Where To Go From Here?

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The past few years have been monumental for me. This blog has followed my own personal journey from the initial ideation about love, faith and spiritual life to some major transitions. I’ve changed careers, departed from the denomination that had been the identity I most cherished, and basically had my life turned upside down.

This blog had started as a result of a prayer, as an act of faith, and was to chronicle a fight to overcome the odds. I had realized my own limitations. I was single, in my mid-thirties, working a job that didn’t suit me very well, and worried about being the unfaithful servant who buried his talents. Unfortunately, for myself, I didn’t know a way out of the predicament.

But, instead of wallow in my self-pity, I decided to actually believe what Jesus said, “everything is possible for one who believes,” and with complete reckless abandon, prayed to God asking that the impossible be made possible for me.

I had committed to believing beyond human reason or my own rationality, to believe without adding the qualifications so often used by the religious to excuse their own lack of faith and as a means of preserve their self-serving status quo. My aim was to overcome whatever, the bad luck, personal failures or cultural prejudices, that kept me from living out the potential that seemed to be locked away somewhere and yet was still unrealized.

Of course a big part of that prayer, given the importance of marriage in a conservative Mennonite setting, was in hope of finally getting beyond the invisible barrier to my romantic success and finding the “right one” who could love me despite my imperfection.

My deepest fear had always been that love is little more than a post hoc explanation of something determined at a far baser level. In other words, that love was decided by attributes mostly biologically predetermined or based in performance. If a person lacking the right inborn characteristics is essentially unlovable, then the whole mythology we build around love as something pristine or pure is a delusion and love itself becomes a justification of our selfish or carnal ambitions.

I was determined to disprove that hypothesis. I intentionally sought out a girl theoretically “out of my league” for a variety of those lesser reasons. Before this, I had always picked pragmatically based in who I thought would say “yes” (although they often didn’t) and not with any real faith. This time I picked on what I believed God wanted me to be and because she seemed to be the one who could get me past those limitations. She wasn’t someone who seemed frozen in indecision, she shared my own cultural ideal and would compliment my strengths and weaknesses.

Alas, her sanity won out over my irrational faith-fueled hopes.

However, in telling my story of faith and struggle this blog gained popularity. Over the time my hopes ran into the brick wall of her reasons she couldn’t love me (very much like those I had feared) this blog rose to prominence in the Mennonite blogosphere. Suddenly, in my moment of deep despair and disappointment with my Mennonite ideal, I had an audience of thousands. In a matter of hours a sardonic post assigning points for marriageability, something I wrote one morning while stewing over the reality of the depressing situation I found myself in, was a viral sensation and had obviously resonated with a great swath of people.

After that, I wrote a string of posts about some of those issues I’ve had with the church I was born into and previously didn’t know how to express. It was during this time that a blog post about fundamental flaws in the current conservative Mennonite thinking was picked up by Mennonite World Review. It later made rounds in a conservative email group posted by none other than Peter Hoover who had, by writing Secret of the Strength, inspired my Anabaptist perspective many years before and put me at odds with the creeping influence of fundamentalism.

The great irony in it all was that I reached the pinnacle of my own influence in the Mennonite world *after* I had attended my last service.

Since then, in a greater irony, I’ve seen a romance blossom that would’ve been impossible had I remained Mennonite and evidence of that kind of love of the faithful variety that I did not find where I had most expected to find it. There is a real story of the impossible being made possible developing, not the story of love triumphing over the odds that I had thought I would tell and yet every bit as powerful. However, too much is in limbo right now regarding that circumstance to write about it.

Beyond that, there is also my being immersed into Orthodoxy and the difficulty of putting that experience into words. I mean I could argue for Orthodox Christian practices and perspectives, I have written a couple blogs trying to explain such things to my Mennonite audience, yet Orthodoxy is something better to be experienced. Like Jesus said “follow me,” they make an appeal that is not strictly emotional nor intellectual, but experiential. Faith is something that must be walked to be understood. The Orthodox don’t proselytize in a Protestant manner. No, instead, they invite others to “come and see” like Philip did in urging Nathanael to join him and rely on the mysterious work of God:

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”

Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

“Come and see,” said Philip.

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.” (John 1:43-50)

Can anyone rival that with eloquent words or elaborate arguments?

