The 2nd Century theologian and fellow Jesus-follower Irenaeus said that “the glory of God is a human being fully alive.” If this is true, I figure we’ve got to live our lives in connection with other people, since people seem to be a pretty big part of our lives. I suppose you could live in the mountains or out in the desert, but then you risk becoming the Unabomber or some kind of water-deprived flaky-skinned weirdo.
The problem is that nothing about a relationship with another person is ever simple, unless you are pretending, but this isn’t a secret to most people, I think. I think we all know, deep down, that relationships are a big screwed up mess, that the collision of individuals with separate pasts and families and loves is going to create supernovas of chaos.
Actually, I think that we even have some kind of primordial ability that allows us to understand this and, at a certain level, appreciate it. Somehow we all resonate with the dissonance. If you don’t believe me, go to Blockbuster and rent, say, any movie there.
Most of the time, Jesus seemed concerned with turning pretty big losers into people that cared enough about others to do something about it. He spent his time with the works-in-progress. He seemed to care about the journey much more than finding the gold at the end of the rainbow.
Now, I’m not very good at this carpe diem shindig, but I’m working on it. Leprechauns have always creeped me out a little anyway.
I basically assume that there’s something organically wrong with the planet, that “we live in darkness,” as Anne Lamott says, and this broken “thing,” or connection, or whatever it may be, impairs us from doing a lot of things the way we were meant to. If this were all true, then it would obviously have to include our relationships.
Maybe this is even the most vital, heart-wrenching thing that got broken.
In college I met “my boys:” Gabe Wilson and Josh “Bird” Doneff. Josh got named “Bird” for some strange mascot reason back then, and still carries it around, perhaps reluctantly, like a neon fanny pack at Disneyland, for those of us that came to love him during that time.
Gabe is a tall, tough, soccer-playing world-traveling Irishman with an unnaturally long, flaming-orange beard. Bird is a wiry good-looking youth pastor with a penchant for fly-fishing and a sweet frickin’ afro hairdo.
The three of us are about as different as people come. To this day I wonder how in the world we managed to find each other, but it’s no secret to me why we’ve remained the kind of friends that you could ask anything, literally anything, of, and not feel bad about it: we connect at some kind of strange, visionary, passion/soul level where all those other things become superfluous nonsense.
In college, we’d get together once a week and talk. We’d talk about life, love, sex, God, death, theology, church, education—pretty much any wide, conceptual thing that would be broad enough to contain our varying opinions and idealistic paradigms.
Before then, I really don’t think I knew what God looked like.
In a book in the Bible called Matthew, around chapter 18, Jesus is talking about doing life with other people, resolving conflicts, etc. He gets to what could be considered the end of his point, and he says, “When two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.”
I’ve always been under the impression that means God, in some ethereal, third-party, detached way is sitting at the table with you—like a ghost in the empty chair with its own place setting.
But what if it’s a lot blurrier, more metaphysical, than that?
What if it means that in some very real, strange way Jesus is talking about us?
What if, when we are trying to live and incarnate the life that God designed, we are somehow re-establishing that original broken connection, if only temporarily, and we can influence our friends on that deep, atomic, soul-y level where God resides?
What if Jesus saying that He’ll be there when two followers are in sync means that He’s there because we’re there? That if we are truly present, if we’re connected, then we’ve tapped into God’s real reality somehow, and as a result, God is there in a very tangible, mysterious way via the people there?
What if, in some mystical way that I don’t understand, we are God to each other in those moments?
Christian people say that God lives in us, and maybe they’re right.
What if we can see glimpses of the face of God in the faces of our friends?
What if God has a long orange beard and an afro?
I’m no “real” theologian. I don’t know any Hebrew, and I don’t read Matthew Henry for fun. But I know that the most common ways for me to feel that hair-standing-up otherworldly Clarity and Presence (God) is when I’m either a) listening to music, or b) when I’m with my closest friends in the world—like my boys, Bird & Gabe.
When I’m with other people.
I think that, sometimes, we get it right. We strike a chord on those strings that hold everything together, and it makes a song we can hear. It creates one of those moments of clarity and epiphany. We catch a glimpse of reality, and the next second it’s gone. But in that moment, we saw it. We saw it as real and tactile as the clothes you’re wearing or as vibrant and glaring as the color of your eyes.
I don’t know what it all means, but it makes me think that the lines that separate us from other people and from our designer are not as sharp and clear as I once thought.
Despite the brokenness sometimes we reconnect, and somehow we all blur and fade into each other.
Excerpted from Josh Allan’s upcoming book blur: Finding Jesus in a Fuzzy World, to be released Summer 2007. Josh Allan is an artist/singer/songwriter/producer/writer who lives outside of Los Angeles. He has a penchant for holistic philosophies, guitars, beauty, Jesus and flip-flops. Visit his online casa at: JoshAllan.com.