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The Beautiful People of Charleston

June 23, 2010 1 comment

I met Lanis at Charleston's Candy Kitchen.

After spending a few days on the beach, our whole family boarded three cars and all 14 of us caravanned from Myrtle Beach to Charleston. Might as well get a little culture (Southern style) while on vacation. A two-hour drive for my family is still a bit long, so we took a pit stop about 40 minutes away from Charleston for restroom “rest” and snacks. We stopped at a large gas station/general store (sorry no pix).

Visiting the Men’s Room
One by one, the men headed back to “our” room, which was at the back of the store. As we stepped through the door of the men’s room, we stepped onto a loading dock at the back of the store. My first response was to assume I entered the wrong door and turn around. Nope. I was right. The men’s room door opens onto a loading dock. Immediately, I wonder if the men are expected to find some outhouse out back.As it turns out, the men’s room was behind another door on the dock. If you’re ever 40 minutes outside of Charleston, this is good fun watching the puzzled faces of men as they step onto a loading dock in search of the restroom.

A 14 person pit stop takes about 45 minutes of stopping, snacking and looking for stragglers. I think we waited about 10 minutes for Andy (my brother-in-law) to come out of the store who happened to be in his car waiting on us. Once we discovered that we were all really present (as present as possible), we shifted into drive en route to the “Holy City.”

Fort Sumter
As we rolled into the city, a sign pointed left to Ft Sumter, so we obeyed. When I walk through a museum, I try to read all the words on the signs. It’s my form of penance for years spent reading comic books instead of my history books. I’m hoping to learn all I missed before I forget it.

As I meandered through the exhibits, I was stuck by beauty of these people. The families of Charleston play a fundamental role in the formation of these United States of America (even though we often fail to recognize all the ways they contributed to the forming of the fledgling nation). In so many ways, these were beautiful people with beautiful stories and beautiful dreams. And yet…

the stain of slavery bleeds onto every page of this multi-layered tapestry. As a Southerner myself, I wonder how could so many devoutly religious people defend a system that dehumanized an entire race of people. How could they be so blind? But even as the words stumble out, I am struck with a deeper, darker question, “What is our blindspot?” This generation so easily looks back in judgment on the cruelties of early ages, but are we to assume a race of people has finally been born without blindspots? I doubt it.

Before this turns into a game of political finger-pointing at what group is blind and immoral, let me clarify to say that I am so very blind. If anything, Ft Sumter reminds me that I have the same capacity to dehumanize and fail to see the beauty in the people (and world) around me.

Lord have mercy.

Soon our stomachs won over our minds, and the whole Floyd clan scrambled away from Sumter and toward sandwiches.

Floyd Clan Dining at Tommy Condon's Irish Pub

Rackshaw
After a delicious meal at Tommy Condon’s Irish Pub, we boarded “rackshaws” (pronounced pedi-cab) and quickly learned the difference between a taxi and a tour. Thinking we were getting a carriage drawn tour of Chareston for the low, low price of $4.50 a person, we lined up outside of the restaurant awaiting our “prince charming” so to speak. After about ten minutes, we noticed several rackshaw drivers sitting across the street waving at us. Turns out our carriage turned into a pumpkin before we even boarded.

They convinced us to take a chance and “ride the rackshaw.” So we did. Admittedly, we had a nice ride circling the block. In fact, I really like Larry (the guy who drive Kelly and I). He even told us a few interesting points of interest about Charleston. As it turns out, most drivers were silent. As licensed “taxi” drivers they were not licensed to give tours. If you want a fun little “green” taxi drive in Charleston, these guys fit the bill. If you want a tour of the historic city, look elsewhere.

The Candy Girl
By the time we finished our taxi, the snacks from the morning and the lunch from 15 minutes ago, were already starting to fade. With out “active pace,” we needed refueling. There’s nothing like sugar to strengthen a weary soul, so we ambled over to Charleston’s Candy Kitchen. From the moment we walked in the door, we were treated to candy corn, pralines, glazed pecans and gelato samples. This has to be one of the friendliest stores I’ve ever visited. It goes to show that sugar really does make you sweeter.

The young lady who greeted us upon arrival and departure was named Lanis (see picture at top of page). She wins the award for “friendliest of the friendliest.” In fact, her hospitality reminded me of the warm welcome I received several years earlier from “Uncle Ben.” A legless, faith-filled kind seller of incense who welcomed us to Charleston in 2006 with outstretched arms and a heart of love.

Lanis revealed that same joy-filled sparkle in her smile, her demeanor and her words. She told me that she was studying women and gender in college with hopes of eventually serving women and children in Latin America. As I talked with Lanis and listened to her passion for mission and service, I kept thinking about my walk through the Ft Sumter museum. She’s one of the beautiful people of Charleston.

This grand old city has known prestige and grandeur as well as struggle and pain. The conflicted story of slavery stains its past, and yet the beauty still shines around every corner. As I think of Charleston, I am reminded of a world that is filled with real and awful suffering. But as a person of faith in Christ, I do not believe suffering and human cruelty has the last word. Rather, I behold the God who pour himself into the brokeneness of human life and healed it from the inside out. He restores beauty into His good and wondrous creation.

