I am sorry. The metamorphosis doesn’t happen the way we all imagined it would. It is the opposite and we all become ugly.

Time has shown us that the universe has unanimously favored decay, disintegration, fermentation, destruction, dissolution, death and erosion over any significant momentum toward rebirth, life, or regeneration. The concept that someone could become younger, brighter, more brilliantly beautiful over time is so confounding an idea that it made movie critics describe Brad Pitt’s slow and disturbing regression into the form of a wrinkly little baby, “heartwarming.” We aren’t used to this sort of thing. It is understandable. We have been disillusioned to imagine that we will unfold from the cocoon we are in, as something younger and sleeker and more airworthy.

I should not have been so surprised that instead of emerging from some safe place as a hopeful, vibrant idealist with a penchant for creating passion infused worship songs about God’s magnificent creation, I went from being a mildly cool music artist to become something of an old curmudgeon. The redeeming part is that when I grumble and yell at people, I am not telling them to get off MY lawn. I am provoking them to get off of THEIRS.

It may just be that I am simply working with the forces of nature. Every storm that I live through erodes a little more of the polite smiley façade required to stay in the magic kingdom. Every ounce of burden I feel about my fellow humans pushes the window that represents caring about the unruffled feathers of others, further shut. Whatever the reasons may be, and whatever elements are at work, I have shed my glorious butterfly wings to take my true form as a spiny little caterpillar with an editorial column.

To be transparent, I am out to play my part in the oxidation of a few different types of chains and shackles. I may be stating the obvious, but while all earthly kingdoms have dungeons, the kingdom of God never has had need for any. The only exception is that so many people are under the impression that the church is a dungeon.

The chains that people have gotten comfortable wearing and the ones that people have gotten even more comfortable strapping on to others, have become so heavy and tangled that their arms no longer reach far and wide enough to offer a comforting embrace or open armed welcome to the people around them. The pervasive view of the Kingdom of God is of a person trapped in a dungeon, waist deep in keys that all fit the lock. Why do people in the church want so badly to be and make prisoners?

I have no use for lists of answers, marching orders, or steps to a better life. The certainty I once held so tightly has long spilled through the threadbare pockets of my favorite prison clothes. We can all use a refresher on how to identify a false wall and learn how to knock it down. I have always thought that the church was more livable as an open floor plan.

The issues of our day, be they moral, spiritual, political, are not the hills where we will fight and die. The gluttonous relationship we have with our blubbery, fleshy desire to make people one-dimensional needs to be starved to death. In its place we might be able to rebuild the muscles around more benevolent forms of discourse.

I wonder if there is anything more sacred than the breath that takes place in the microsecond before we satiate our hunger to destroy and control something or someone we do not understand.

I imagine that for a seeming indistinguishably brief moment, the spirit of God whispers, “I love you, do not be afraid.” And then we pounce.

The architectural framework for this column can accommodate an infinite amount of those sacred moments. Anyone who has written from the point of the provocateur knows that life can be grossly distilled to an ongoing series of encounters triggering that most simple of human instinctual questions, “Will this help me, or will this kill me?” The provocateur likes to run in this distilled playground. It is not out of malice or with any sinister motivation of deceit, rather it is an act of compassionate motion. Oppositional experiences for humans are like oxygenated water over shark gills. If sharks aren’t moving, they aren’t breathing. If people are not learning, they aren’t living. To the detriment of the human race, we have gotten soft.

If ever there exists an argument against evolution, perhaps it could be made around the reality that we as human beings have gotten increasingly inept at distinguishing between what helps us and what kills us. The confusion seems to have become more prevalent the more we “evolve” into beings that elevate comfort as a vital priority for life. Even though we have grown to the point of creating inspirational posters with phrases about overcoming obstacles, strength through adversity, the building of character, and the value of determination, we haven’t made the jump out of the slime to walk the talk and really trust that, most of the time, pain and suffering are better for us than comfort. Being confronted by a viewpoint that does not resonate with our own life experience triggers us like a spider landing on our arm. We storm through the sacred breath, debunk the ridiculous sentiment that spiders are more scared of us than we are of them, and move to kill, control or distance ourselves from the 8 legged monster. We do this on a grander scale with people we do not understand because of their color, creed, lifestyle, ethnicity, political viewpoint, occupation, clothing style, and the list goes on and on. We are most human when we are afraid and subsequently set out to destroy what or who we do not understand. It is increasingly clear to me that Jesus’ most common mantra over us is, “I love you…do not be afraid.”

The protective lenses we use to see and navigate our world are clumsy and far too shaded for us to make accurate assumptions about the people we encounter. Not only are the lenses deficiently dim, they also have a layer of dust caked so thick we are only able to see people as one-dimensional beings. Rather than clear away the dust, we embrace the obstructed view because, as it turns out, it helps us to diminish one another from the vast unknowable universes that we are into finite objects that we can control or destroy more easily.

And so, I am endeavoring to keep my elbows swinging in an attempt to make room for the questions that might help us all sit at a common table without fear and abundantly full of wonder and imagination. After all, it is our imagination that will inform ways God has provided for us to love people that we might not understand. It will be our dormant creativity that will help support new choices instead of always reaching for the same tool of control when we encounter circumstances that seem outside of the realm of our ability to embrace or trust as part of God’s wild kingdom.

Thanks for reading. Let’s begin.

Dan Haseltine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

** The views and opinions expressed by the author in this article are solely those of the author, and may not reflect the views and opinions of CCM and Salem Media.

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About The Author

Dan Haseltine

Dan Haseltine is the lead singer of the band Jars of Clay and a co-founder of Blood:Water Mission, which aims to provide clean drinking water and HIV/AIDS treatments to people in underdeveloped parts of the world. He works with the faith-based non-profit Hope Through Healing Hands to build a network of advocates to speak out about the struggles that individuals living in poverty in developing nations face daily.

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