Musings on a Trip Well-Lived
by Jane Tawel
August 2, 2015
A partial but long musing on the Tawel Family Bryce /Zion Trip
There is an extremely straight road in the desert going South / West into Vegas, cutting through Arizona. I am glad all roads are not straight and that not all days in life are without unexpected turns either. Turns on roads can be scary, disorienting, polarizing, and wrong. Turns in life can be like that too. But straight roads in a desert can be so boring. Regard the winding, switchback, straight up, steeply down, achingly up roads and trails of Bryce and Zion Parks.
Driving twisty roads can make you ill. Best to keep your focus straight ahead, but aaahhh! the scenery. How not to gaze at creation’s wonders?! Looking out the windows is freedom worth grasping. Hiking the heights and narrow paths can scare the living daylights out of you. Vertigo can entrap us all. But Oh! the vistas! Stopping on the trail and looking over the edge is an adventure of heroic proportions.
Bryce and Zion fill one with the anticipatory feeling that life is only going to get better from here on out. The absolutely baroque richness of the land is metaphor for a full life, well lived. In contrast, the Arizona desert is like some lives — barren of fruit, of water, no discernable life. No unexpected turns or unmarked crossroads. No shade in need, no hide and seek sunlight, no sound of sniggering chipmunks, guffawing water, or birds warming up for the concert. The endless nothingness is hypnotizing. The land is one big couch potato.
I have never been to Las Vegas. Not my cup of tokens so to speak. When you drive past Las Vegas, there are signs throughout, surrounding, leading up to and leading out of it. Remember that crazy old song: Signs, signs, everywhere signs. Blocking up the scenery breaking my mind? That must have been written by someone driving through Vegas.
There are blinking signs, gigantic signs, neon signs, road side signs, billboard signs, building signs, little signs that tell you that someone will be cleaning this mile of road. If you are looking for a sign, go to Vegas.
A large percentage of the signs in and around Vegas are selling “Love”. The other signs seem to be selling lawyers to help you get out of things you aren’t in love with any more — like people, cars, businesses, homes. The Love Signs are quite preachy. “The Love Store — where the fun begins.” “Love at first bite!” “Let the Love affair begin!””You will love our girls!” “Find Love at the Tropicana”. “Drive-through Chapel of Love”. Buying and selling love — Such a misleading oxymoron and how very sad. And yet not new. How many types of relationships on every level, in every generation, throughout history, are really just exchanges. In businesses, marriages, trusts, barters, affairs, commerce, friendships — we hold our hearts out in one hand and hold the other hand out to get something in return.
We actually talk about exchanging love when we exchange wedding vows. Definition of exchange: “giving something and receiving something of the same kind in return.” But somewhere deep inside, we all suspect that if we are defining love in the same sentence as we are defining exchange, there is something horribly, tragically wrong with our understanding of love. Humans were created to know real love, God-love, true love, lasting love and to eventually learn that mature love cannot expect to receive the same thing in return. Love is not a commodity. Love somehow involves sacrifice — it is sacrificial. It is gift. But when we decide we will not wait, will not give up, will not trust, will not believe, will not give, – — when our selfishness of the moment or our fear of the twisty, steep blind curve overpowers our faith, then we usually just sadly decide we can redefine the idea of love.
There is much talk about this false and needy and lying love, and not only around Vegas. Turn on your television for five minutes. Pick up a summer best seller. Listen to the radio. Maybe even visit your local Sunday morning service. We like to use the word “love” to mean satisfaction, feel -good sensuality, enjoyment, let the good times roll, need supplier, until such and such, take care of me, I’ll give you any thing you want so you think I’m nice, lust, interest, fun, or enabling. We have confused love with “charisma”. Charisma is defined as: “compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others”. This is why we can say with the same gusto, I love that guy and I love Starbucks.
I Corinthians 13 has an interesting take on love. This scripture combines love with “charism” not “charisma”. Charism is defined as that which: ” denotes any good gift that flows from God’s love to humans. The word can also mean any of the spiritual graces and qualifications granted to every Christian to perform his or her task in the Church. In the narrowest sense, it is a theological term for the extraordinary graces given to individual Christians for the good of others” . Charism is defined as simply, theology, or “man’s attempt to understand God”. One definition states: Charism: “an extraordinary power (as of healing)given a Christian by the Holy Spirit for the good of the Church.” In the Greek charism means: any good gift that flows from God’s love to humans.”
