“I’m getting my PhD in Mechanical Engineering.”
“And what does a Mechanical Engineer do?”
“Well, when a company wants something new, we take some old things and squish them together. There’s a few more bits and bobs to it, but that’s the general gist.”
(San Francisco, CA)
I’m not a fan of scary movies. Maybe it’s because I’m a wuss, but I just don’t see the point in paying money to watch bad acting and to be made uncomfortable. The worst horror films are the ones that are “based on a true story.” Because somewhere in the back of my mind, I think… stripped of its cinematic embellishments, there has to be at least a tiny sliver of truth in the events being reenacted before my eyes. Then the empathic node in my brain starts to tingle, and suddenly, unwittingly, I’ve projected myself into the movie. And I don’t want to be a character in a horror film.
The Passion of The Christ is another movie that I don’t like watching. The first time was on opening weekend, back when I was a high-school freshman and still a non-believer, at the invitation of Jonah and his church youth group. I remember just being very confused. And the Satan character just scared the bajeesus out of me. The second time was during Easter of my freshman year at UT, my first Easter as a Christian, together with the rest of Ben Yang’s Super Street Fighter Small Group. As expected, my reaction to the movie was much more emotional the second time than the first.
Tonight was my third time watching The Passion of The Christ. And again, I can’t say I was looking forward to it. In his preface for the screening, Pastor Roy voiced the same sentiments, and he identified the cause of the distress Christians experience towards this film. “I dislike watching this movie because it feels sickening to be faced with the horror of sin.”
It is bloody, gory, and gruesome. It is stomach-turning and spine-stiffening. It is supernatural. It is unbearable to watch. It is based on a true story, in the truest sense of the word “true”. And not only do I imagine myself in the story, I AM in the story. I am Judas the betrayer. I am Peter the thrice denier. I am Pontius Pilate the moral coward. I am the crowd chanting “Crucify him!” I am the onlooker, the bystander, and the enactor of the crucifixion. I am the wielder of the whip and the brandisher of the spear. I am the laugher, the slapper, the kicker, and the spitter.
I often wonder what my response would be if I witnessed Christ’s life and death firsthand. Seeing as how even his closest disciples abandoned him, let’s just say I count myself very fortunate for lying on the right side of history.
The story of Christ’s crucifixion is most certainly a horror story. Because what slew him was the horror of our sin, manifested in a form much more sinister than zombies or axe murderers or poltergeists. In his death he bore the entirety of evil, the cause of evil and the consequence of evil, the action of evil and the thought of evil.
Good thing that’s not the end of the story, right? If the Death of Christ can be likened to a horror film, the Resurrection of Christ can be likened to a chick flick. Just when you think all is lost, the bridegroom always come back to save his bride. Then they get married and live happily ever after.
And the upcoming third installment of this epic trilogy? I hear it’s going to be an action film. White horses, swords, floods, wars, flames of fire, and explosions - it’s gonna be awesome.
My routine for the past two of three Saturday afternoons:
Maybe it’s the introvert in me, but I love my routine. I am learning to be comfortable hanging out with myself. I used to think that eating alone in a restaurant was one of the most depressing things for a human soul to endure. But I don’t think that’s true anymore. I think it’s a sad thing for a soul to be alone all of the time. But I think it’s a beautiful thing for a soul to be alone some of the time.
Video credit goes to le best frond Michael.
Ehh… Should I go with this nice rolling chair? Or this janky plastic folding chair? Maybe I should just go cheap and disposable. I’m going to be moving again in six months anyways. What am I going to do with this stuff when I leave?
So I just arrived in Seattle four days ago, and I’m already thinking about leaving. Anyways, what a trivial dilemma, it’s just a chair. But I seriously spent 30 minutes in the store picking up one chair and then putting it back and then picking up the other and then putting it back and then… I even called the brother up to help me think through the situation. This was a philosophical matter, really. What is my mindset going to be towards this next half-year?
