Sunday, January 25, 2009

Wooden Woman

A self-portrait of that awkward feeling,

duty taking a firm stand somewhere between responsibility and obligation.

Oh, she knows the right thing to do, with that thickened spine and those formidable logs, er, arms spread wide and heading straight for you. That iron head. Look out for her love. Just like embracing an elm.

Though I’m certain God gets to know us through our obedience, what I am talking about here is that stiff inhibition, that gawky, graceless, overpowering sense of self-consciousness.

Thomas Merton says our minds cannot help but include self in everything. But in the end, he says, nothing (that is, no self) is preferred, that only when self is so small as to be missing can we fully comprehend the greatness of God.

Gone entirely?

Oh dear, my missing self. Missing myself. Now I am missing Wooden Woman.

Surely Thomas, this is not a call to first lose all identity. I’ve tried. I cannot make my self go away. I cannot even ignore her.

Being a little more than self-conscious in moving ahead (perhaps backwards according to Merton), it still seems reasonable to search out the greatness of God—dragging Wooden Woman along. To allow my self to witness God as big, bigger, even terrifyingly immeasurable, until little me by comparison is, in the end not gone, but utterly insignificant.

OK, it’s not perfect. But think of it, it’s hard not to give something that colossal all your attention, never mind any artless lumbering.

Have you thought about the kind of attention that comes to you from something that immense and unerring? Love

willing to give all, to pay any price, complete self-sacrifice.

Yes, I noticed that right away, too. Small, inelegant as she is, Wooden Woman is, despite all self consciousness, willing.


Craig and Bethany said...

And yet, I keep coming back to the value of something purchased at such great price. Value! The self, the mechanism of free-will, something so sacred that amazingly God died to save rather than violate it. I think perhaps I see the self more as a vessel to be filled, than a contaminant to be refined out. Perhaps it is the starting point, nearly nothingness animated, resurrected into unmasked glory. And somehow we get to be active participants, to be radiant and completely ourselves - not that we would be less, but rather the intended version of ourselves. Otherwise in the end we'd all end up alike, homogeneous, tasteless. Is there some un-self conscious self consciousness, a moment, a place, where we become this self? I picture this is what Lewis means when he said, perfect humility dispenses of all modesty.

Anonymous said...

When a wooden man lumbers around lost -- he stays lost since he refuses to stop to ask for directions.
ha ha.
If we make the conscious decision to lessen ourselves, are we not in a way putting an emphasis on ourselves in the end? A subtle form of conceit or a mock humility. Self-aggrandizing asceticism? It seems like the definition of insanity -- doing the same thing over and over all the while expecting a different result. The mantra of "I will minimize myself today. I will minimize myself today..." does not move us to the bottom of the list, but keeps us at the top.
So what do we do?
Ahhh, drink deep from the cocktail of grace and holy fear. By releasing the right to redeem ourselves, for we have been bought with a price, we can and must then focus our attention on the Creator who continuously dwarfs us with His ever-expanding depth at every turn.
Our surrender empties us to be filled with our Ordained and Created purpose to give ourselves to God and others. He never gives us purpose to serve ourselves. That can not bring the Creator glory.
So I am going to lumber around looking for a drink and try to still the voices of insanity who continue to prattle on about self and personal effort as I go. Maybe I'll ask the Bartender for directions too.