confused people.  I see people who need faith, hope, and love.  I see apostate churches, and I wonder if we'll be next.  I love life.  I really do. Yet I also despair of it.  I can hardly stand all that is lost in this place.  I can hardly stand all the brokenness.  

I've been meeting with a young lady who is struggles so much.  And it makes me wonder at how many thousands are out there struggling.  I hear the sirens go by in Chicago, and I wonder.  What is going on out there?  How could things become such a disaster?

I'm not used to all this big city stuff.  I come from the country, from the north woods.  I love the forests, the rivers and streams, and the rolling hills of Wisconsin.  

I've nowhere to go here among all these tall buildings, and among such an alien culture.  This is truly an alien culture to me.  The gay pride flags on every block.  It is an irony that the seminary college would be right in the midst of "boys town" Chicago.  It's quite an interesting dichotomy.  You see churches around the area, each of them apparently apostate, waving gay pride flags hanging from the church spires.  And I wonder, will we be next?  Will we compromise our gospel and go apostate as well?  Or will we stand firm, and hold our contrast to the world?  It's hard to know.  Of course we know how most people would think of us: bigotry, hatred, mean, judgmental, all of that stuff.  But is it really those things? No.  It's not really those things.  It's love.  Because love is sometimes hard, when we have to tell someone something that we know will hurt their feelings, but the truth is like that.  Sometimes it cuts us to the core.  But it transforms our lives.  

As I read history, the history of empire, as I consider the culture war between the secular left and the conservative right, and how I see the contrast.. such a divided country.  It drives me crazy as I think of it.  I walk down the streets... and what am I seeing?  Street by street, the noise in the bars, the wiffs of marijuana on the air, the drunkenness, the gay couples walking by, the tall buildings, the police stations, the downcast faces, the homeless guys slumping against the buildings... what am I seeing?  I'm seeing the fall of man.  I'm seeing the spiritual collapse of society.  

We're between worlds here, aren't we?  This isn't outer darkness.  And this isn't heaven.  This isn't as God will set things, to be right again, this isn't outside His presence either.  This is the middle ground.  This is the way station.  This is a gas station in the desert, and we're stopped, eating at the little diner in the filling station.  But we've all got amnesia.  We don't remember who we are, where we came from, or where we're going.  So we just sit in the diner, living and dying, confused, distracted by the advertisements, the menu, and the small talk of daily life.  Little do we recall, but in a half remembered dream darkly, that we are kings and queens of glory, and we can't quite remember, this darkness has set in, and we can't decide which way to go.  In fact we don't know which way is up or down.  We can't recall.  We're at the diner, and a feeling of dread comes over us, as we look out the window, a dread so deep that it brings to mind a half remembered dream, a deja'vu that shutters through our being, and for a moment we remember... something... something far away.  A different country.  A better place.  We remember our true destiny.  And then it fades away... like a dream, half-remembered.  Gone, somewhere, where did it go...? And the more we try to cling onto it, the more it slips away.  

We ache for some sort of eternity.  We see it for a glimpse in Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Narnia.  We feel it for just a moment at helm's deep.  We touch it for a moment upon the snow drifts of Hoth.  We sense it in the cold caverns of the witch's dungeon.  We feel it for a moment and we recall the glory, and then it's gone.  In a perfect song it touches us and leads us home, the northern lights and the star filled sky point us to it, and the bright moon and the wind swept plain and the snowy drifts at 3 am and the sunset sky on fire... It tells us of home.  It reminds us of a place we've never been.  And our heart aches.  

We die just a little inside as we cry out for more of it. But it escapes us again.  All of life hints it to us from time to time, yet it escapes our grasp.  This is the grasp of eternity, the home we've never been to, the paradise we can't dare to picture, and the joyous eternal glory of the presence of a God of pure, tender love.  Not fake love, not lie love, not stereotypical love, but God love, a love that understands, a love that is insanely complex, yet simple, and an all-embracing love that transforms us into perfection itself.  Don't leave us, no.  Come close now.  Because we've gone lost down the dark winter road.  We've lost our memory of home.  And we're deranged, drug addled, perverted, disturbed, a deranged alien amnesiac hobbling down a dark road labeled "oblivion" enraptured in the fall and shackled to the sorrow, amongst the neon horizon, the failing light, and the green aurora borealis of this beautifully sublime fall of all things. 

So we head off into fire and darkness, but for something, some Spirit, taking us back. Something threatens to turn us around, and something threatens to save us, that which we perceive as a threat, is the rope that offers to lead us back home.  

Are you lonely?  Is your heart in despair?  Has the ultimate goal achieved left you feeling hopeless?  Has it failed to satisfy?  The loneliest a person can ever be is when they have finally achieved that which they thought would bring ultimate fulfillment and it has let them down.  

Despite it all, there is a road home.  There is a road home.  There is a way out of this fall.  We're at the way station, but the road is vanishing, the hour glass is trickling down, and time is running out.  This fall is falling quickly.  The snow is pouring down.  And eventually this will all end.  Escape the paradox.  This time loop must be escaped.  It repeats over and over.  And could we finally step out the door.. and into a new life?  Could we be transformed inside out, and find the way home?  Stranger things have happened in this wild labyrinth of diverse chaotic competing ideologies.  Stranger things have happened indeed.  

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