Sunday, October 12, 2008


"You're still in America in the monastery, and in Hope Church-- these absurd and holy places-- you're still in the modern world. But these places demand that you give up any notion of dominance or control. In these places you wait, and the places mold you." -- Kathleen Norris describing her church, Hope Church, in Dakota: A Spiritual Geography.

"Dakota is a painful reminder of human limits, just as cities and shopping malls are attempts to deny them." -- Also from Dakota.

The concrete and steel that is under our feet and over our heads have brought us together. They make it possible for someone like me to live in a place where my neighbors are most assuredly not like me. On most days these elements serve as catalysts for an economy that provides enough to survive, if not thrive.

But the ease of life created by cities has removed us from the desperation that has driven many over time into the arms of God. So we turn inward and find the struggle there. And at the end of that struggle, the one with demons of pride, lust, and gluttony, we may find ourselves needing God. But it all seems a little cheap in the end compared to people whose very existences are literally at stake.

Being in school is invigorating in many ways, but it has its drawbacks. Most notably is the sense that everybody is just passing through. Add that to the fact that I'm a part of a church whose life revolves those just passing through, and it is no wonder that despair can sometimes set in.

This is why I live for the times I get to sit around a table with my friends who live in this place. Though we may not have a lot of ground to plow and the weather patterns don't necessarily thrust us into reliance on God, we recognize that there is dirt inside us that needs cultivated in order for this long conversion toward being God's people to spring forth. And although we may not be here forever, we are more than just passing through.

Of course there is nothing wrong with just passing through. There have been nomads from the beginning of time. In fact, the tendency to roam may, as a survival instinct, be more wired into our DNA than the tendency to stay. But I've often felt that the desire of some to always be looking to the next thing can be more of a refusal to admit that one day they will die.

Today, in the middle of this city of steel, concrete, and of people just passing through, we spoke out loud. We spoke words from Paul that rumble beneath the ground not just during the Easter season, but during seasons of loss and despair. We spoke them out of the depths. Together, those transient and those with feet planted on the ground, we spoke those words to each other, into the dry and dusty places waiting to be sanctified... "Where, oh death is your victory? Where, oh death is your sting?"


Patrick said...

Good stuff. Was talking with the youth about Yom Kippur, atonement, and the meaning of sacrifice, based on something by N.T. Wright, and we talked about how
being divorced from the natural process of things desensitizes us from the labor that goes into the things we enjoy, and what it costs.

On the other hand, my guess is that people who are tied to the land are also struck by people, or seasons, merely "passing through," - they just don't face it with so much frequency.

Aaron said...

"But I've often felt that the desire of some to always be looking to the next thing can be more of a refusal to admit that one day they will die."

Wow! That's a great line. One that I need to hear. Thank you, brother.

I'm going to quote you on my blog.