So Lanis reminds me of beauty and love and kindness and self-giving. In her, I see a glimmer of His making all things new. Once again, I am reminded that wherever I turn and whomever I meet, has been created in His image. Oh that the blindness of prejudice and envy and jealousy might be healed so that I can see in and through the light of His glory, beholding the beauty of His handiwork throughout all of His good and glorious creation.

Greg, our tale-teller and tour guide

The Fabled Carriage Ride
After this exhausting day of eating and riding, we finally took respite in a nice leisurely stroll through the streets of Charleston aboard a horse-drawn carriage. Greg, our part historian/tour guide and part PT Barnum, led us through the city with tales of the glory of this city and tales of his life. Ever the showman, Greg recounted stories of Charleston’s yesteryear, Charleston’s shipping community, Charleston’s role in the Revolution, and Charleston’s dedication to libation.

Along the way, he also recounted his own rich Southern heritage and his successful bet to live in Charleston for a year without electricity. By the end of the ride, our eyes were dancing with dreams of days gone by and a sense that magic still happens in along these lanes. if you ever visit Charleston be sure to take a carriage ride with Greg and ask him to tell you the story of Eli Whitney.

As the day came to a close, we feasted on Bubba Gump’s shrimp, then boarded our motorized carriages for an evening drive back to Myrtle Beach, to our awaiting beach house, and to dishes of ice cream for all.

Charleston Skyline by Night

Charleston Skyline by Night

Categories: Community, culture, Family

Meeting in a Time of Tweets

June 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Frederik de Klerk & Nelson Mandela (92) (photo by World Economic Forum va Creative Commons)

The other day I commented on Nicholas Carr’s article “The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains.” I mentioned a positive opportunity and a negative challenge inherent in emerging forms like the wired world of the web. One breathtaking aspect of this emergence is the possibility for connection people from all races, languages and countries.

Over the years, I’ve been blessed to form and sustain many lasting friendships across the web. My life has been enriched and challenged and expanded through conversations with people around the world. Some of whom I’ve never seen face to face.

While I see negatives in this webbed world, like the dark side of tribalism (with little patience to learn the language of other tribes) and the tendency to reduce real rhetoric and argumentation to the sloganeering of bumper stickers (which really helps no one), I also see great potential for learning how to talk, how to listen and how to connect across our “boundaries” in space and time.

In a time when we can shoot off pithy answers before thinking about the human recipient, I thought it might help to consider some folks who thought, spoke and modeled much about how humans should and could relate.

Some of the writers who deeply challenged me to think about conversation and dialogue and thinking and action are Martin Buber, Hans Urs Von Balthasar, TF Torrance and Eugen Rosenstock Huessy. While there are distinctions and disagreements in their thought, I see correspondences that might be helpful for us as we think about relationships or about moving through space and time in love.

I am going to summarize a few ideas from each man thought I recognize anything I write in such limited space is woefully incomplete. Today, I want to highlight a few thoughts from Hans Von Balthasar who focused on three essential properties of being: truth, goodness and beauty.

For now I am going to bypass his overall argument and simply focus on these three transcendentals in relationships. I confess that I am adapting his use of these in relation to God, and for now, I want to use them in relation to humans. Von Balthasar focuses on the types of knowledge I gain from truth, goodness and beauty in relation.

Truth – In one sense, truth is focused upon the credible and accurate witness. Truth focuses on both the observable and the logical. On a basic level, I meet another person and based on their appearance, I make instant decisions as to their gender, age range, possibly their status, and their race. I observe them speaking, acting, living before me.

So the knowledge I gain from truth is observable and thus objective. Other people should be able to make similar observations with similar conclusions. While this may not seem especially significant in relationship, it is deeply significant. For sadly, we break and lose relationships often on the basis of knowledge that is not credible from witnesses that cannot be trusted.

When I encounter another person, I listen, watch, observe. I must be cautious about information given me about another person. I might ask myself, “Do I trust this person as a credible witness?” “Is this person in fact the direct witness or are they relaying third hand information?” “Does this person have vested interest in my opinion the person in question?”

While I may not be able to answer these questions completely, it might help me to pause over indirect observations. Also, I might questions my own observations. When I have made a judgment about a word or action, I might ask myself self, “What did I actually observe?” “Is is possible there are multiple causes for the action I’ve observed?” These type of questions might help me to realize that even my own deductions can be suspect at times.

The danger of “truth” is that knowledge can be reduced to mere facts, categories, ideas, laws. Without the balance of “goodness” and “beauty,” truth flattens relations into mere formalism.

Goodness – In relationships, Von Balthasar understands “bonum” as the interior light I experience. In relation to God, he speaks of hearing the proclaimed/historical witness (truth) and then the inward response of faith (goodness). Whereas truth focuses upon outward sign (the observable person), goodness focuses upon the signified (the value of the person).

