Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Monday, March 1, 2010
I feel like there are certain times in one’s own life where everything around them is ready, is poised.
It’s like waking up early in the morning in Chicago.
There is a moment before everyone stirs, before the city wakes, before the busses are running and the mail gets distributed by men and women in all blue, before the line at Starbucks forms, and even before the suited business people hop in their shiny black expensive cars to beat the horrid traffic into the loop- before all the stretching and the communal rubbing of sleep from the city’s big, polluted eyes, every single thing is poised and waiting to begin again. To start the day.
Something speaks to me in those moments. Admittedly, I am rarely ever awake to see the poised-ness of this loud city, but, when I am, I soak it in. When I am up and observant (you can’t ask much more of me early in the morning than to simply register what’s going on, just ask my roommate. Or anyone who has ever, ever lived with me), I am so hopeful and excited and honestly, a little intimidated. You see, in those early moments, nothing has been done yet. Yes, things were done yesterday and the marks of them may still linger on the now, but they do not define what will yet come to be. There is intimidation because with the freedom of knowing anything can be created comes an almost obtuse form of paralyzation.
In my life, I feel as if everything is poised.
So much is left waiting, earning, crying out to be created.
And I, so often the coward, am paralyzed by the freedom and power that comes from newness.
Yes, in my entire life there are the marks from yesterday still lingering: mistakes I made in school, poor choices with money, personality traits used as defenses which now define me to some, lack of consideration when choosing how to spend my time. But none of those things stop the sun from rising and all my world to lean back on its haunches in preparation of springing forth once more. Nothing has stopped the things in my world to poise themselves all over again, nothing.
I have rediscovered my passion for honestly, vulnerability and transparency and I have simultaneously discovered that when I admit I am weak and confused and broken, no one is surprised. I am not above anything. Too bad I was the last one informed of this, but better late than never. I have also discovered, through peeling back layers of pride and fear, that it really is the cowardly thing not to be honest. You see, once I was honest and started getting really real with people, I realized that life was much easier. I move and fit alongside those closest to me in my life so much more naturally once I quit trying to be something I wasn’t. Whatever the hell that may have been. It is much easier to be happier, full and motivated when you know that one slip of one tiny little card on the bottom of the house will not cause the entire house to collapse in on itself.
There’s the freedom of knowing that I am just a little person. I am just one little girl whom God loves enough to cover. It gives all whole new meaning to the name I give Jesus: Savior. He saves me from myself. He saves me from perfection. He is my perfection.
I, Katie Jo Kuehn, am not perfect.
Shut up. It took like 23 years to figure that one out and I am willing to put money on the fact that in another 23, I will have to learn it all over again. There’s something like a cycle to my life and I don’t think this revelation, though strong and powerful it is, will out-due.
Why does any of this matter? Why? There are a six BILLION people in this world with probably just as many blogs out there talking about self-revelation and realization and getting better and being whole and having freedom and whatever else there may be.
This matters because I live with four other girls who are trying to get free too. It matters because, in community, what happens to one person happens to all. It matters because God spoke and God was clear when He said that “your freedom will set others free”. It matters because
I have found that Christ calls us into community with Himself and others not only for the redemption of the world and knowing Him better, but for own good. It’s almost selfish, really. As I said before, to me now, it is more cowardly to not choose to be honest. A good friend and soul sister, Lisa, shared this thought with me that I think captures it quite well: "Is living in community—whether within a single dwelling or a neighborhood, in a house church or as part of a small group within a larger body—risky? Absolutely. Is it worth the risk? Utterly, because the alternative is living inside one's own dark and deceptive head. While living transparently—our weaknesses, temptations, and failures in full view of others—is undeniably scary, it is immeasurably more frightening (not to mention dangerous) not to be known. When I hide myself from others, it is just a short step from there to hiding myself from myself. Allowed to remain in the windowless room of my own mind, I will sweep the most unsightly things into the corners until I no longer even see them myself. Fear, pain, sin—when kept from the healing light of day—quickly fester and corrupt and put us in mortal danger (Kristyn Komarnicki).”
There is no greater skill than to love well. And I have found, in wanting to take seriously the call of Christ in life by loving Him and my neighbors more than I love myself, that in order to love well, one must know the Way to being well. I’m NOT saying that one needs to be perfect and whole and right to be well. One needs to know the Way to become well. The Way is Jesus. He is all we are not. There is no way, with our small, black, decrepit and damaged hearts, that we can love well without Him.
