Saturday, August 23, 2014

Big Deal! You Only Made it Half Way!

I saw a bumper sticker this week that said:

For a minute, I had no idea what it meant.  Then, I finally figured it out.
Half marathon.
A full marathon is 26.2 miles, so this person was announcing to the world that they had completed a half marathon. 
This made me chuckle.
Isn't that little bit like putting a community college bumper sticker on your car? 
Or finger painting your back window with the words, "Just Engaged!"
Look at me! I didn't make it the whole way - but I made it HALF way! I am the champion of ALMOST! Yay for me! Whoop! Whoop!
C'mon people. You only have so much real estate on your bumper. Save it for the big stuff.  Like when your kid can beat up my honor student. Or to show me exactly how many kids, dogs and cats you have with those white stick figure cut outs. Or, when you actually run a FULL marathon. Or complete an entire Ironman.

I know, I know. So cynical, huh? 
Well, you'll be glad to know that I got snapped out my cynicism by a Saint --
Saint Teresa Avila. (There's nothing quite like getting humbled by a Catholic from the 1500's.)  I have been reading her spiritual writings lately and in many of them she describes the soul as a "castle." She says like a castle, our soul has many rooms. At the center of this majestic castle, sits Christ. He sits on the "throne of our hearts"; in other words, he wants to be acknowledged as #1 in our life- ruler, king, Most High. However, we rarely make it in to see him. Most of us only make it into the lower level of the castle, where, she describes, all the "creepy crawly" things are of the "lower soul."  Some of us don't even make it into that first, lower room, instead we stand in the doorway of our castle looking in. Why? Because we feel safe there. We are not willing to enter the castle, slip past a few creepy crawlies, explore various sacred rooms and go right into God's presence. Instead, we just want to know we are "safe." 
Hey! I believe in God! Isn't that good enough?! Look at me - I'm going to heaven someday! I'm standing safe and secure in the doorway of my Soul Castle!

This reminds me of earthquake drills. Back in the 1980's and 90's we were told to get in a doorway during an earthquake. I remember running to my bedroom door whenever I felt an after-shock after the Loma Prieta quake of 1989.  It was supposed to be the safest place in the house because of the way the door is framed and reinforced. (These days we are just supposed to drop in place, cover our heads and scream: "Lord, we don't mind dying of thirst in the drought, but STOP THIS SHAKING PLEASE!") 
So, if we're in the doorway during an earthquake, we're safe. Or maybe safe-r.

According to Saint Teresa, it's the same way with the soul. Most people believe there is no need to go in to the inner chamber, to explore the rooms...just stand in the doorway. You'll be OK there. Safe and sound.
So how did this metaphor kick me out of my smugness over some one's half marathon bumper sticker?
Because it reminded me that I am not even halfway into my castle. And I have been standing at the doorway for many, many years! It's not like someone walked me up to my castle door yesterday. Or even last year.  
There she is! She's all yours! She's a beauty, ain't she? 
I have known about my soul castle for many years! Learned all about it, in fact. I have a detailed brochure!
Just THINK of where I could be by now if I had started exploring the rooms of my soul many years ago. Just think of how much time I would have spent in God's presence by now if I had made it all the way in. I might be humbly sitting before his throne in the innermost room, giving him the praise, thanks and honor he deserves and have a deep understanding of his amazing love for me. Maybe if I had stepped out of the doorway and inside, I would have found that my castle is like an Ed Debevic's restaurant? Ever been to one of those? Where each room has an entirely different theme and a sassy waiter? There's a luau room, a western room, the New Orleans room... Maybe my soul castle is the same way?

Oh, look! This must be the GRACE room!  Wow, I feel so warm and accepted in here. And I just wandered in without really meaning to...almost like I was led here!  It's so inviting and peaceful. And just look at all the Lutherans! 

Or maybe there is a PRAISE room? I heard the music from out in the hallway and I just HAD to come in! Need an extra guitar player? Oh my gosh! Is that Keith Green? I can't stop my hands from clapping or get this smile off my face!

And I would love to find the PRAYER room! You know the one where you can actually pray without your mind getting overrun by the day's tasks, tomorrow's worries and a dog that wants to play? I imagine it would be lit only by candles, smell like a fireplace and I really, really hope that Teresa Avila is in there. And Saint Francis. 
Who knows how many rooms I would have discovered by now if I had even made it HALF WAY in to my castle.
OK, so as I thought about this, I realized I HAVE been inside my castle. I have wandered around a bit. It's just that when I made it in to certain rooms, I wouldn't stay there long. I would feel something slimy brush across my feet (Don't wear sandals in your castle!) and rush back to the front doorway. Or I would feel a slight rumble and the chandeliers (IKEA) would start swaying and I'd sprint back to the front door. So mostly, I ended up staying in the "lowest rooms of the soul" as Saint Teresa describes them.
Because I was scared to go through the room with the creepy crawly things.  These slithering reptiles of rebellion are pretty scary. They keep me in the doorway.  What are they?

It is really that simple. These two are the main ones slithering around in my low soul room.  They are the Mama and Papa of other smaller foes that scurry around.
Pride tells me: "You're good where you are right there. Just stay put in the doorway. There's nothing inside the castle you need. Do it your way. You know what's best for you."
Fear tells me: "You're not supposed to be here. Run! Get yourself together and then come back later! The King can't see you in this condition!" Problem is when FEAR scares me, I often run right back to PRIDE and try to figure it all out on my own. So pride and fear are really the same ugly monster with different heads.  And they must be getting some good eatin' in the lower level of my soul castle, because those slimy suckers have gotten BIG over the years.

So I am not going to sneer when I see someone who proudly posts their HALF-achievement on their bumper. If you want to tell the world you didn't run the whole way, good for you. You DID run a long way after all. And if you ever decide to run the FULL marathon, I'll cheer you on if I am still standing in the doorway of my soul castle, but I hope to be so far inside that I don't see you pass by. So in case I miss you, please, throw a 26.2 bumper sticker on your car when you're done. Put it right next to the Mitt Romney one.

Hope A. Horner, 2014
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