Sometimes we make God into what we are. But sometimes, possibly more unaware, we make God into what we’re not. He’s my flaws, areas I lack in, often: logic and reason. I see myself as the romantic one in this relationship. The emotional one. I turn to him with thoughts and ideas, problems and decision. Rarely heart. Rarely in my moods and to hang out a second. Idea: if you have something you need to pray about, pray about it. But if the time you’ll take for that is in a few days, there’s nothing stopping you from hanging out with God now. Just to chill. Just to be with him.
It was raining softly. A girl with a lip piercing and two rolled up sleeping mats sticking out of her backpack stepped out from under the cover of the station and into the grey sky. A young man rolled a suitcase next to her and an elderly couple stood waiting on the other side of the road, decked out in umbrellas and plastic ponchos over their functional jackets. A bus whizzed by. Birds flew high. And for a second the rain took a breather – letting only mist cover us – as we stepped out from the overhang we had covered under. The sky was open. Grey but bright and warm with dots of birds covering it, rainwater dripping down the spires of old church towers. Slow and eternal as the traffic lights turned green.
- “Every time you wrestle with your doubts, every time you dismantle your intellect to use a tool instead of analysing it, every time you choose to practice instead of theorize your creativity, you will move forward.”
- “Art is a field that’s defined by your actions, not by your qualifications.”
- “The 21st century is an aesthetic century. In history there are ages of reason and there are ages of spectacle, and it’s important to know which you’re in. Our America, our internet, is not ancient Athens. it’s Rome. And your problem is you think you’re in the forum when you’re really in the circus.”
- “Trust yourself. Trusting yourself means living out what you already know to be true.”)
I’ve always been more motivated by what I don’t want than by what I do want.
This fear has served me well. It has sent me out of the ordinary, out of where I don’t want to be. I think about the Twenty pilots song Leave the city that admits to not knowing where you’ll end up, or Brené Browns book Braving the wilderness, about leaving our clearly pronounced structures and stern belief systems.
And it reminds me of what a lot of people seem to be going through at the moment, or have been going through for a while. Churches, ministries, or just people. We know we’re not exactly where we should be, and so we lay things down, move out, take the first step in trust even if we don’t know where we’ll end up. The wilderness, or trench, as Twenty One Pilots call it, is scary, because it’s where we don’t have all the answers. And now we’re out here, not knowing the answers.
It’s made me to think about my competitiveness. If you’ll stay with me for a moment:
I’m extremely competitive. Always have been. But it’s much more important to me to not lose, than it is to win. It’s bad, I think. People motivated by winning and succeeding will do anything for it, they’re fighters and victors. But for me: if there’s a chance I’ll lose I might not even want to try in the first place.
This is obvious in other parts of my life as well. I’m very motivated by what I don’t want. What kind of life I don’t want, what I don’t want to do, who I don’t want to be. The most motivating sentence to me has always been: “But what if I’m not?” in response to “What if I’m too scared to do all the things I’ve ever wanted.” My point: I am fully aware of what I’m moving away from.
Truth is, anyone can be a rebel. And our courage has served us well. So has our eagerness to obey God, to move out into uncertainty. But I’ve been out in the wilderness for a while now, and the problem with it not being a place for answers is that there still seems to be no answers. And so what I’ve decided is this: There comes a moment, out in the dust – with that city looming in the background – when we have to stop looking back at what we left and turn our heads to where we want to go.
It is time to stop being motivated by what we don’t want and start being motivated by what we do want. If it hasn’t yet, the looking back, the awareness of what you don’t want, will make you desperate. What takes actual maturity is to look forward. To make a choice and move towards it. To be brave enough for what you want, even if you think you don’t know (Which, you do, you actually do, otherwise you wouldn’t have left that other place behind. It might just not be in the shape you think a dream should be.) Grow up, look forward. Maybe it’s a mirage, that city you see in the distance, I can’t promise that it’s not. There’s no way to see from this distance.
But I know you’ll never know if you don’t start moving towards it.
Yesterday I was walking home through the sunset and I was thinking about how in philosophy, both everything is movement and movement cannot logically exist. That everything is movement makes sense, all atoms are vibrating and spinning and twisting, otherwise we’d fall apart. It’s a solar system in miniature, it couldn’t stand still. But the thought that there’s no such thing as movement, that makes sense as well. The classic example that some old greek dude whose name I’ve forgotten spoke about is of an arrow flying through the air. If you would observe that arrow at any point in time it would be still in the middle of the air. Another moment, it would be still at some other point in its path. But if at any given point it is not moving, how then can it be moving at all?
I’ve been thinking about that because I’m curious about how it’s supposed to work in our own life. Are we supposed to run or stand still? Is everything movement and direction, or do we live better by being empty somehow, content.
There’s argument to be made for both. But I do know that we’re not good at being directionless (and direction must be a form of movement, or at least an indicator of it). You feel it when you have too much time, walking in slight circles, don’t know what to do when you put your phone down. Your direction is off, you’re not exactly sure what you’re pointing towards. That’s dangerous, makes you feel lost.
