I accidentally saw a decapitated dear on the side of the highway today.
It was awful.
I’m not an animal lover, so it wasn’t the kind of awful that made me think, “Oh poor creature of earth, he had such a promising life ahead of him in the beautiful Arkansas forest. He probably had a name and a family. Poor little dear.”
But I’m not a blood and gore girl either. So the thought was more like, “Oh my gosh. Why did you just do that? Why did you look dummy? Why did you look???”
As I drove along I-40 to Nashville my mind kept regurgitating the image of the stomach churning, severed dear head that my delicate eyes were exposed to; and I realized how typical this experience was of life.
It’s just that once you’ve seen something, if you are mostly human that is, a little bit of whatever you saw seeps into you. And then it’s there. And then you see it. And whether you respond to it or not is up to you and your own conscience, but no matter what you do in response, the image is still there… decapitated and staring at you and all.
And usually, after your eyes have caught a glimpse of an unkindly visage, you scream to yourself, seconds too late “Don’t look dummy.”
Only to hear the dummy respond, “Too late.”
Last night I watched John Lennon’s documentary Imagine. I was fascinated at his interaction with people who were affected by his music. They would show up at his door. His front door. Can you imagine what the Vietnam War drug in? Young, lost, confused, emotional, passionate, starving for meaning little hippies. They would show up like stray dogs at Lennon’s doorstep seeking meaning and purpose and he would answer the door.
He would answer the door. Can you imagine? He took their questions seriously; he treated these vagabonds as human beings. He even fed them on occasion and welcomed them into his home.
At one point John says that the people affected by his music were somewhat his responsibility, his burden.
And the whole time I’m sitting there screaming, “Don’t look dummy. Don’t look out your window. For the love Beatle man, turn around, close your eyes, don’t do it!”
I suppose that is where I find myself lately. Eyes wide open with a little voice that screams seconds too late, “Don’t look dummy.”
Buried in the Sand
You can’t very well walk around with your eyes closed. Though many try. I meet a lot of religious people around the country who are convinced that trying to raise their kids with a blindfold and earplugs and a chastity belt and ankle cuffs and no access to the real world will protect them from the pitfalls of human nature and keep them a safe distance from all things unholy. The general result of this protectionism tactic is students who have no clue what it’s like to be human in this great big world. They know only one thing, one way, and they cannot relate to anyone else. These are the kids who would have been shocked had they taken a field trip with Jesus. It would have been the most inappropriate field trip of their lives; visiting prostitutes and wedding parties that were overflowing with wine and all.
But honestly sometimes it’s much easier to not look, isn’t it? When I look at everything I suddenly seem so very small. The questions seem so very big. The answers seem so very evasive. And the opinions weighing in seem too plentiful to count. And I find myself asking, is it easier to face the giants of intellect, science, history, culture, and ethics or is it easier to stick my head in the sand, quote a scripture verse, and refuse to delve into anything beyond the pages of my Bible?
Well, it is quite an easy exercise to use my faith as an excuse for closing my eyes to everything else that exists in the world. But the problem is, Jesus didn’t seem to close his eyes. He was sort of out there in the mix of things calling them for what they were: light or dark. And I can almost envision Him walking by a beach full of religious people with their heads buried in the sand, like ostrich do, and Jesus plucking them out (perhaps laughing a bit as the sun stings their eyes), so that they can actually see and interact and get up close and personal with the real world.
But you can’t very well walk around with your eyeballs taped wide open either.
There is a point where so many books, so many authors, theories, movements, agendas, political rants, and esoteric exercises can dilute one’s normal sensibilities. All of a sudden our judgment is gone, lost in the mire of mere human voices and abstract theories that are meaningless. Our eyes can be so opened, consuming so much, that the spiritual is lost on a world that perpetually shoves more and more words into our already saturated brains. What then can a word mean, when it is simply one word among millions? What then can an image mean, when it is simply one image among millions? What then can Jesus mean, when He is simply one among many? There has to be some limit, some boundary that protects us from our own demise.
Open for Business?
It’s just that I am often torn about where to fall. So much of me wants to say of this world, “Don’t look dummy,” because this world hurts and I can get lost in it. But my spirit is curious, my heart prone to wonder, my mind made inquisitively, and my Lord says, “Seek, and you will find.
Seek. I like this word except that if you say it too many times it starts sounding weird. Like leek. Or Sheik. And then I get distracted.
In order to seek, our eyes must be open.
When we seek, we open ourselves to all kinds of things. We might see bad stuff; like the dead decapitated dear. We might see people (sometimes annoying, time-consuming, draining, needy people) and realize they are our responsibility, like John Lennon did with his fans. We might see gaps in our faith, holes in our religious institutions, and rough spots in our stagnant theology that need to be sloughed off.
But Jesus says seek and you will find.
So I have to believe that when my eyes are open and exposed to the ugly, there is a good chance I will find something beautiful as well. I might just find myself saying, “Don’t look away, don’t forget this moment.”
We might be surprised that when we open our eyes to the world around us, our God is big enough to answer any questions, any holes, or any gaps we might find. We might be surprised to see God in the midst of this big ole dirty world. In places we never thought we’d see Him. We might be surprised that upon opening our eyes, yes, we see an ugly reality, but it almost always runs parallel with some form of redemption. And we can actually see redemption.
Like the child who is afraid there is a boogieman in the closet and holds her hands tightly over her eyes, we might be surprised to find that when we peel back a finger or two and anxiously look around… we catch a glimpse of truth and beauty. Not a boogie man. Not road kill. Not pervasive cultural monsters. But something that screams or whispers or hints of goodness. And goodness comes from its creator.
So at least for today… I want my eyes to be open. To everyone. To everything.