Imagine if we, The Church, we the Creation, we the Imago Dei, we the stewards of the world, we the beloved Bride of Christ, we the brothers and sisters of each other, we the heroes and heroines of lives well lived, imagine if we began to love each other with charism.
The demeaning of words and redefining them to suit our ends has to be one of the great undetected evils of our time. Well, it has been for all times but we are a people of the ubiquitous use of words in this internet, media, cell phone age. The redefinition of words is especially degrading to our humanity because we blithely but purposely use words as propaganda for financial gain, as manipulation of reality, and as power plays over other humans. If you are a scholar of dystopian literature it will come as no surprise that all tyrannical forces always use the slow and creeping redefinition of words in a surreptitious power takeover. This is surely one of Satan’s greatest ploys — changing the meaning of words, ever so slightly, allows people to sin against God and each other by simply putting a different name on it. Well, we don’t even use the word Satan any more, do we? Or sin. Those have become archaic words for many. We have redefined a deep wrong or sin so that we do not have to feel judged or guilty or vulnerable to a Higher Power or each other. We call it “brokenness” or “wiring” or “biological” or “different” or even sometimes, “evolved”. We claim everyone does it, or it’s not hurting anyone, or it was an honest mistake, or who cares, or whatever, or truth is all relative, or I just fell out of love, or god is whatever you need him to be. Not that things and people aren’t broken or wired or biological; mistaken, or hurting or no different than any one else, but different words must have and retain different meanings and meanings should not be changed to suit our world view. Words are at the center of our God-likeness, our imprint of the divine, and what make being fully and articulately human, something, well, special.
Right next to Vegas is an area called “Primm Valley” — someone’s lovely ironic joke to name it that. The meaning of the word “prim” has come to have some undeserved negative connotations. Why are “formal and respectable” now considered “disapproving and pursed”; well, there is some interesting theology for you! In cultural changes it is often difficult to discern which is the cart and which is the horse? Does the Weltanschuuang change and therefore the words change meaning, or do people subtly change the definitions of words and the worldview swings into line to follow the linguistic seismic shifts?
Theology is billboarded in Vegas in the strange and unique ways you might imagine. “Jesus is the only way to Heaven” — a billboard followed by “Read your Bible” and this followed immediately by a billboard with “UFO Hotel in Bakers Nevada. Get a Quicky and Jerky at Baker UFO Hotel” Somehow in Vegas Unidentified Flying Objects seem to be identified as having something to do with Jesus. And somehow “quickies” seem to have become synonymous with love. As Waylon Jennings used to sing, we are looking for love in all the wrong places, in too many faces, another heart broken looking for love.”
There is an easily missed billboard near Vegas about Father Louis Querbes: “a Viatorium who loved Jesus”. You might miss it as it humbly rests in the midst of all the gaudy, glaring billboards for strip shops and impound, divorce, and bankruptcy lawyers. I had to look up Fr. Querbes and what in the world a viatorium was (thank you search engines everywhere, we would be stuck in libraries if it weren’t for you.)
Louis Querbes was a parish priest in the aftermath of the French Revolution. He literally risked his life, taking up his cross, to teach and minister to a country torn apart by fear and hatred, greed and poverty, prejudice and injustice, and a justified distrust of The Church. Sound like any where you know? History does in fact repeat itself, and let the buyer beware. I encourage you to read about Louis Querbes and the Viatoriums. ( http://viatorians.com/about-us/our-founder) They have communities in America, mostly centered in Chicago and the Vegas areas. Bottom line: They believe in Jesus and that they should live like he did. They believe both priests and lay persons, men and women, should be trained and equipped to educate and serve the needy. Their vision statement includes the following: “we embrace those who are accounted ‘of little importance by some'”. In other words, the Viatoriums think they should love those whom the majority of the world, might not see as lovable. It doesn’t seem to most as if the “little importance people” are a fair exchange.