It’s a bittersweet pursuit, this nomadic lifestyle. Six-month-long rotations. Diverse locales. Travel. New experiences. It’s exciting. And it’s torturous.
Six months. That’s precisely the amount of time that it takes for the average person to acclimate to a new environment. So why even make the effort to set down roots? Right as the tendrils overcome their shyness and stretch their fingers into the soil, they are forcibly and heartbreakingly transposed.
Houston is the closest thing to home that I have on this earth. And yet I can’t say I was thrilled to be moving back home after graduation. After spending almost seven straight months of 2011 abroad, suburbia Houston just didn’t seem that satisfying. From an old blog post… “Specifically, I didn’t trust that God’s plans for me would be all that great. ‘Really? This? Doesn’t seem that great to me…’” Knowing that my time in Houston would be limited, I didn’t make much of an effort to invest. Yet graciously, God sent brothers and sisters to seek after me and pull me into their community.
As I crossed the five-month mark and into the last month of my Houston rotation, it all started to make sense. Like clockwork, all the gears became aligned, the parts fell into place, and I could just see it working perfectly, beautifully. I could see myself living and thriving here longer term. Perhaps it was the thought of having to leave my friends and family soon, but I began to realize everything that I had taken for nought. The charm of the city began to tease out my hard-sought smirk of approval. And on the home front, I broke down in pathetic, gasping, grown-up tears at the thought of leaving with so much brokenness ever-present and so much healing yet-to-be-experienced in my family.
Being uprooted is painful. But what’s the alternative? It’s a much safer arrangement to just… float. Yes, yes I’ll do that. I will live a temporary and disposable existence. After all, Luke 10:4 tells us to travel light, right? And Luke 9:58 tells us that we have no place to lay our heads… Maybe I’m taking those out of context. What about in Genesis 12 and 13 where we are told to build altars wherever we go? And in Jeremiah 29:7 where we are told to seek the peace and prosperity of the city? And this floating business, it really isn’t very productive for the soul.
Don Miller recounts in his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years:
“When I arrived home from Boston, I realized there were no pictures on my mantel. I set down my suitcase and walked into the living room and looked across to the fireplace, and it felt empty. Empty of real stories. I went into my bedroom where the bed was made, and on my desk there were no pictures in frames, and on the end tables there were no pictures. […] there was little evidence of an actual character living an actual life. My home felt like a stage on which props had been set for a fake story rather than a place where a person lived an actual human narrative.”
I want real stories. I want to live an actual human narrative. I want this narrative to have a point, that point being character transformation. Again, from Don Miller:
“The human body essentially recreates itself every six months. Nearly every cell of hair and skin and bone dies and another is directed to its former place. […] we were designed to live through something rather than to attain something, and the thing we were meant to live through was designed to change us.”
So here’s my prayer. I’m not going to take six months to “fit in”. I’m going to be a culture changer. I’m going to invest myself fully into this city/church/community. I’m going to stop floating and start laying roots. I’m not going to be the same person six months from now but a person made of recreated hair and skin and bone and soul. I’m going to put pictures on the mantel and end tables (maybe literally). I’m going to build altars wherever I pitch tent and seek the peace and prosperity of that place. I’m going to choose to make the best of whatever situation divinely assigned and whatever time divinely allotted.
I’m going to choose the nice rolling chair.
n. the frustration of knowing how easily you fit into a stereotype, even if you never intended to, even if it’s unfair, even if everyone else feels the same way—each of us trick-or-treating for money and respect and attention, wearing a safe and predictable costume because we’re tired of answering the question, “What are you supposed to be?”
About 5 minutes ago Tim asked me what Jeff’s “Maybe” status on FB means - will he attend the event in question or not? Well ladies and gents, while we may never fully understand the awesome enigma that is SLACrIcKeTMaN, I’ve laid out a series of 12 ground rules that will aid…
A very helpful guide indeed. Take note, friends of Jeff’s.