"The thing that does not touch us, the merely 'looked at,' the mere object, cannot be manifest reality basically understood. In the ancient Hebrew sense of the word - that with which there is not the intimacy of touch is not truly 'known.' No intimacy: no revelation. No revelation: no true givenness of reality."
-Henry Bugbee, The Inward Morning
"Touch. It is touch that is the deadliest enemy of chastity, loyalty, monogamy, gentility with its codes and conventions and restraints. By touch we are betrayed, and betray others." - Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose
I began this post last Thursday. But I couldn't get past the quotes - until today. So here we go. If this ends up sounding like a rant, please let me know - that is not my desire. I sat in our church service this morning, singing a strange brew of hymns and choruses. One of the choruses we sang had these words as the refrain, to be faithfully repeated many, many times: "This world has nothing for me. This world has nothing for me. This world has nothing for me." People were intently singing the words, many of them with eyes closed and arms wide open. The final song for the morning was an old toe stompin' hymn - I'll Fly Away. It's lyrics go something like this: "Some glad morning when this life is o'er, I'll fly away. To a land on God's celestial shores, I'll fly away." Folks sang this one just as intently, but now eyes were open and their hands were a'clappin'. I believe both of these songs, probably among many others, reveal a basic attitude that most believers have toward God's world - the quicker we can get out of here, the better. This world has nothing for me, all I need is Jesus. And at least one morning in my life will be glad, as opposed to all the other crappy ones, and this one will find me on the teleporter pad ready to be beamed up to God's celestial shores.
I will use the collective "we" in these words, for I am complicit in this and I know of at least two or three others gathered in His name who do it too. We, as believers, don't want to be touched by this world. We uphold a strange chastity and gentility that leaves us bereft of intimacy and therefore revelation and therefore reality. We claim to worship the one who decided on touching and being touched by this world, yet we longingly sing (always a good measure of our theology) of a life untouched. Do I look forward to a day when the cancer that wrestles with my daughter's friend will concede? You bet. And I do believe that Jesus is what she needs, but she also needs her dad's strong arms and her mother's gentle embrace. And the belonging of friends, like my daughter, to hold her hand as her hair falls out. Maybe all those things are Jesus for and to her. Do I hope for some glad morning when married couples can live for better or better instead of that worse stuff? Hell, yes. But I also know that there have been days of betrayal when she should have flown away, but she didn't. And the shores my wife and I walked on weren't celestial, but they were real. And revelation, even if less than desirable, was tangible. And we learned things we didn't know about one another and were humbled. And we were grateful that this life wasn't o'er, if at least for one more day, so we could try again. To try to touch and be touched. To risk being intimate and understood. And to dream dreams of being real and sing songs like "I Am, I Said" by Neil Diamond, which is neither a chorus or a hymn, but maybe should be. I've always heard that God inhabits the praises of His people. But what if those praises are bogus goods? Shoddy theology? Although broken, this is the world He created by his spoken word and on some level, it's still good. And we turn our faces from it and look to the skies and close our eyes and open our arms. And He says, "Remove you shoes. Open your eyes. Wiggle your toes. You're on holy ground."