And this is what they say about love and charism:
“Spirituality is a dynamic process, the result of a relationship with God, with people, and with the cosmos, a dynamic process that deeply unifies the corporal, affective, and intelligent aspects of the person. It brings about an integration of eros, friendship, and agape. That is why everything in spiritual men and women is filled with God, who is Love.”(italics are mine)
The motto of the Viatorium Community: “Adored and loved be Jesus”. I had to read that several times because I kept thinking it was a typo. Don’t they mean “adored and loved BY Jesus”? Nope. In one terse profound sentence, the Viatoriums sum up the whole gospel, the whole of the good news of Jesus Christ. “Adored. Loved. Be Jesus.”
When we returned from our all too short but perfect trip to Bryce and Zion National Parks, people asked us, “Well, what did you think? Did you have a good trip?”
We said, “We LOVED it! It was amazing! It was a great trip! You have to go there as soon as possible.”
And I think, “What if I loved the Creator as much as I loved His Creation?” We loved the creation, and believe me if you want to see creation worthy of an “Intelligent Force”, commune with the crimson canyons, and slate grey walls, and turquoise greenery, sapphire skies, billion nighttime stars, pristine waterfalls, giggly creeks — my silly trite descriptors could go on and on and still fail! But: If I had that much fervor for God, that much need to put words to experience and encounter with the Living Savior, then what a trip this life would be! I would be telling everyone about my relationship with God. I would say things like: “I LOVE Him! He is amazing! God makes life a great trip! You have to go to Him as soon as possible!” What if I adored God as much as the Viatoriums claim God adores me? What if I looked for love in all the right places, all the right faces? What if I defined love as “be Jesus”?
Over and over again, we are called to know God. The Biblical sense of know is the same as the biblical sense of intercourse. It is to know someone in the most intimate way possible. The Psalms reveal a heart that yearns for the Living God as a lover, as a newlywed, as a virgin longs for her or his soul mate. The Psalms are the billboards along a life trip that Jehovah has planned for His beloved Bride. A trip of intimate knowledge, of beauty, of adoration, of being one together, until death does not part but only opens the world’s door to a greater trip of greater scenery and accomplishments and joy and worship and love.
Psalm 63:1 – 8: O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory. Your unfailing love is better to me than life itself; how I praise you! I will honor you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. You satisfy me more than the richest of foods. I will praise you with songs of joy. I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night. I think how much you have helped me; I sing for joy in the shadow of your protecting wings. I follow close behind you; your strong right hand holds me securely.
Psalm 42: 1, 2: As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
Psalm 84:2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
Psalm 27:8 2 My heart has heard You say, ‘Come and talk with Me.’ And my heart responds, ‘LORD, I am coming.’
The Bible verse that scares me even more than a very high, narrow, twisty, trail is Matthew 7:23 when on Judgment Day Jesus turns to those of us who have a litany and laundry list of all the things we have spent our lives doing for God which will actually end up being things we really did just for ourselves. And The Christ, sorrowfully, must condemn us, with words whose meaning will then be all too clear: “I never knew you.” You were busy seeing the sights of Vegas, looking for love in all the wrong places, exchanging love for thrills, believing the flashing lights of the billboards, filling yourself with the world’s fast food, falling in love with the dust, preaching by banging on a clanging gong, and all the while you were walking by Me, while I waited for you. Jesus will redefine our lives by saying, I loved you with a love that was defined by My life and death given for you. I gave my body and blood for you because I am Love. I ask you to let Me adore you as a bride, to love you as a brother and for you to love Me enough to be one with Me. But you were looking for love in every face but mine. You bankrupted the home I prepared for you, while I stood at the door of your heart, simply knocking. You traded real love for gain. And on that final day, The Word will be all too clear: I longed to be intimate with you. But we did not know each other as love knows the lover.
Loved. Adored. Be Jesus. Words too important for us to change their meanings. The Word, Jesus, the Christ. He is too important for us to change His meaning. And though we were created from but dust, our individual lives are mysteriously too important to change the meaning of what we were created, designed, defined to be.
Take a marvelous journey today. Be loved by the One who created love. Be adored by The One who lived a life well-lived, who died for you, and who reigns as the eternal Lover of your soul. Then look out the window, look over the precipice, take one small step towards redefining your life. And Be Jesus in a world looking for Love.