There is a vast difference between “was” and “is.” A Grand Canyon stands between them, but few notice it, except those of us who are currently crossing the divide. Sometimes we speak of the dead as “was” forgetting that their stories remain present with us. For example, my father is alive in my heart and mind, even though I can truthfully say he was a good man. Is he no longer? My faith says otherwise. But what of me? Just over fifty trips around the sun on this spinning globe, yet who I was and who I am remain as vast in distance as the chasm between both measured in galactic proportions.
I was reading just yesterday in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale; “It’s impossible to say a thing exactly the way it was, because what you say can never be exact, you always have to leave something out, there are too many parts, sides, crosscurrents, nuances; too many gestures, which could mean this or that, to many shapes which can never be fully described, too many flavors, in the air or on the tongue, half colors, too many.” I read this following a conversation with a friend that suggested that I’m less than authentic. That somehow my life is duplicitous, with a public persona that contradicts private behavior. Of course, she is right. I responded “Ouch!” to deflect further scrutiny.
But then I begin to think about this some more. What is it about our human condition that craves consistency. We want relationships that are stable and predictable. We avoid those we deem “two faced” and applaud fidelity, especially to the values that we prioritize. And when others disappoint our expectations by refusing to remain one dimensional in shape and size of personality, behavior, or beliefs, we express quietly to ourselves, passively aggressive to them, or overtly, depending upon the seriousness of the transgression, our disappointment.
This human craving for immutability results in the idea of God. Certainly, this is a characteristic that is lauded by my tradition in Christianity. In our sacred texts, God says of Himself repeatedly “I am the Lord; I change not.” The oft quoted passage “Jesus Christ; the same yesterday, today, and forever” comes quickly to my mind. But perhaps these ideas of God fall short to adequately explain the character of the Divine and more accurately reflect our desires for human relationships that conform like wet cement to the forms of our purposes. We want others to be fun or serious, not both. We want others to be spontaneous or consistent, seeing these at opposites that can’t possible be reconciled in one person. We insist that others reflect what we value and prioritize. We want people to be like our God, made in our image, reflecting our own glory.
This idea of God, that I’ve only lately begin to challenge, has often been weaponized against me. Because to any one paying attention, I have certainly evolved. To the point that I often receive cryptic messages, “Are you ok?” or sometimes I am the subject of downright vitriol when others figure out that I know longer share their theological, cultural, or political perspective. I can understand this. It can be difficult to reconcile what always “was” with what currently “is.” Especially if it appears to be a moving target. Our fine little categories are being overturned, and just like when Jesus overturned the tables in the temple, the consequences of these disruptions result in wounds and death.
I wish I could settle, but I can’t. I wish I could land at a comfortable position that would render everyone happy, but none exist. I’m good at navigating feelings, speaking diplomatically, mirroring back to you yourself to put you at ease, but if pressed I’m likely to make all of us uncomfortable. I long for the inquisitive minds that can hold in tension competing ideas without resolution. I want to play without fear of guilt for “being wrong.” Especially when I don’t understand why something has been judged wrong to begin with. I too, loathe hypocrisy, but I cannot escape it in myself, nor can I unsee it in everyone else. So, I wait. I write and think. I read. I walk forward into uncertainty.
I prefer to know God rather than just ideas of God. The passage from 1 John where it says, “God is love,” I’ve observed is most often lived out by the pious among us as its inverse; “Love is God.” The way that people behave based on neat little constructs of control and manipulation creating categories of marginalized and elites, tells me that we all love “Love,” but we don’t know its definition. Is this love or was it love? I suppose we can only “know in part” but one day “when that which is perfect has come, we will know even as we are known.”
Dear reader, if you have difficulty discerning meaning from these meandering thoughts, please understand I share your bewilderment. But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? What I was verses what I am becoming, and the chasm that separates the two, appears as a spectrum when beheld from a distance.
And when seen from that perspective may not be all that far apart.
Judge me if you must, but at least make the attempt to really see me first. I’ll return the favor.