Good Morning Constance…
As you have experienced if you read here regularly, I like devotionals, if they are well written…if they are aware and on point.
Jill Carattini writes so well, and nearly always comforts my heart, challenges my mind, and encourages my soul with her unusual perspectives on topics typical and everyday.
The one for today speaks of the Incarnation, and how much more effective it is at communicating to us the depth of God’s care than just words spoken, true though they may be. And she uses this phrase: sticking around after dark.
What a scintillating phrase!
It describes what life is like so well, as we encounter those who are touched in some way by our plight in life, our circumstances or story, and are drawn in by its arc and narrative.
But they never stay over…after dark. They never move in, and walk with you during the day, and share the difficulty of being in the grip of the hungry dark on the black nights of the soul.
This happens to us, with life in general, but in life specifically as a transgender person, this is quite common. I have often encountered people of good will, good intentions and kind hearts who are intrigued by the unique life and the strange (and I will add wonderful) state of being transgender. They find themselves moved, inspired, or sometimes even filled with longing as they rub against my experience and what the world and its currents have on offer to me as transgender…
…but they don’t stick around after dark.
And why would they? After all, the position they have been born in sets their feet into a world that is currently nearly inaccessible for us…what is like the wealth of Solomon himself is taken for granted by most cis-gender people. People of good heart, of fine character and good will…but it never occurs to them this notion that they are day workers: diligent in the field together with us…but returning home to the metaphorical creature comforts there.
Jill’s devotion speaks of this, and speaks of how God Themself has encountered this separation, and devised a strategy to overcome it, in the greatest Mystery of the universe…the Incarnation…where They became Emmanuel, “God with us”.
Constance, take a moment of reflection…cis, trans…white, black…rich, poor…whatever your station or assignment here in this creation: do you stick around after dark? Have you “moved in”? Or when the night falls, do you “move on”, returning to walk in the day as a dispenser of charity?
We can be absent in the night…from our communities, from our family members…from ourselves, even…turning away from a complete identification, and thus being present while it is day. I would propose that this is really a form of self love, and as such it is the practice and fulfillment of only half of the golden rule: love your neighbor as yourself. It is the loving of self in the proper way…but we are called, I believe, to a place of greater giving. We are called to press on, press in, and love our neighbor from that good and healthy basis of self love.
When we stick around after dark, we form those identifications that allow us to truly “do unto others as we want them to do unto us”.
One more thing: if you are reading this, the onus is on you! You cannot look around, and say no one has moved in here to stay after dark…after someone does, well then I will extend the walls of my dwelling to encompass someone else…then I will establish havens for the stranger, the alien, the orphan (and I am speaking here metaphorically as well as concretely).
No. “…as you want them to do unto you” is your beacon of direction, your commission unto action. You know what to do for others already! Simply take your courage in hand, and shod your feet with your conviction and your determination…and go. Inhabit that space inside the world of the ones you love…
…stick around after dark.
Love, Charissa Grace
Science fiction novelist Kurt Vonnegut once said of one of his most recurrent characters, “Trout was the only character I ever created who had enough imagination to suspect that he might be the creation of another human being. He had spoken of this possibility several times to his parakeet.
He had said, for instance, ‘Honest to God, Bill, the way things are going, all I can think of is that I’m a character in a book by somebody who wants to write about somebody who suffers all the time.”(1)
In this scene from the book Breakfast of Champions, Kilgore Trout’s haunting suspicion is unveiled before him. Sitting content at a bar, Kilgore is suddenly overwhelmed by someone or something that has entered the room. Beginning to sweat, he becomes uncomfortably aware of a presence far greater than himself.
The author himself, Kurt Vonnegut, has stepped beyond the role of narrator and into the book itself. The effect is as bizarre for Kilgore as it is for the readers. When the author of the book steps into the novel, fiction is lost within a higher reality, and Kilgore senses the world as he knows it collapsing.
In fact, this was the author’s intent. Vonnegut has placed himself in Kilgore’s world for no other reason than to explain the meaninglessness of Kilgore’s life. He came to explain to Kilgore face to face that the very tiresome life he has led was, in fact, all due to the pen and whims of an author who made it all up for his own sake.
In this twisted ending, no doubt illustrative of Vonnegut’s own humanism, Kilgore is forced to conclude that apart from the imagination of the author he does not exist. Ironically, he also must come to terms with the fact that it is because of the author that his very existence has been ridiculous.
The gospel writers tell a story that is perhaps as fantastic as Vonnegut’s tale, though one with consequences in stark contrast. The Gospel of John, too, begins with a story that is interrupted by the presence of the author:
“In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men… And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a Father’s only son, full of grace and truth… From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.”
As Eugene Peterson translates, “The word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” But in this story, the presence of the author is not our demise but our inherent good.
Working in an urban ministry setting many years ago, I saw a small glimpse of the strange effects of being spiritually present—an incomparable cry to the Incarnation itself, but a lesson in the sacredness of place nonetheless.
During the first year, I lived in an apartment just outside the city. But during the second year I was able to move into the neighborhood where many of the children involved in our ministry lived. The difference was profound.
Teenagers that previously had held me at arms length came closer. Kids continually came to my door to ask if I could play. We occupied the same space, and it was not unusual for them to mention it. One girl told me that she knew I was real because I stayed around after dark. In her eyes I was now interested in her life in a way she could physically grasp: a hand to clasp on the way home, a next-door neighbor to sit with on the porch, a heart that knew both the joys and fears of the city.
Stepping into this neighborhood changed everything for all of us.
How much more the author of grace and mystery has stepped into our world to change our lives. John relays as an eyewitness that Jesus Christ, the Word in flesh, came to live beside us in body and blood. Eternity stepped into time and brought with it grace and truth.
The author of life moved into his creation, declaring it good all over again, bringing the presence of redemption, proclaiming again the meaning of life. It is a story that turns the mind inside out with questions of existence and reality. But in intense contrast to Kilgore’s conclusions of purposelessness, we are strangely called to be a greater part of the storyline.
In the words of G.K. Chesterton, “I had always believed that the world involved magic: now I thought perhaps it involved a magician. And this pointed a profound emotion always present and sub-conscious; that this world of ours has a purpose; and if there is a purpose, there is a person.”(3) The vicarious humanity of the Son of God is the nearness of a storyteller who hopes we might know him, and grasp that we are known. His presence is our very overwhelming good.
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) Kurt Vonegut, Breakfast of Champions (New York: Random House, 2006), 246.
(2) John 1:1-3,14.
(3) G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (New York: John Lane Company, 1909), 110.