Saturday, April 26, 2008

Relevance In A Faithless World ....

... aka There's A Kangaroo In My Kitchen, Can I Pray It Away?

So, I had dinner with some old friends the other day. These are friends who were there for me in a big way, during one of the hardest times of my life, and whom I hadn't seen since that time. I knew it was going to be a night of surprises, since we hadn't really "caught up" in about a year, but even I couldn't have prepared for the spiritual surprises that were in store for me that night.

You know, we did the same old "so what's new with you?" bit, and I talked about work and life, and guys (the non-existent love life), and they talked about finding jobs and married life (yeah, they're a married couple, and I still want to be friends with them). Then, we started talking about my apartment. Now, I used to love my apartment. USED TO. Till I got invaded by rodents of every shape, color and size. A slight exaggeration? Yeah, probably. But for a woman who's never had a pet rat, never lived on a farm, and is city-fied and civilized through and through, even a tiny, little brown mouse is the size of a pookah to me.

Well, as I was telling them that I was thinking about moving, closer to work, to somewhere where I don't share my living space with vermin, they got real serious, and asked me if I had ever prayed about the mice. I guess I hadn't. I don't know why, except that I thought, somewhere deep down inside, that God has better things to deal with (Darfur's orphans, Breast cancer, the salvation of billions of people, etc) than my little brown mice problem. So, halfheartedly, I shrugged off their suggestion, and went back to my apartment search conversation.

That's when Chris, the husband got quite serious, and looked at me in all earnestness and said "Trinette, don't you remember that man has been given authority, at creation, over all the animals?". I guess I hadn't remembered that, but yes, he was right. It is man's God-given right to rule the earth and that includes it's less than human inhabitants, from great big grey elephants (loyal as they are), to the little brown mice in my kitchen. So, right then and there, at one of the nicest restaurants in Minnetonka, we stopped and they grabbed my hands, and we prayed that the mice would leave, in the name and power and authority of Jesus Christ.

Now, for all y'all who might be thinking they're some sort of religious wacko-fanatics in chambray overalls and straw hats, ala a Mormon version of Fraulein Maria, you couldn't be more wrong. I mean, yeah, they are definitely what I, in my blinder wearing conservatism would call more Liberal, Charismatic Christians, but these two embody love and sincerity and loyalty in a way that most people take for granted in this sad, cynical, faithless world. And that, to me, makes them painfully relevant and authentic, all wacky faith-healing talk aside.

Anyway, as the evening progressed, and we talked about their faith, and my own life, and the shape my faith takes in it (so different than even a year ago), the subject of relevance in this world kept coming back to me. I was sharing with them that, after a long hard struggle to find my place and my "mission field", I felt that my job, my lovely little crazy job, was exactly where God wanted me, and where I was so happy and content to be. I found my place in this world, and it's not glamorous, and it's not the picture of bible-thumping evangelism that a lot of people I know identify with, but it's where I am supposed to be, and I can see the blessings and the fruit of that in ways that gladden and warm my heart.

Relevance, however, seemed to be the theme, because as we talked about faith, and about my place in a secular job, versus ministry, I kept thinking back to the idea of light, and being a light to those around me. How can I not shine so brightly that I blind and wound those I surround, while still shining sweetly and brightly enough to illuminate and lead them? How can I be relevant in my workplace, showing God's love through my actions & faith to those I work with, without alienating them, or causing them to assume I'm a right-wing, name-it-and-claim-it Tammy Faye Baker wannabe?

Well, my friends' answer was so much more radical than I could have imagined. In listening to it, I was reminded well and hard of how much time we had spent apart in the last year, and just how much each of us had grown and changed, in ways that made us different, even as we traveled on parallel lines.

Their answer to my question was an example, a story of a recent healing they had heard about: A group of people were at a restaurant eating, and talking about healing, and during the meal, according to the story, the Holy Spirit led one man to get up and walk over to another table and lay hands on a woman, and spontaneously heal her illness (severe Carpal Tunnel, if I remember right), without even knowing the person he was healing. The same man then came back to the table and spoke to the waitress (whom he had not really conversed with before this time), words about her relationship with her mom, to which the waitress cried and admitted that she had been having these problems with her mom and was grateful for the input. According to the story, lives were changed that night, because one person decided to listen to the voice of Holy Spirit leading them to do things that I thought were so out of the ordinary that I had to hide my incredulity at this story.

