Thursday, August 24, 2006

Home Rest, Wim Wenders, Sojourners and Faith in God

Home Rest
One night, the pain got so bad that accompanying the cold sweat was bile rising steadily (and illogically) in my throat, posed for a splendiferous hurl. It seemed, in the midst of curlingupanddying, that the usual no-doctors-no-drugs route wasn't going to wash this time and a visit to the friendly general practitioner was in order.

"Teeheehee," the friendly GP giggled coyly behind his long slim fingers at my distress,"it was the aerobics wasn't it?"

It most definitely was not. Richard Simmons and lyotards just aren't my style, y'know.

But, as feared, the orders were for complete rest and immobilisation: no basketball, no smell of hot grass on a weekend afternoon at ultmate frisbee, no casual rugby, no salty wakeboarding, no partying and goodnessme (cue: another fey giggle) no training for marathons and a biathlon!

So after cancelling on some rather disgruntled mates ("But we've already carbo-loaded!"), there was nothing to do but to pop fistfuls of analgesics (none of which performed), hope not to overdose, cobble together reindeer snacks and layup at home watching old Wim Wenders films.
Reindeer Snack
Wim Wenders
Wim Wenders, it has been said, appeals to the undergraduate in all of us. (Together with other alliteratively-named directors: Federico Fellini, Hal Hartley, Jim Jarmusch, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Roberto Rossellini...though not Buddhist Bernardo Bertolucci, crazy Charlie Chapman, cheesy Cameron Crowe nor silly Steven Soderbergh.) Wenders introduced me to the beauty of viewer participation and to the music of my freshman days: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and the Buena Vista Social Club.
Many of Wim Wenders' movies feature a lonely principal character making a journey of hurt and longing, looking for a home, searching for a place to settle down. He is an island unto himself, unable to properly communicate with the rest of the world, even the people he loves. He yearns for what he has lost. But when he finally arrives at the right place, it is obvious that the right time is long past. There is little to salvage. Whatever reunions and reconciliations come his way are temporal.
Paris, Texas
Concurrently and unconsciously, Wim Wenders, having wandered from his Catholic upbringing (like almost every other good filmaker: Federico Fellini, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Jean Renoir, Francis Ford Coppola, Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese...), was making his own spiritual journey home, culminating in his conversion to Christianity (albeit one of rather liberal persuasions) between the making of "Paris, Texas" and "Wings of Desire".
My own spiritual journey is recorded, and can be deciphered, in my movies. ("A View from Outside: An Interview with Wim Wenders")

In the twenty years I had been absent from church, my films' main subject was alienation, being on the road, being on some sort of pilgrimage toward understanding, or realization, or fulfillment. Even though most of those characters didn't know what it was they were after, they were on the way somewhere. For twenty years, being on the road itself became the topic, as the destination was so uncertain. Looking back, I was like a pilgrim who didn't believe in the marked path anymore, but still believed that being on the road had to lead somewhere as long as I was relentless about it.


I had to look at the Word and forget about everything that people have added over the centuries...There was no way for me to come back to the Catholic Church, but I came back to praying and began reading the Bible. I once had been very religious. In fact, when I was fourteen or fifteen, I thought I would become a priest, but, believe it or not, I had no knowledge of the Bible. If you grow up in the Catholic Church, your belief is not based on knowing the Word. In 1989, when I started to read the New Testament, I thought, "Wait a minute, why did they conceal this from me?" They read it, of course, in a Catholic service, but it's like a formula, a ceremony, and when I heard it then, it had nothing to do with my life. I couldn't really connect it to my deepest, innermost self-it was artificial somehow. So I started reading as if I had never read it before. It was all new to me. ("Angels, Cowboys, and Christians")
Holed up at home, I dreamt of backpacking (ok, we did actually make some short trips to neighbouring countries, doctor's orders notwithstanding). Backpacking is a great reminder how much like sojourners Christians are to be in this world. The sojourner lives uncomfortably in strange lands not his own. He is always seen as a foreigner; he doesn't fit in. He may have a house, a family and a thriving business, but underlying all that is always the deep loneliness of being an outsider in a place to which he doesn't belong. The sojourner never forgets his homeland. He knows that he is in this foreign land only for a period and a purpose, and he waits and yearns for the day it is time to go back to his true home, a place he will never leave.