I know I can’t rival that sort of mysterious work in my own words and worry that my words will actually take away from the beauty of the ancient faith. I mean, what could I possibly add to something so wonderful and profound with my clumsy and simplistic explanations?

So this all leaves me with a dilemma as a writer. Am I more than a one-trick pony? Even as I’ve progressed over the past few months, I feel my blogs have started to become a bit repetitive, as if I only really have one story to tell, and that has bothered me. My area of expertise, at this point, is how to fail miserably trying to find love in the Mennonite context. My painful past is something that I would rather transition away from, something to be discarded along with “former delusions” that I renounced at my Chrismation, to make way for a brighter future.

But the question remains, what will be written in the next chapter?

Where to go from here?

The Mind of the Designer

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I spent my childhood in my own world of daydreams.  While some children have imaginary friends when I was a child I created whole planets far away and untouched by war, want and all the things I knew weren’t right in this world.  This perfect place was my refuge from the mundanity of school work and I would doodle pieces of this world inside my head creating stories and imagining rescue.  There were times in elementary school where I was actually disappointed when these grand designs didn’t come to life so that I could be swept away in front of my stunned classmates.

My dreamy ideals eventually began to fade into an interest in more practical designs.  I had spatial intelligence, in that I could easily imagine things in three-dimensional form and convert the thought with pencil to paper.  As I got older I became interested in computer-aided design, I learned quickly how to convert the ideas in my brain to keystrokes and with my fingers I would build things on the screen.  It was very satisfying to hold a finished work printed on paper to show friends or family.  I had assumed at that point that my future would be engineering, design was natural to me, but life and God had other plans.

For various reasons my vision to be a mechanical engineer never was realized and with that came a sense of something missing and potential unrealized in my life.  It troubled me not being who I was ‘supposed’ to be, it was a little humiliating too to watch friends and classmates sprint past me to their own goals.  And, it was this need to fill a thirst to build, design or create that eventually pricked my interest in writing as an outlet.  A writer is an engineer with words; an author is defined as an originator or the one who gave existence to something and I wanted to use words to create snap shots of the ideas flying around my head.

Since then I have had mixed success sculpting words into interpretable sequences.  Writing to be understandable to another mind is sort of like trying to write code for a smart phone except you don’t know if you are dealing with an iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows phone or even if it is a smart phone at all.  Writing depends on both the author and interpreter to ‘be on the same’ page.  If the writer misses a line of code in trying to explain or if the writer and reader interpret the code of symbols we call language differently then the picture in the mind of the receiver created in words will be distorted and sometimes lost on them completely.

Needless to say, the challenge of communication of ideas with words is both frustrating at times and fulfilling for me.  When I sense a connection with another person through my written creations it is a wonderful feeling of accomplishment and especially when it encourages or inspires them to create new things in their own life.  In writing my ideas can live inside of other people, when I write the designs of my own mind are transferred to one or multiple others, thus a piece of me now lives in them and now has potential to grow to something more than I myself could ever have imagined.  Writing makes both the world of the reader and the writer bigger; the reader taking a part of the writer with them and the writer living in the mind of the reader.

To me that ability to build ideas makes the frustration of potential failures to communicate and the time spent drawing my thoughts out in paragraphs well-worth the effort.  I love to turn abstractions in my mind into appreciable designs, using words like my paint and dictionaries like a palette full of shades of color.  Writing is an art form, words give an author the power to create universes never seen before and the ability to live in the minds of those who are able to translate their work.  I write because I still like to create.  I write because I enjoy engineering solutions to problems and using words as a means to draw the designs put in my head.

Ideas change your reality so think of good designs and then build them with the means you have been given to express them.  Engineering is a field with endless possibilities, so build the good designs in your own mind and create the world you know should be.  So, bring heaven to earth one pen stroke, one act of kindness, one carried burden, one painted picture and one small step at a time.  Together, brick by brick we can build the world God intends.  If you pray “on earth as it is in heaven” with sincerity, then believe in it and make that design live through you; bring glory to God with the creative designer’s mind you have been given.

My writing is ultimately an act of worship to the Master Designer and Author of the universe; it is a means to love my fellow creation, to fellowship with them and to mirror my own Creator to them.  I write to love Master by loving the creation by expressing designs with the work of my mind, words and hands.  I create a new world with the ideas of my own mind, I am a child of my Father.  I, like God, am an engineer at heart.