At first this story baffled me. This was not an answer to my question about relevance in this world, this was an example of exactly the kind of thing this world shys away from. Crazy, Healing Miracle Christians, who do things spontaneously and call it the Lord. But then, after a second or two, the sweet simplicity of it all started to coalesce, like a man walking towards me through the misty fog. The relevance, my friends gladly pointed out, was that lives were changed that night. Someone was physically healed, relationships were changed, what's more relevant to people's lives than that?

The rest of the night passed with me sitting slack-jawed, listening to them share more stories of healing, and crazy forward approaches that I would consider an encroachment of personal space, but that obviously God was using. After dinner & dessert we sat in the lobby, the three of us scrunched into a little sofa, praying together, and looking through a book of European Castles, talking about our dreams and desires. They shared their heart for bringing this kind of luminescent spotlight into more peoples lives, and I shared my heart for just making it through the day sometimes, amidst the weight of thinking about moving, guy troubles and a job that leaves me underpaid though emotionally satisfied. At the end of the night, as we were huddled in the lobby praying, Chris repeated his prayer for the mice in my apartment. I was kind of surprised that he remembered, and touched as well. We parted ways, and I was glad we'd spent the evening together, even if it left me with more questions than answers.

The next night, I came home from work, tired, and hungry, and I sat down to watch yet another episode of The West Wing, my most favoritest show ever in the history of television. Sitting there, in a TV/Take-out coma, I was startled back to attention by the sound of something the size of a kangaroo coming from my kitchen. I could hear it rustling, moving in a paper bag (that my dinner came in, which was on the counter). This was no little brown mouse we're talking about. This thing had weight, girth, sheer inhuman strength, to be making that kind of a ruckus. Not twenty feet away, I was flipping out. What the hell was it? What the hell was in my kitchen?? Not a mouse? Not a squirrel?? A kangaroo? Was it possible?

Freaking out, I reached for the closest, non-breakable item handy, a water bottle, and threw it in the kitchen, yelling "GO AWAAAAAAAAY", but nothing replied back but more rustling, movement and the sound of paper being shredded, the cabinets shaking. So, I reached onto the coffee table, being sure all other appendages were tucked securely underneath me, in case this thing decided to attack, and found a bottle of nail polish remover from the previous night's pedicure, and threw that into the kitchen, only to be greeted with more rustling and movement in the bag. After minutes of whining, curling up into the fetal position and rocking back and forth like a little autistic kid, I finally got up all my courage, and walked, slowly, towards the kitchen, banging on the walls as I went. Standing in the doorway, between living room and the Varmint's home, in my loudest, most authoritative voice ever, I prayed in the authority of Jesus Christ, and the blood He shed for my measly life, that this thing had to obey me, and get out of my kitchen right now, and never, ever, ever come back. Then I walked back to the living room, sat down, and pressed play, on with the West Wing we go.

I've not heard it since. A few days later, I saw my little housemate, the brown mouse, but he scurried away at the sight of me, and I was barely afraid. The kangaroo, however, has found somewhere else to live. And so have I. In two weeks I'll be moving closer to work, to Eden Prairie. Closer to work, close enough to ride my bike in every day. Close to my friend Amy & her adorable little son, and close to my friend's Josh & Krista, and close enough to work to have people over for bbq's on Friday night. I'm thrilled. It's a clean, big, brand spanking new house, of which I'll be taking the lower level. It's reportedly mouse free, and as I undertake the grueling task of packing, I hope to keep it that way.

Relevance, I've found, is a relative word. I'm still not quite sure how to accomplish it, but I know this, I have found more courage and authority in my standing in Christ, these last few weeks, then I ever imagined I had. I have realized that I can love the liberals, my darling, dearest, gung-ho Christian friends, and not have to subscribe to their views of how to be relevant through faith healing strangers at the mall. And I know that as I just try to be a good friend to those around me, loving on them, treating them like Christ treated me, praying for them daily, that the notion of relevance will fade into obscurity, being as unimportant and invisible as the kangaroo in my kitchen.

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