Written with much frustration, after deciding I couldn't be the moral conscious of anyone -- specifically my college. Also, one of the first times I started sounding like Anne Lamott. The Dave Eggers bits would come later.
How am I not myself?
I've decided that enough is enough. You don't need me to lend what little wisdom I have, bleeding from the ears as it were, as if I had anything of great importance to say. You don't need me to coax, yell or cajole you into action. You don't need my cynicism, my optimism, my witty rejoinders on faith and culture. What you really need, I can't give.
So I give what I can -- namely whatever I have left over at the end of the day. Banging my head against metaphorical walls (and occasionally quite solid ones); clinging tight as to cut off the blood to my fingers, keeping hold of all my best and guilt-ridden secrets. Splicing together hackneyed sentence fragments as if I could actually create something worth your five minutes. It’s Sunday night at the Rice family household. And that means break out the leftovers.
There is something that I am proud of. Over the last year or so I have finally become comfortable with my neuroses. I can finally rejoice in the fact that I am messed up. That I don't have it all together.
That I love Jesus. This is true, true, true. But that I say quite the nastiest things to him in my most vulnerable moments. That I directed words to the face of Christ that I would never imagine uttering to another human being. These things make me shudder.
I can't imagine how he feels when I do this. So of course, I don't. Ignorance is....well, ignorance. Instead I direct these terrible thoughts at my subconscious -- which eerily looks, acts and sounds like Burt Reynolds. Hint for life: It's much easier to direct God-related anger at Burt Reynolds. And sometimes, I convince myself that I don't even have to feel guilty about it.
I really don't want to have it all together. At least, not anytime soon. Granted. St. Paul calls us out and challenges us to strive for holiness; that is, living as Christ lived. And I want that. But sometimes it's amusing to find great satisfaction in brilliant fake conversations that I hold only in my mind; or screaming at stray cats as if they were actually there; or praying to God at least once a month that when I wake up in the morning I have the uncanny ability to pick up any musical instrument by ear in a matter of seconds. These things are important – let’s not kid ourselves.
I can’t get over the fact that even though life refuses to let me in on even a glimpse at my future [Would one little peek do so much damage? I've seen Back to the Future. I know how to handle these things], I keep on trudging. With big boots on. Ones that keep me firmly anchored in the muck and mire of my own shortcomings, yes. But it's through those shortcomings and neuroses that I see Jesus work the most. And I’ll never really go nuts, because God gives gifts. And such wonderful, wonderful gifts.
Like I passion to write. I need to write. And write and write and write. Books for kids. Books about kids. Books for kids about kids. Books for grownups. Books about grownups (but never just about grownups). Books about faith. And grace. And discipleship. And ducks and trees and night skies and Monte Rivero and Phil Simms and Jackson Browne and peanut butter pie. Most definitely peanut butter pie.
And those moments when reality collapses on itself and transcends itself for just a moment. And you know you can do anything. And fight for what is just. And love those who seem unlovable. And take the world by the wrist and drag it kicking and screaming all the way to its room. And slam the door and say, “World, until you calm down, and apologize to your sister, you will not leave this house. Do you hear me?”
Oh good golly. That’s what I want to write about.
And I think I can do these things only because I don’t understand why I act like I act. Or why I love like I love (or most often, fail to love). Or why I just cannot develop an appetite for mushrooms. Or why I can’t seem to get over this incredible crush I had Shannon Brindley the summer before fifth grade. (I don’t think you realize how perfect this girl was for me....)
The romantic in me knows there’s such a thing as kismet. But that stronger empiricist occasionally beats him to a bloddy pulp with a baseball bat. Yes, it would be nice if my mind were prettier. But it would also be nice if Bon Jovi perished with much pain and screaming in a horrendous fireworks accident. Deal with it.
So I tend to wallow sometimes. “Woe is me! Why can’t things just fall into place?” I read Carl Sandburg. I feel better. I watch romantic comedies. I feel worse. Sometimes laughing helps. Sometimes screaming helps more. It depends.
We argue. We fume. We let pride get its way. We imagine. We dream. We fail as often as we succeed. We say wonderful things. We say vicious things. We can’t seem to hold life together as it bursts at the seams from so much stress and pressure.
"It gets darker and darker, and then Jesus is born." I know it was dark that night. There was oppression and tears and tax collectors and cheap whores for miles around in Judea. And then a miracle happened. And wherever there is oppression and tears, madmen with bombs, and seemingly sane men who feel indestructible because they have even more bombs, Jesus is born.
So we digress. We click our heels. And when that fails to work, we swear at the stars, sigh impatiently, cluck at the neighbors, reach for friends, pray prayers of "help" and "please", shudder at the thought that there might never be a response, wipe the crumbs from our mouths, and listen to the hum of streetlight, thinking, “Tomorrow, I think I may walk to the grocery store.”
p.s. This was printed not long before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and might contain my first subtle swipe of dissatisfaction with G.W. Bush. Did you spot it? It's like a game! But with no prizes....only an awesome war that everybody wants to just go away!
Shoo, war! Shoo!