All Tied Up
March 14, 2015
By Jane Tawel
Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, one distant morning I was standing in the hallway of my high school by my locker. This was before any one – meaning I- knew anything about bullying or hazing, punking or pranking. To this day I do not think for one minute that my friends were being mean to me, though maybe on a different planet in a different time with different people what happened would be considered that way.
I was holding several large text books in my arms, the thick kind that weigh about twenty pounds each. I still had my fake fur surround hooded, midi brown plaid winter coat on. If you don’t know what a midi is, google it. If you do, you were alive in the seventies and had a midi or two yourself. Although I understand denim midi skirts are having a rivival; what goes around seems to come around in this generation. In the 70’s we had minis, maxis, and midis. We also had hot pants, baby doll peasant smocks, bell bottoms, and midriffs.
This is a midi from the seventies:
And this is a picture of women in minis protesting the midi.
Aren’t people hilarious!? We will protest the idea that someone is maybe thinking something repressive about us by inventing the midi, but we will not protest a country that represses it’s people because they are black.
Back at my high school locker — suddenly without quite knowing how it happened, several boys were taking a large silvery roll of duct tape and going around and around and around me – books still clutched in arms and warm plaid winter midi coat still on. I ended up with the whole middle section of my body duct taped with my books taped to my middle. Every one laughed, including all my girl friends on the sidelines (Denise and Lauren and Peggy you know who you are). I was laughing too. It was hilarious – It had never been done before to our knowledge – no youtube, no punked you shows, no facebook back then to check. We laughed and laughed and laughed.
And then the bell rang. And my classmates went to class. And I didn’t. Because I couldn’t move.
I began to hop. But I was strangely weighted in front with four huge textbooks taped to my chest under my tightly taped crossed arms. And remember I am in a midi – so I am pretty much in a duct tape iron maiden. This is a picture of an iron maiden:
I was not going anywhere. I was way off balance. I was really, really hot and sweating. I was on a slick linoleum floor. And I was alone.
Left in the lurch, I began to lurch.
Definition of lurch: “ to make an abrupt, unsteady, uncontrolled movement or series of movements; stagger.
If you don’t have children who are or have been teenagers or you don’t teach high school, you may have amnesia about what it is like to be a teenager. Note: There is no bad attention if you are a teenager. Attention is always good. Getting attention for being beautiful or for crying about something is good. Getting attention for being funny or having drama in your life — good. Getting attention for having a booger in your nose or for winning the Noble Peace Prize – good. Getting attention for being smart or being a serial killer –good. No bad attention for teenagers. It’s all good. (I have never liked that expression but in this case it is true– attention for teenagers = all good.) Getting wrapped up in duct tape and getting attention – good.
Being a teenager alone in a hallway duct taped so you can’t move, when every one else is in class – and did I mention alone? And you can’t move. And you are alone. Not good. No attention = No good.
Of course since my classmates were basically good and kind souls at a small Midwestern school where teachers knew all the students, not just in their AP classes (oh, that’s right AP classes hadn’t been invented yet)– teachers knew every one in our whole school, which meant I was not hopping alone for long. (You caught that spoonerism right? Hopping alone not hopping along for long. Cute right?)
Which all meant that I was soon de-ducted and back in my desk in my row with my books in the storage unit underneath my desk.
This is what desks and classrooms looked like in the seventies:
Here is a picture of women in fashions from the seventies. I put this in because my husband will find them cute and I want him to keep reading:
Have you ever been in a place in your life where you felt as if circumstances have wrapped you round and round in duct tape? And you can’t move? And you feel trapped? And you are alone? And you are lurching in the lurch?
As spiritual beings we like to quickly caution (did I say caution? was I supposed to say assure?) some one that they are never alone. We look our friend or stranger right in the sobbing eyes or the dry-eyed feeling-less eyes and say: “God is only a prayer away or God is always with you even through the darkest times or If God seems far, guess who moved? or God will never leave you nor forsake you.” And I’m sorry for saying this as I never say bad words if I can help it, but right now I can’t help it. When people say those things to you if you have read your bible at all or have had a relationship with God for more than fifteen minutes then you know when someone tells you that God will never leave you alone that that is:
. (period intentional, not typo)
Ok, I choked. I rated my blog PG after all.
God has left lots of people all alone. God left alone, just to name a few off the top of my head: Able, Jonah, Job (though at one point Job wishes God would leave him alone. By the way, Ask God enough times and He will leave you alone.) Noah, Moses, Naomi, Sarah, David, Paul, Dostoyevsky, Annie Dillard, Flannery O’Connor, Mother Teresa, – and oh, yea, HIS SON JESUS!!! Did you think Jesus was hallucinating when he cried out, “Father, why have you forsaken me!”?
Definition of forsaken: “abandoned, deserted”
Definition of Forsake: “to leave someone who counts on you, to leave in the lurch”.