We are to give away all we receive. To give away insane, freeing love, we must first receive it. We must put ourselves in the Way (in Jesus) and allow Him to wash us, slowly making us well with fresh air, light and space to roam about while we know that we are never too much or too messy for Him. Then, from that space, we love well.
The paradox is that the sickest love the best. Ironic. The Kingdom of Heaven is not one made up of templates, grids and standards of this world.
I am sick, but the Healer works in me. And, eventually, will work through me.
He has poised everything for this day, this season, this moment. All so that we may come to Him and go then to others. All to be well in an unwell world. All to love well in a void place.
And all of it happens simply by being in the Way.
Just be honest.
When trying to think about what to write for this blog, those three words came to mind over and over again, just be honest. I have found that when starting to blog and put my thoughts, musing and feelings ambiguously out here into cyber space, I have a hard time knowing exactly who I am writing for. I know some friends and family who read, but other than that, who?
Well, if being honest is the now the theme, that it is clear whom I am writing for: myself. I believe that all I can offer and all I can give in any cause or to anyone is simply my honesty. I believe that it is through transparent, open, communal living that God speaks sometime most profoundly. It is also through lives lived that God speaks most profoundly. I will say with confidence that people look to one another’s lives first and their words second. This is not new to anyone though, right?
Being honest, I have been humbled. You see, I want God to use me. I want to be, as Mother Teresa put it, a pencil in His hands. I have always felt such a clear sense of purpose and direction but have so often failed to live into it. To be honest, yet again, I have been fearful of living into what I have felt my purpose to be. I have avoided, for so long, the truth. To be specific, I know that I am no one through whom God should chose to speak. I am sinful, weak, cowardly, dishonest and lazy. I have a knack for procrastination and for trying to use the correct words and actions to make myself look good. However, as I have proven to God, my closest friends and, most importantly, myself, that is empty and very shallow, false way of living. I may have a sense of call, yes. And I may even be able to clearly articulate my purpose and giftings, yes again. However, the very basic, authentic, deep stages are the ones I have yet to go through entirely. I guess I have just been scared that perhaps, in the process of being vulnerable and truly allowing God to form His characteristics and principles in me, I will find that my idea of my purpose and calling (which I can see so clearly and articulate so well now) are not actually what will come to be…or what God has for me. Fear, yes I do believe, is what holds me captive.
Thus far, living at 5128 N Kimball has taught me that I can float by oh so easily, as I have nearly my entire life, without being pushed and without needing to articulate the just plain honesty within my heart. Why? Because I am able to word and articulate everything perfectly and I am, by nature, a leader. However, to be honest, I feel empty. I want to be touched, not untouchable and above everyone. I want to be known, I want to be vulnerable, I want to be real. I want what I dream and what I hope and what I thought I knew for so long to become a reality. In order for this to happen, I must be honest.
It will never matter if I have all the correct words and can lead others into the correct ideas and matching activities while making it all look so wonderful if my life, if my soul, cannot be seen. I want the actual power of God to be in me, and I know that until I allow Him every part of me, even the parts I think no one will ever see (the unglamorous, nameless parts), the outside, the end product, if you will, will never be whole. It, me, my life, will never actually be. I will have been a great idea that was never put into action.
So, I want to just be honest.
Honestly, I am scared shitless. And I think this is going to be damn hard. Honestly, I feel like this is all basic conversion stuff that I never had the balls to do. So, there. How’s that for a good attitude?
As I write all this, I do know that life is about becoming someone of consequence, not doing things of consequence. And I know that in the beautiful order that God does things, through simply pursuing Him, I will become and out of that being, doing will happen. I know. However, I do not want to be passive about it. Living in this house has opened my eyes to the simple truths I have written about, talked about, and even preached out that I am failing to live out. I am failing to live them out because I have failed to allow God to mold me into being them. What truths am I speaking of, saying that I have been so convicted of before? Here’s one: loving my neighbor more than I love myself. Not judging before looking at myself. Becoming the least before seeking to be the greatest. Not to mention being truly convinced that Jesus lives in each of His followers and that God’s love is enough to perpetuate justice and healing for everyone.
