I’m Bipolar

In Uncategorized on July 17, 2011 at 2:37 am

Submitted By: Gentry

I often feel as though I’m strung between two poles.

The first pole is the Bible. I come from a tradition that is so Bible centric that people often claimed that “where the Bible speaks, we speak, and where the Bible is silent, we are silent.” I now think that profession, while well-intentioned, often ignores the dynamic trajectories of the Biblical narrative and unintentionally suggests that the Spirit who inspired it and fills us still is as dead as a doornail.

However, I still give the Bible primacy since it provides such a clear guide to the human brokenness and divine reconciliation that I see refracted throughout our lives. Although the books of scripture that speak to me vary significantly from season to season – Ecclesiastes for freshman year, Romans for senior, Genesis was for seminary, Proverbs for early marriage, the Psalms, Luke, and Philemon for now – and some parts have rarely spoken to me at all – I’m looking at you Revelation – I still long for my story to be shaped by and to understand my community through scripture.

The second pole is the edge and the other. I’d love to say that my orientation towards the outside edge, where I often encounter or at least look for the disabled, poor, trafficked, or widowed is inspired by a catena of scripture verses. I wish I could sex things up by saying that this pole stretches me into the prophetic or tell you that in the dandruff flaked head of the other I truly see Jesus. But I suspect that the reason for my orientation is simpler than that. Whether on account of adoption, fragmented idealism, inherent distrust of institutions, I simply feel more comfortable on the margins.

A recent example of this distrust was how I tried to distinguish myself from the noble intentions and social power of my LeadBoston group on orientation day by letting them know that I found my way into my current work not through principled conviction but an alleged felony. My orientation towards countering communal understanding was also on full display when, as a college senior, I tried to help lead an interdisciplinary consideration of the American Dream. Beyond being an abstract concept I had trouble wrapping my 22-year-old head around, I found it hard to speak to the American Dream because I had no plans of living it and really didn’t feel like a part of it. In regards to the latter presentation, if  I’d had the wit of an artist like Nathan Hall, I would have snarked the text on the flag draped work of art he displayed in the chapel around that time: “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for those who can afford it.” Perhaps that text would have saved me from one of my only collegiate “Bs.”

If the Bible is the vertical pole then the edge/outsider is the horizontal, and almost every day I feel stretched, strung up and scratched out between those extremes. In the moments when an issue, such as homosexuality, becomes so much more than an issue – as when the Torah/Apostle Paul’s condemnation of homosexual practice is viscerally countered by my noble, beautiful, trustworthy, and true brothers and sisters whose identity is shaped in part by that very practice, I feel quartered and stretched to an inch thin.

Lately, I’ve been trying to reframe or at least think about those terrible moments when I’m strung between the proclamation of scripture and an encounter with the beloved other as a rupture. When I feel the rupture I’ve started begging for the Holy Spirit. In the midst of my pleading I wince at the thought of being unfaithful to scripture, am horrified by the potential separation from a brother or sister, wrestle with the potential fidelity of betrayal, and desperately strain to hear the whispered name, Israel.

  1. Thank you for your honest sketch of real dilemma. And thank you for living in the midst of this dilemma!

  2. Hey Brian, thanks for reading. If you like this post, you might really enjoy our Greater Boston Emergent Cohort Meetings. Would love to see you at our next gathering on August, 2nd:

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