Living in this world like a sojourner is not an arbitrary cultish mechanism to keep the Christian sect intact, but a natural outworking of our faith in God:
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13-16)
Sojourning as Outworking of Faith in God
Faith in God means that we trust that he has the will and the ability to carry out what he has promised. And he has promised this: a new heaven and a new earth, a homeland, where there will be no warfare, no conflict, no tears nor pain (Revelation 21:4). This city will be perfect, because God himself will dwell with man with nothing to separate us. He will walk and talk with us in it. And our faces will shine with increasing joy at the peace and trust and contentment and satisfaction of being with our Creator. We will, without fear or distrust, rest completely in him whose glory and majesty and power will fill the entire place for a wonderful eternity.

If faith trusts that this picture of our ultimate home is true, then faith acts in ways that show that it desires, longs and waits for this home to be given to it. It acts differently from people who do not trust God and have made this world their home.

If we see in the promises of God our real home, if we have tasted it and found it to be good (Hebrews 6:5; 1 Peter 2:3), then we are restless and discontented with the here-and-now. The solution to our unease (or the current catchword, "urban malaise") is not to, Murakami-ishly, merely accept it and find what little dredges of joy and shreds of meaning we can in the present (cue: The Mountain Goats' soppy "Get Lonely") or to point an accusing finger at the authorities for causing our misery (cue: The Thermals' "A Pillar of Salt"). Rather, because we know of a better place and the road to it, we do everything in our ability to get home and into the arms of God.

Our goals, our values and our thinking must be infused with this homeward obsession. We must let nothing stand in our way or distract us, we are to cast off everything that hinders us (Hebrews 12:1). And if we are just passing through on earth, we should pay scarce attention to the acquisition of possessions or property or honour, the things of this world that will soon pass away. We should handle them loosely.

As aliens, we have our eyes fixed on home, and we must get our directions and instructions from the mothership God, who will lead us there. We are not to listen to the taxi touts world, nor advertisments, nor persuasively moving movies, nor hotshot academics, nor the best investment/business strategies, nor well-meaning passersby, nor clueless friends, nor emotionally-blackmaily family members, nor our own sinful hearts.

Doubled-up in pain and puking blood, the part of my brain that isn't on a desparate search for endorphines gratefully thanks God for this reminder not to be deceived into thinking that this world is all there is, even when things are going well, even when we are promoted at work, draw a good salary, have a lovely spouse and wonderful kids and great health. At the end of the day, at the end of our lives, when Christ comes again, what we desire is for God to say,"I am not ashamed to be called your God, for you have desired a better country, and I have prepared for you a city where you will dwell with me forever".


When He Returns (Mark Peterson)
We await a better place, where God is on the throne
And the knowledge of the Lord will fill the earth.
The heavens and the earth renewed, a city built by God:
Descended from the sky, prepared for us.

When He returns, the people of the kingdom will rejoice
When He returns, Creation will bow down.
When He returns, He'll gather His people to Him
And take us to the city of our God.
And we'll enter His courts with praise.

We await a better place, where there is no more fear
And God has wiped the tears from our eyes
The One who sits upon the throne is making all things new
The people of God will worship Him.

Blessed Be Your Name (Matt Redman originally, but the Newsboys version is rockier)
Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's 'all as it should be'
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name
Not so much the specific lyrics but the sentiment. "My heart will choose to say" is quite true. Sometimes, in our sin, it is not a feeling but a choice.



At August 31, 2006 11:00 pm , Anonymous moi said...

o mon petit bébé ! ! !


At August 31, 2006 11:38 pm , Anonymous lady liberty said...

People say, You poor thing, and I'm thinking, C'mon! Talk about patronizing! Sounds like you had the week from hell, eh? I love how you're dealing with you're sickness, hon. I really commend you for honoring our Father in all this. I hope you feel better fast. Do keep those updates coming! (((((((hugs)))))))

At September 02, 2006 7:16 am , Anonymous dr democracy said...

Hang in there, kiddo! You are a very brave soul and God will bless you. The week is over so hopefully, you will get a little sunshine in there somewhere.

At September 03, 2006 7:42 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey! Saw you at service today! Are you better?


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