. . . conversion is no more spectacular than learning to love the people we live with and work among.

-Kathleen Norris

* * *

When I was sixteen I made my first real promise to God. I told him that if he would expunge my guilt and self-hate—the natural outcome of a pornography addiction—then I would live my life for him. I would follow Jesus as Lord. As tends to happen, this promise was made before I knew that the cross was for me, too.

* * *

When I was nine I had let the waters close over my head in the hope of being applauded by the people around me. I guess it didn’t take, or perhaps baptism is not a magic vaccination against the shit of the world, because I still broke my mother’s heart. And the american empire’s particular brand of transnational comodification bloomed within my molding soul.

* * *

When I was nineteen I wrote out my “confession of faith” to be read before my (second) baptism. This time I was fully equipped with a neo-Reformed cross. This time the baptism was supposed to be real. This time it followed three years of resistance to sin. This time it would change my impulses, desires, and behaviors. This time it would let me live a “radical” life for God.

* * *

Yesterday morning Amanda and I woke up at four so that we could drive to her grandparents’ home in Port Aransas. As we drove and talked our spirits merged with the rising sun and the salt breeze: we were alive. Last night Amanda and I were schooled by her grandma in Phase 10. This morning I was fed bacon, eggs, and coffee. I played fetch with a puppy for most of the afternoon. Yesterday? Today? I lived.

* * *

I’ve written before about the angry voices. I still don’t like them. The wares they hawk are too simple. They too easily make sense of the world and her people. They too readily and casually totalize and generalize and homogenize and colonize minds and hearts and souls. Whether these voices that call for “radical” obedience are anabaptist or Reformed, whether these calls for “radical” resistance are to resist sin or the Powers, and whether these calls for “radical” love are for love of God or love of others, all such “radical” calls are millstones around our necks.

* * *

The theologians tell us that God is personal in that God is a person. S/he is thus knowable. But God’s universality is just the reason that s/he speaks a thousand languages. God speaks dog. And bacon. And cards. God speaks salty breeze. And liturgy. And altar calls. God speaks liberal. And conservative. And progressive. God speaks woman. And man. God speaks Muslim. And Hindu. And Shinto. And Pagan. God speaks criminal. And victim. And innocent. God speaks gay. And straight. And transgender. God speaks old. And young. And middle. God speaks loudness. And silence.

* * *

All people have a theology, even if it is a theology of absence or neglect. And, too often, our theologies turn into anthropologies of those around us. Too often they are chains and cages and handcuffs. But in silencing others with our theologies of exclusion, our value laden anthropologies, we silence God. The God who speaks all languages. But what if we (if I!) shut up instead? Perhaps theology should be like underwear. You should have it and use it, but there is no need to show it. Our theologies, and theo-praxies, are meant to result in the life of love, freedom, and peace. But the ways in which they do so are legion.

* * *

The world is broken, fallen—not evil. People are broken, fall—not evil. The world and its people are good. And life is no life that is constrained by moralism, gnosticism, or idealism. It is not fair to truly lived lives, nor is it appreciation of truly beautiful things, to insist that they conform to your (or my!) anthropology. Like Kathleen Norris says, as we are converted by God we learn that the point all along was to love the people with whom we share space and breath.

* * *

And the cross, I’ve learned along the way, is also for me.

* * *

If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.

-St. Therese of Lisieux

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