Sunday, July 25, 2010

Jesus, the madwoman and the game

What on earth can these have in common?

– Jesus' parable about the vineyard owner who hired workers throughout the day, then paid the last-arrived first the same wage much to the disgruntlement of those who completed a full shift.
                                                                                            [Matthew 20:1-16]

– A book entitled Meeting the Madwoman* that practically jumped off a friend's shelf at me and describes the inner anger that surfaces in the midst of a suppressive society.

– Competitive water games today at the pool won by any means.

I am searching for that thread and, when I unearth it, believe it will be a huge lesson for me. HUGE. I think they illustrate a concept with which I have been barely grasping for a very long time and will address how to survive this world with an intact soul.

I reflected on the Biblical passage last week during a retreat. It's one that's always troubled me because I could never deeply understand its meaning. Yes, I know Jesus was radical, contrary and issuing some wisdom about our monetary system. But it wasn't until this week, in this particular group, that the ah-ha moment arrived. Grace opened such newness and meaning for me. I struggle with the Bible being rote from childhood, so opportuities like this are rich gifts.

Thursday the message for me was to substitute love for money in the story. Then, I could fathom that all of God/Spirit's love is available to anyone, anytime PERIOD. It wasn't at all about money. Then I wondered why Jesus would use money as the metaphor. It haunted me until today in worship after our minister talked about her experience in the same group. He used money because it is the exact opposite of love.

Money is an arbitrary source of power and, I believe, Jesus meant this message to really teach us about how to be in the world.

Money is everything love is not.

[unconditional] love is given freely

love is
     not earned

love is
     knows no boundaries

So the madwoman lies in each and all of us, a rebellious creature responding to judgment, confinement and dominance. She lusts for the freedom to be herself according to her nature (inner wisdom/Spirit/God/True Self) and not a legalistic society structured by and favoring educated, white male control.

I know this madwoman. I have seen her in my dreams. I have been her. It is she who often fans my inner creative fire causing eruptions against a society with little room for decisions based on love (not lust or sex – those have their place and power in our culture).

What she calls for is not that different from what Jesus demands: creative freedom emanating from unconditional love.

After meeting (church), the girls and head to the pool to meet Tad, my husband. He arrives ahead of us and calls to warn me it's family game day and if I had been expecting peace and quiet to plan for something else or drive home. It's hot and the water beacons, so we go.

Seems like innocuous fun. I encourage my oldest to participate in an inner-tube race. I recognize the look of defeat on her face as she struggles to finish. She perseveres as those that make it first rejoice LOUDLY. Thankfully ALL participants get a prize. I enter the next race to kick with my younger daughter in the inner tube. I swim almost everyday and figure it should be easy. It's not and I see dads doing whatever they have to (walking, half swimming ... anything) to win. Like a cartoon of caricatured men, where pushing their kid ahead with as much machismo as they can muster is THE game. Take no prisoners.

Makes me sick and laugh all at the same time.

I share a quick conversation with my oldest about how we're not competitive. We agree winning has no place in our vocabulary or hearts.

Yet I suspect it does for the majority of people because it's what we're taught to do. What we're groomed for. Educated for. Honored for. Paid for.

It's a comparison. A weeding out of those who don't excel. Our entire culture is built on nothing but comparison and I've been thinking all these years that it's my inner critic. It's a giant OUTER critic.

Winning, money, comparison and segregation are all tied up into the same messy ball of dominance, control and suppression that continues to roll over all of us.

Well, I want to unravel that ball – maybe just burn it, but that's too violent – and create something gentler, less aggressive and motivated by love. Something that cares for those kicked to the curbs on the same level as those with CEO status.

I want a new system. One where the last will be first and the first last.

Barring that, I want to live as minimally as possible in the current system becoming an example of what we really can be. Really are meant to be.

– How do I live with the elements of society that bother me?
– What personal changes can I make to live in a more loving way?
– Who or what speaks to me about how to truly live?
– How can I translate those messages into action in my own life?
– How do I live in this world, but not be of it?

*Meeting the Madwoman, Linda Schierse Leonard

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