So about arrows and philosophy or whatever, I side with movement rather being everything. We can not live if we’re not aimed at something, can’t breathe if we don’t have a moment to move into. But then I think it can also be paired with stillness. Actually, what it is maybe – I think I’ve got it now – is this: Movement is a necessity for stillness.
The cure to restlessness is sitting still and letting your mind flow towards something. And it’s not what my prayers sometimes become, an oops-I-thought-about-that-instead, need-to-think-about-God, but it’s the freedom of believing that our hearts are created and redeemed to be aimed at Him. Sometimes you need to control your mind, but sometimes you need to let go of the reigns and believe that when you allow silence, your spirit will know direction.
The problem with Christian media is that it so often misses to be missional. The well made stuff, created by the modern, the aware, reaches, at best, up to something the world does and then does it like, almost as well. Not like quite, but you know, it’s really up there. It’s some really good stuff. Some gold vlogs, some good Instagram.
I refuse to believe that with the power of the holy spirit withing us (God living in us, the creator of creation, holy of holy, he who can not step into a room without us falling dead down, struck down by beauty, lifted to heaven by as much as looking at Him), I can’t believe this would be the extent of art in his kingdom, the extent of media, the extent of communication. There are bigger boxes to step into. There’s more partnership with the Spirit to explore.
I’m complaining without knowing a solution, except for this: Be a little bit crazier.
On the 14th of December I flew to New York. And to get there, I needed to get to the Orlando airport, which is like: 3 buses away from Sarasota. On the first one a guy was smoking weed right next to me. Greyhound. America is very weird when you come from a country that knows what public transport is. Then I needed to walk from the Orlando greyhound station to the next bus stop, and I ended up in quite an unsafe area.
The whole vibe was weird. Someone shouted something at me but I just kept going. I was wearing my favourite jacket with a big hood, because it makes me look scary rather than like a victim. Also when people can’t see your face the don’t really know how to approach you. Though then I actually did get stopped like twice, but just good people asking if I was fine. I was moving very slowly with my three suitcases that I kicked at every now and then, so I guess that makes sense. Someone told me they were working at the scrapyard right there, so if something happened I could just scream. Great.
So, anyway, I made it to my next bus stop and met this guy who was also waiting for the bus. He passed my “not-creepy” test which means he didn’t try to fill all the silences. If you can both go back to looking at your phones a few times without the other person asking stupid questions it makes me feel better, because it makes me feel like I can leave the conversation if I want to.
This guy was also leaving the area to get somewhere safer. He was young, pretty put together. He said he was a drifter, but that he didn’t quite know what he was doing anymore. After one of the silences he hesitated and shook his head at himself, but finally said that he sometimes just wanted to give up. The kind of person who used to want so much, and knows there is so much, but doesn’t know exactly what that is or means. And all of a sudden it’s slipped through your fingers.
We took the bus together. Met a random man from England who was very chatty and I just nodded, pretending to understand the heavy accent. We started talking to the random girl next to us as well. We talked about what a random meeting it was, just four strangers in a bus. Then we made it to the main station and went our separate ways.
I took the final bus to the airport where I slept overnight and flew to New York the next day.
This story doesn’t really have a point. Or maybe this: How can you save people? I just want to be better at helping, I wanted to say exactly what that guy at the bus stop needed to hear, but I felt like I just got too chatty with my advice. I should have let him talk more. If nothing else because I’m curious now. And also this: I like the people you meet while moving, but I love in some sad way the people who are also moving. And it’s nice meeting them on multicoloured streets under black nights. I wish I could do something for them and us. What if you had a place where the travellers could just come and stay for a bit, for free somehow or to really connect and put their stuff down for a while. Something.
And lastly this: I just hope he finds the right people, good people, to surround himself with. I think he’s looking for streets to sleep on and it could end so badly or it could end well. I wish home upon all of us. In all of us: safety.
Our minds need to shift. To conquer anxiety and defeat depression: we need to add faith to our hope. (Some of us are good at hope, because we have had no other choice.) It means in every defeat you’ll stand back up again.
But faith means living in the victory – when you’ve decided what you believe; about God, about yourself, about situations – it’s the active choice to stick with that in any given moment. So much will depend on what you dare to believe.
(Different ways of being in places that aren’t really home)
Leaving – The sudden realization that you’ve already left a place. But you’re also still there. You walk the streets and you see the views, but like in an old photo where everything’s already memories.
Arriving – When you’ve put your feet down. Stopped walking, stopped pacing, stopped turning your head around. You’ve sat down and you’re there. A feeling that exists in short, defined moments, usually parallell to emotional contentment and the good kind of acceptance. Can echo into longer or shorter seasons.
Going – Similar but different from leaving. You know that where you are is for a time and that you’re going somewhere else, but it doesn’t make you any less present. Drop the emotional detachement. If leaving is the feeling that you should have already left, going is the knowledge that you will, when it’s time.
Completely random thought from the other day:
There’s never been a generation more aware of their own sin. They might not categorize it as such, and they might try to cover it up – or cure it – with some twisted form of self acceptance. But don’t underestimate how much the world knows its judgement. And how much it acts in compensation for that.
(And of course let’s not skirt around the edges of chains, but let’s focus on how they fall.)