Monday, May 19, 2008

Let No One

I went to a CD release party for my brother-in-law in Chicago this past weekend. The 250-mile-round-trip-in-less-than-24-hours was not my greatest show of support; it was the fact that I stayed up past my bedtime. (Apparently, CDs cannot be released before sunset; it must have something to do with the Jewish calendar.) I had to wait until midnight to hear the first C-chord strummed on his guitar.

Once upon a time the notion of an all-nighter sounded romantic, especially if it included the highway and chocolate donuts. But when you lose three hours of sleep due to distance, one hour due to time zones, and a fourth hour due to a noisy cat who crawls about your chest as soon as you hit your bed, the romance wilts. You're left with red eyes, black rings, and a green stomach.

I feel old when I don't get enough sleep; I feel old when I play sports and ache the following day; I feel old when I run my fingers through my hair and twenty of them dive to the floor.

Feeling old has a remedy, though. Any time it oppresses me, I tell a stranger I'm a pastor. They automatically clarify, asking if I'm a youth pastor. I assure them I am not; I am merely young.

Fortunately, age is not what defines my ministry, it merely seasons it. Rather, my speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity are definitive characteristics (2 Tim. 4:12). Or so I pray.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Unraveled

I let him get out of my sight. Only for a minute. He and my daughter chased each other around a corner and into the bathroom. They were laughing. Then my daughter came out, and there was silence.

Silence from a toddler is an omen. I walked through the guest bedroom, approaching its adjoining bathroom with unease. As I drew closer, I could hear something. A spinning sound. A swirling sound. A something falling to the floor sound.

It was a roll of toilet paper: 80-sheets of plush, 2-ply, Extra Soft Cottonelle. The boy looked at me, his mischievous gaze replaced with alarm. He removed his hand from the roll and fled the scene. I was left with a barely dressed cardboard roll and a floor blanketed in white. Then I did what any good parent would do, I plugged my fingers into the cardboard roll and started spinning in reverse.

An appreciation for factory-packaged toilet paper naturally arises when you find yourself trying to re-thread 80 squares of Cottonelle. If you pull too tightly, you rip it at its perforations; if you wrap it too quickly, the edges are uneven. And no matter how gentle, deliberate, and methodical you are in returning your unraveled roll to manufactured form, it's near impossible to do. The end result is always a metastasized mess that you surely wouldn't display if your mother was coming into town.

But the paper is no less useful. Its presentation has changed, but its contents have not. And the same core still centers every skewed square. In fact, when unraveling occurs, the core does its main function: holding things together. Tidiness and tightness are secondary, matters of form.

I fear that too often--in the ominous silence of the heart--our greater concern is form over function. Sunday dress and small group prayer requests are cordial and compact; the raw asymmetry of doubt, struggle, and self-harm are too messy for the bathroom, let alone a sanctuary. We leave unraveling to toddlers and therapy sessions.

Fortunately, we have a Good Parent who, upon seeing the messes we make on the floor (or elsewhere), will secure us to our core. He will re-wrap us. He will rewind us. He will hold us together.