God left Jesus in the lurch. As Jesus lurched around, all alone, on a Roman instrument of torture, getting all the unimaginable kinds of violent, angry, scornful, hateful, sorrowful, mocking, agonizing attention that there is; God jumped ship. God abandoned, deserted, left the planet. For the first time in His life with his Father, Jesus was in a crowd, all alone.
On the cross, Jesus quotes from Psalm 22, a Psalm of King David:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.
In the rest of the Psalm, David lists some pretty awful things that people do to each other,some awful things that happen just because we are fallen humans, and some deep feelings of despair and anguish, but the writer of the psalm eventually finds his hope in his knowledge of who God is and the future he believes God has planned for him. David does not find pleasure in the circumstances but he does find reassurance that God is good and is listening. David, the writer of the psalm, finds shalom.
Psalm 22:22- 31
I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.
From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the Lord will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the Lord
and he rules over the nations.
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!
We have truncated the meaning of shalom to “peace”, fair enough, but it means peace as in: “completeness, soundness, welfare”; it also means: “was intact, was complete, was in good health, was safe; and it means: “surrendered, submitted”.
In other words having utter peace is a two way street. It is God giving and my receiving, but it is also God willing and my submitting. I think those are the times we feel alone, when we can neither wait on God in order to receive from Him, or when we can not submit to God and allow Him to work.
Sarah laughed when God asked her at 99 years to stop scheming, stop acting, stop planning, stop grieving, and just submit. She laughed because she felt alone. Then her dark humor turned to submission. And then she got pregnant.
Mary must have felt very alone when she agreed to submit to getting pregnant out of wedlock.
Noah must have felt very alone building a huge dry-docked folly to save the world.
Able must have felt very alone when Cain attacked him.
Paul must have felt very alone when he submitted to being imprisoned for years.
Helen Keller must have felt very alone, blind, deaf and dumb — until Annie Sullivan unlocked the hidden world.
The disciples must have felt very alone, even though they had been with the Messiah, when their whole community kicked them out for following the radical troublemaker named Jesus.
Martin Luther King Jr. spent much time praying both privately and publicly that God would never leave him and his people alone. But he sure must have felt alone to be praying that way. Here is a picture of Martin Luther King:
Notice: he does not think the midi skirt is repressive.
Here is Marcia Brady from the Seventies:
She has nothing to do with this blog, but if you were alive in the seventies you will enjoy her picture here and the memories it induces in you.You will feel less alone right now. In The Brady Bunch, no one ever felt alone. Here is another group of people who never felt alone because everybody knew their name:
I think the “Cheers” gang gives you a good feel for how outsiders saw the Early Church — they thought the apostles and converts were drunk but really they were just so happy to be together.
What is duct taping your heart today? What is making you feel forsaken by God? Are you choosing to stay alone or are you crying out to God to listen to your pleas?
Things for me to try to learn from the Bible in general and Psalm 22 specifically:
- The World wants me to believe that life is a straight line and I am either ascending or descending. God’s Kingdom is always going to feel more like a lurch. It’s a narrow path and to walk it while duct taped means quite a bit of stumbling, zig-zagging, avoiding what might be poison ivy, and tripping over rocks. Am I willing to stagger along alone in what feels like uncontrolled movement, knowing that when life duct tapes the heck out of me, I can let go of my own controlling motions and let God control my steps?
- When I’m not getting attention for myself, is it time to be “still and know that He is God”? I don’t need to be all fake humble and give God glory by saying, “oh I didn’t do that– it was all God”. No, it was I who did it but I give God glory by using what gifts, talents, heart, strength, intelligence or work ethic I have to the best of my abilities for Good and not for Evil. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength and mind.”
Working together with God, will also help me recognize those very real times when I can not do something in my own strength and desperately need God to save me and rescue me and do it for me. Then true need is open to true miracle. God desires us all to grow up into a healthy, loving, mutual relationship with Him. Then we can truly give Him the honor and glory for all He does in the world. “I will declare your name to my people, In the assembly I will praise you.”
There comes a point when I have to stop asking God to tie my shoelace and then falsely give Him the praise because He helped me do it. I’m afraid this pseudo- humility while still going our own way, leads eventually to the ease many of us have in taking God’s name in vain. In other words we go through life doing what we want and how we want to do it because we are “Christians” or “good people” and then without really humbling ourselves and waiting on the Lord, we give Him credit for something He may not want His name on. We Christians use Christ’s name as our logo, and many times we are a poor Taiwanese knock -off of the real thing. God wants to create Gucci in us and we want to keep shopping at Costco and give Him credit for it.
There are times when I have to accept that I am all tied up in duct tape and unless I wait patiently, I will simply hop down Life’s Hallway in frustration and eventually despair. Even after the start bell has rung, I need to wait on the Great Teacher to untie me and set me free.
