Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Laphroaig Quarter Cask, On the Rocks

(...or, on the specially polished soapstone rocks my sister gave me for a Christmas present.)

I rarely work anymore without something beside my books and computer to sip on, be it coffee, or orange juice, or ice water, or, in this case, my favorite single-malt scotch.  I think it's a part of my obsessive compulsiveness, being able to have things just so and in the same way when performing a particular task.

Except that when that task is sermon writing, things often do not go just so.

I reach over with my left hand for the tumbler that is sitting next to my stack of books for this week's sermon writing process, and my gaze flickers to the callus I have had next to the knuckle below my index finger, a callus I have had ever since accidentally slicing that part of my hand open with a Swiss Army knife in Cub Scouts.

My vision is diverted from my work only for the briefest of moments, though, as my eyes flicker back to the screen on which there exists a blank Microsoft Word canvas, waiting to be filled with the color and verve of my words.  And then I see my face in the reflection of the screen.  I look up towards the scar on my forehead that I received from the chicken pox at the age of four.  I realize that I don't remember what my face looks like without that singular blemish.

I look back at the one book I have opened so far, and I begin to read out of it with eyes that have seen the world only through eyeglasses for the past 2+ decades, ever since my parents noticed that I was squinting to read the road signs from a distance when in the car with them and realized that I needed glasses.

As I begin to pray and ponder in a half-mumble, half-whisper what exactly I am supposed to be distilling from this study, my callused hand reaches up to rub my shaved head, almost out of habit, as though my head were a Buddha's belly, capable of bringing luck or, at the very least, some minimal comprehension of God's Word.

And my head remains shaved, as it has for the lion's share of my twenties, because I began going bald as a teenager.

I begin to realize that even a predominantly mental and spiritual task like working on a week's sermon still involves my taking notice of a great many of my physical imperfections,

In this way, my sermon writing, I have come to know, is in fact a holistic process--while I am in the midst of honing in on spiritual imperfections (my own included) to correct, I find myself taking notice of the parts of me not considered ideal in the physical realm as well as the spiritual.

I am not ideal except through God.  I am not whole except through God.

It is a reminder I have to tell myself, sometimes daily, sometimes hourly--that I cannot make myself whole on my own.

That I have to keep relying on God.

It's an easy trap to fall into, even for--hell, especially for--pastors.

But it's also a simple trap to sidestep rather than to spring.  We just tend to choose to let the trap do its thing.

The cooled scotch feels and tastes amazing; on this hot June day, it's exactly what I need.  I don't have the best palate, but I can taste the different elements that make it such a glorious thing for me and a disgusting thing for a lot of other people (hey, I'll admit, scotch is an acquired taste).  The peat and the brine break way for vanilla sweetness...in much the same way, I hope, that sometimes we all do, our saltiness for the earth creating sweetness in one another.

I realize then--it's funny, a drink that we have created in fact has more wholeness than we ourselves often do.  It encapsulates, personifies, incarnates that which I am continually striving to do, for myself and for others.

If we can create something whole and complete, why can we not, eventually, create ourselves to be whole and complete?  That's the whole idea of having a relationship, right?  To be made whole, in God's image?

But for now, the moment has passed.  I down the last of my drink, crack my knuckles, and slowly exhale.

It's time to start writing again.

Yours in Christ,

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