Friday, July 28, 2017

On Scripts and Sacred Ground

When the national news started picking up the story surrounding the Standing Rock reservation and its people protesting the building of a pipeline, the idea of sacred spaces and hallowed ground became mainstream language.  What was strange to me was the number of Evangelical Christians who balked at the idea that a group of people could be so tied to a piece of land for religious reasons.

The odd thing was, these were many of the same people who have made multiple ventures with their churches to "The Holy Land."  They walked the Via Dolorosa.  They sat on the Mount of Olives, stood on the hillside cathedral that was the church at Ephesus and stepped foot in the Jordan River where Jesus Christ was baptized.  They have wept at tombs which are said to hold the bodies of the saints and all because here was ground that was irrevocably tied to their story.

What is more, the Scriptures are littered with the concept of Holy Ground.  From Moses and the burning bush to the inner sanctum called the Holy of Holies to the ultimate goal of a "promised land" that was to be God's Kingdom on earth.

So why would we, a people so deeply rooted in the sacredness of space, be so opposed to someone else recognizing the legitimacy of higher power at work within the very earth we stand on?  Truthfully I'd love to say that it was just a misunderstanding and Evangelicals just like good business, but that's not what's going on.  More than anything, I believe we have lost the reverence of dominion in exchange for the profitable business of domination, forgoing all things sacred on this earth because "When we die, hallelujah by and by, we'll fly away."

In that short-sighted transaction we forgot that God did not come into the world to condemn the world but to save it.  The world is not some ramshackle building in the hood where we can throw bottles through the remaining windows and spray paint "We were here" as some sort of misguided evangelism vandals before condemning the house to build newer luxury homes for a select, gentrified few.  God is in the business of remaking the world, yes, bringing back to whole fruition and flourishing, but we are called to be stewards of what He started so when he returns to finish it he can look upon us and say "well done, good and faithful servant, welcome to the Kingdom of Heaven."

Moreover, we all have holy places in our lives that we don't define as sacred until they are taken away.  As Wendell Berry says "There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places."  Think back to the places in your life that helped shape you and form you and bring joy to your life.  Are they still there?  Are they still sacred?
My family has one of those places, Bluewater Covenant Bible Camp.  It's a place that when I smell the air and feel the breeze off the lake, a level of worry regarding the world around me lifts away.  It's a place where I can swim in the waters where myself and my siblings were all baptized and renew my faith in myself or humanity or the Creator of all of it with each and every drop of water drying in the sun.  My family's story is irrevocably tied to the place of Bluewater and as such it is a place that if an oil company told us they had to build a pipeline beneath our pristine lake, my siblings and I would be the first to stand on that beach, linking arms and saying "you'll have to go through us first."

But there is something else I've found about Holy places; first, they are everywhere.  The divinity of the Holy Spirit indwelling in humanity makes any space we dwell a place that can reflect the image and transcendence of God Almighty.  Second, they have the ability to tear down the things, tangible and non, that might aim to desecrate them.

Despite having a Holy space such as Bluewater where I feel connected and whole most of the time, there is one thing that always seeks to destroy the sanctity of this place.  That thing is the pervasiveness of one relentless script.  A few years ago when I was introduced to the concept of scripts, the things we play over and over in our heads that dominate our perception of what is happening around us, a lightbulb came on in my head and I have tried my hardest to keep that light on, revealing truth and stamping out darkness.  My entire life I have had one prevailing script in my head that has too often won out, spoiling the very good moments it was created to destroy.  That script is this - "I do not fit into my immediate (siblings/parents) family and they would function just fine without me."

First off, let me assure you that no one in my family has ever even insinuated this to me and I know this script is a lie.  But, as I'm sure you know, a lie repeated enough times begins to feel awfully truthful.  I don't remember a time where this script has not tried to force its way through into every family interaction I have had in my life.  By grace and hard work I have been able to point it out and silence it when I see it coming.  But this year it made its way into some place sacred, it came to Bluewater.

Noah, the boys and I were able to come to family camp this summer for the first time in seven years where we didn't have to take an airplane.  It was glorious to be able to pack up the car and drive up in the morning and get there before the swimming area opened for the day.  But camp with a nine week old as well as 2 and 4 year olds proved to be something unexpected; isolating.  Here I was surrounded by people I've known and loved my entire life and the endless refrain of naps and nursing left me feeling alone. In that loneliness the script came to corrupt, and steal, and destroy.  As we drove away I was feeling only grief, a grief I processed over the last four weeks with good friends and a lot of prayer.
So I made the decision to brave the possibility of isolation again and headed up to camp to help out my brother and sister in law for the day and I found something entirely different.  I realized that what I did not do the last time was simple, I did not allow the space to remain Holy.  I didn't confront lies with unbreakable truth. For me Bluewater is a space that looks almost directly into the throne room of God.  In a time where all I could do was feel too much, that holy fear that breaks down barriers and walls and every lie since the Garden felt like too much.  Nine weeks post-partum, I was ever-teetering on the brink of tears and I couldn't stand to feel any more, so I retreated to what I knew, a script that while untrue, still felt familiar.

Now, I'm writing this out on the deck of my brother's home at Bluewater.  I am reveling in the wholeness and acceptance I feel.  I am truly joyful.  I am braving the sacred in order to kill the script and what I've found is this:  When you can accept the transformative power of the sacred, it stands up to danger and untruth, linking arms with the Father, Spirit and Son and says "you'll have to go through us first."