- It is already done. Whatever Time means to us in this crazy world, when we as God’s children ask Him to draw near and save us, Psalm 22 assures us, that God has already done it, even if we don’t know it yet. Jesus’ last words on the cross are the last words in Psalm 22. When Jesus says “It is finished”, he is no longer the man left alone to die but He is God claiming as God the Father does that He has accomplished it. Jesus as one of the Triune God is saying, “I am never alone. I have done it.” AHA! God didn’t leave Jesus alone after all. And He doesn’t leave me alone even if it feels like it. Jesus gave us his Holy Spirit so we would never be alone. God has given us His presence – it’s just that sometimes He expects His presence to be manifested in His people. Me to You. You to Me. That Guy. That Girl. Those people.
- God has always expected His chosen people to be different, to do His work on earth, to live in a different way and a different kingdom and lurch along, side by side, set apart by how they love. Here is the theme – read the Bible and you will see it over and over from God’s delight in us at Creation right up to the last earthly acts of Jesus and the revelation of a future heaven and earth. Here’s the theme – Love God. Love others.
Ps. 22: “From You comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly, before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.”
We who claim the Judeo-Christian God as our Father are to act like Him and we are to be The World’s duct-tape removers. Ps. 22 goes on to say this is how poor people will be fed, and armies will be defeated, and baby seals will be saved from starvation and planets will be restored to health – by us. By our love and service to a Holy God and by our love and service to a broken motley crew of duct-taped humans, we will live in communion with God and each other forever. Even the angels marvel at how we love.
We are freed only by our allowing our own hands to be all tied up, so we can wait and pray and serve and allow the Lord to remove the duct tape, remove the blinders, remove the stones for hearts, remove the clunky shoes, remove the fashion icons, remove the fear, remove the alone-ness – and inhabit His people as a temple.Then we are the working, creating, loving Body of Christ. Ps. 22: All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord ,and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship.
- It is time to look around at the broken, tied up world and do something about it. When you smile at the homeless man as you hand him your dollar, he feels just a little less alone. When you take a deep breath and tell your friend the truth, she is less alone. When you hug your child even if he squirms, he is less alone. When you refuse to buy something because a slave made it, they are less alone. When you give money so that an African woman can drink clean water, she is less alone. And when you give even if you don’t have it, when you feel even though you are tired of feeling, when you pray even for people you don’t know and won’t ever hear the results of your prayers about, and when you stay silent when you would like to rail, and you rail even when you want to stay silent, when you march with those who are discriminated against, when you do the chore even though it someone else’s turn, when you give blood, or visit the sick, when you give up this World’s sorry rights for your rights as a child of the King, when you go to church to be with The People, when you live with passion and not indifference,when you make a meal for the homebound, when you tell someone about the Good News of Jesus, when you live creatively and not resignedly, or when you simply sit, and wait, and trust and pray, and anticipate with completeness,–shalom– that God is The Here I Am — THEN, we are not alone.
The family that tapes together, stays together:
At the very beginning of our current Time, God lets us know up front He has other things, appointments, planets, universes to be at but not to worry, He “gets us”. Genesis 2:18 “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a helper fit for him.” That’s you and me by the way. Helpers for each other.
But the weird thing about the God we believe in as opposed to other gods, is that even when He feels far away, or on another planet, He isn’t. He is “here, there and every where”. Our shalom comes from the fact that God has given us each other, God has given us His Son, God has given us the Holy Spirit, and God is continually moving in and with us. No matter how immovably tied up we feel.
Ps. 73: “Nevertheless, I am continually with you. You hold my right hand.” Psalm 23: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me.”
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Cor. 1: 3-4)
The name Holy Spirit, means Comforter, Helper. Jesus tells his disciples:
If you love me, you will obey my commandments. I will ask the Father, and he will give you another helper who will be with you forever. That helper is the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept him, because it doesn’t see or know him. You know him, because he lives with you and will be in you.(John 14)
Quite a while ago, though not as long ago as the seventies, my daughter Clarissa learned a song at Vacation Bible School. At three she had some interesting first person pronoun confusions and she used to sing this song: “Me just saw Jesus in me eyes.” We finally figured out it was supposed to be, “I just saw Jesus in your eyes.”– like when Jesus tells us, whenever you give a cup of water to the least of these, you are doing it to me.
But when I am feeling alone, and as if the world has duct taped me, I like to quietly sing, “Me just saw Jesus in my eyes”. He is as close as my own heart. He has forever duct-taped Himself to my soul. If I have eyes to see and ears to hear, He is closer than my closest sibling. Jesus is in my eyes, my hands, my feet, my knees, my elbows. His spirit lives within me. And within you. He will truly never leave us alone.
On the cross, Jesus sang out, “It is finished! We have done it!” Jesus cried: “Daddy, Abba, Me just saw You, Daddy, in Me eyes!” And into His hands Christ commended his spirit.
May today I let Jesus live in my eyes. Jesus –bind me to you, duct tape your spirit to mine. May I put down my agenda and take up the cross of Christ. And my brother and sister, may I then be able to look into your duct-taped eyes, my friend, and take your hand and spell into it,
“Y-O-U A-R-E N-E-V-E-R A-L-O-N-E”