Friday, July 26, 2013

eating words.

"The goal of a monastic life is to let oneself be changed by community, ritual, ceremony, and the repetition of the psalms, until, in the words of one hymn, our lives become a psalm in praise of the glory of God's name."
--Kathleen Norris, The Cloister Walk

During a season of such unspeakable, unutterable disorientation and confusion, I want the structure of spiritual discipline.  I want the promise of being changed when I often feel like I'm ambling through, constantly distracted, trying to draw some conclusion from the things I do to cope or heal.  I want to be changed until my life becomes a psalm, even an angry one.

I want the words to seep into my skin and into my blood, circulating through my very heart, beating in its cavity in my chest.  I want all the precious words, from music and novels and memoirs and devotional and Scripture itself, to dwell in me and change me.  I want to find some way to capture and distill the weight of these words, that moment when their truth weighs upon me so I can barely breathe, and I am praying I won't forget what I have learned in that rare clarity.

I feel this way when I read about white privilege, human trafficking, a call to listen to stories that seem unrelatable or threatening to me, and the choice to live for something different from the American Dream.  How can I remember? I feel this way with songs and poetry and stories that say something true or beautiful or haunting about the human experience.  This means something.  I don't want to walk away unchanged, to applaud truth's performance and then head home back to the normal routine after the show.  I want to memorize the words so that they become part of me, shaping my every decision and word.  I want to eat the words, to etch them into my skin, to trace them with my fingers until we are one, until the words have had their way in me, and I have been changed by them.  So I write them down, I re-read, I try to explain them a little better next time in my conversations with loved ones.  I try to bring them to life through my choices and deeds.

Perhaps--perhaps, this desire to consume in order to be changed will lead me to God-with-us.  When God put on skin, he told us to eat his body and drink his blood, scandalous words now and then.

I am trying to let the words get under my skin, so that my own life-poem speaks love and truth.

"Instead of giving you God's law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it into bundles of rules, leading you down like pack animals."  Matthew 23:4

Let us feast.

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