I have never become a doer of these things because I have never become a believer, a be-er, of these things. And this has been made painfully clear in my judgment of my roommates, my impatience, my unwillingness to serve and my seeking my own advancement and gain before pursuing the best for others. I breeze in, offer words of encouragement and share a meal, talking about things which I am familiar and can add something intelligent, go to bed, wake up and do it all again.
And no one would ever stop me. No one would ever know. I am not expecting anyone to know or to be the one to have to prod and push me, as it is a choice we all make to allow others in. I am merely confessing how I have set myself up for emptiness in community.
I am no better than anyone else, and I need help. I am broken and have more sin in me than anyone I know. I am scared to not have it all together though. I am scared of being real. I am scared of letting people in, because, in order to let someone else in, I myself will need to acknowledge and come to terms with both who I am and who I am not. Perhaps closing myself off so has saved me from needing to deal with who I am and my own unhappiness with myself. Perhaps allowing air and light into my soul will allow God to transform me into a true woman. Into a be-er. Into someone whose life speaks.
So, here’s to the nitty-gritty. To not coasting through. To wholeness. To being scared shitless and excited. To fully living. To fresh air. To being honest with my roommates. To confessing this all to them. To confessing my sin in the moment when I am choosing words over being, when I am choosing appearance over being – not matter how scared I am. To allowing myself to be humble, real, messy, no better, wiser or figured out than anyone. To actual authenticity, not just the word. To being.
To being honest.
5128 N Kimball:
The Sankofa Experiment
Well, here we are. Five girls embarking on, well, God-only-knows-what (literally). We all have at least two things in common: we love Jesus and believe in our bones that the manifested Kingdom of God can somehow better be illustrated through reconciled communal living. This is the foundation that is providing a launching pad for the rest of the year.
It’s our sankofa.
Sankofa is an African term that means “to move forward while looking back” or “to go back and take”. The five of us have all, at different times or instances in our individual journeys, recognized that we (again, as an individual and as a society or community) should move forward. Scratch that; the more appropriate term would be need. It is a dire necessity that we move forward toward living reconciled lives and being reconciled people. Individually, we have seen the necessity to walk and work out our faith in Christ “in fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12-13), learning what it means to live as fully reconciled women to God through the cross of Jesus. Communally, we have seen the ache of society for Jesus-followers to live full into the call of being reconciled to each other as children of God. The existence of insane, irrational and volatile racial tension that exists between people is one of the most apparent places where reconciliation is needed.
And I’m talking about within the Church.
Moving forward is one thing, but the term sankofa means to look back simultaneously. The two terms are inextricably wound together; one cannot exist without the other. There is no moving forward without looking back. In order to grasp or even have an idea of where one needs to move forward, a person or a community need to come to terms with where they have been. One does not exist in an isolated moment in time, and our culture does not wake up and start itself over again each day. We are a product of our past and a product of our culture. In order to move forward, we need to take a sober look at where we have been. We need to know what we are coming out of in order to clearly picture what we are walking toward.
To understand why an entire culture and community ache for liberation, those of us who are free must grasp the experience of oppression and bondage to identify fully.
To know what it feels like to yearn for equality, those of us who have never been overlooked because of our skin tone must begin to comprehend a consistent feeling of inferiority.
To know where to go, we must look back.
We must begin to understand what has been done so that we, as a community, can make changes to the assumed standards and traditions which have been laid in place.
This year, the ladies of 5128 N Kimball desire to exactly this. Through daily devotional time together, sharing resources and meals and committing to being honest and vulnerable with each other, we are seeking to live into the term sankofa more fully.
We want to know what it would look like to take loving our neighbor as a serious, non-optional commandment. We want to know what creating a new culture, a third culture, of love and acceptance that transcends all but soul, would look like.
We want to try.
We are going to experiment.
When God brought His people out of captivity and back into Zion, the Psalms say that the people were “like those who dreamed (Psalm 126 TNIV)”.
We are seeking freedom from our captivity and, much like the Israelites who found themselves held captive, we are aware that many of the chains that hold us down are a direct result of our choices.
We Want To Dream.
With that, we are entering this year with fear and trembling, anticipation and hope, and a whole lot of prayer.
This is our sankofa.