I hear about Jesus Christ (outward, physical life), and I believe he is my redeemer (inward response). I meet John and instantly I feel there is a connection. I believe this inward, subjective response is how Von Balthasar is using goodness. When I meet other people, I not only observe them outwardly, I make inward judgments: good, bad, nice, friend, foe, and many other much more subtle inferences.

This is why I am attracted to Kelly over Jane. This is why I make friends with Bill instead of Harry. This is why I instantly trust the words of Tim, but pause over the words of Robert. This intuitive knowledge is real knowledge that shapes my actions, but it is inward, subjective knowledge. This type of “Goodness” is present in all relationships. My value assessments may be wrong and later have to be corrected, but act of making those assessments is part of the processing in forming relationships.

The danger of goodness is that it can become utilitarian and hedonistic. Outside the balance of “truth” and “beauty,” “goodness” can become pure narcissism as all relationships exist only to further my own goals and desires.

Beauty – The knowledge I gain from beauty is distinctly different from truth and goodness. I cannot grasp or take hold of this knowledge. Beauty is the mystery of unity between form and content. Content is not behind form but within it.

Let me put it this way. I mentioned this idea of “interior light” in goodness. Beauty is the interior light within the person in front of me. It is the realization of their depths as a person. Let me give a few examples.

At one-year-old, my niece already exhibited a will. I’ve watched her choose to allow my mom to pick her up while rejecting the advances of someone else. Of course, they could still pick her up, but they couldn’t change her will by physical force. Something unique and deeply mysterious about her cannot be controlled no matter how little she is.

Each person has an external, definable form. We can ask them a series of questions and might attach certain personality characteristics to them. And yet, there is untold mystery in every human being that cannot be forced out, seized, examined under a microscope or fully controlled.

As a person turns toward me and chooses to reveal themselves, suddenly a turn of the head, a look in the eyes, a handshake, a hug, a word, or simply a silence can reveal something about that person that simply cannot be seized or captured in a test tube. This something. This mystery. This uniqueness. This is beauty. In this revelation, there is a beauty that is independent of my desires, independent of my facts and figures, there is a beauty, wonder, a glory that simply is.

I cannot even seize the moment with a picture. It simply breaks forth in the very form of the person. And in this encounter, I step outside myself. I encounter someone who changes me in the encounter.

Von Balthasar writes that the beautiful makes the demand upon me to “be allowed to be what it is.” I let go of attempts to control and use. I simply rest in the presence of the beautiful other. Von Balthasar quotes Schiller, “Beauty is freedom in its appearing.”

This freedom is a freedom to enter into relation. It is the freedom of God to become man and reveal Himself in the particularity of Jesus Christ. I cannot force His revelation, but he can freely choose to reveal Himself to and in me.

In all my human relations, there is the possibly for a beautiful encounter. I’ll return to this idea of the beautiful encounter, as I reflect upon Martin Buber, TF Torrance and Eugen Rosenstock Huessy in future posts.

Categories: Community, friendship

Christmas Presents

December 30, 2008 Leave a comment

Yesterday, I heard a man say “Merry Christmas” and then apologize switching to “Happy New Year” instead. But he was really right the first time. We’ve entered Christmas “time,” and today is only the sixth day of a 12-day feast. During some seasons, Kelly and I have chosen to exchange a gift for each of the 12 days, helping remind us of the extended season of feasting.

Since I love getting presents this makes for a good tradition. While I realize that it is better to give than receive, I find it delightful to get…lots of presents. Presents and Christmas just go together. Some of my fondest memories from childhood include sitting under the Christmas tree and stacking up all the gifts that were labeled, “To Doug.”

During my early childhood, we’ve lived up in New Jersey. Every year we’d receive several large boxes from Tennessee, and each box was filled with presents from all our relatives.

What a delight I had to tear into the boxes, unpack the gifts and stack them under the tree. During the days leading up to Christmas, I’d sit by the tree and gather the “Doug” gifts, shaking, weighing and wondering upon the contents of each pretty package.

Sometimes I think I enjoyed the presents more before I opened them. The fancy papers, the colored bows, the odd shapes, and the varying weights all were a feast for my young imagination. Augustine’s idea that true happiness is found in anticipation of the good was being proved even in my childlike world of wonder.

In a way, this may be why Christmas sometimes seems like a letdown for some children and adults. The anticipation of the event is far more delightful than the actual experience. We discover like Augustine that the good we longed for is still ahead of us and not found in the mere gifts we exchanged.

As he reflected upon our longing for the “good,” Augustine came to believe that this good must be outside of us or we wouldn’t long for it. Then he assumed it must be something greater than what our outer world could supply. Because all our earthly goods never live up to the longing we have.

As he wrestled with this unfulfilled longing, Augustine came to see this greater good as something or someone that would fulfill the “desire” within us that drives us to long. And eventually Augustine came to realize that this “good” must be God, and that true happiness was found on earth in the anticipation of God who is beyond us.

For him, true earthly happiness was found in the longing for the “beautiful vision” of God. We merely touch hints of this vision in present life and will only enjoy the complete vision in the life to come. So even in the delight of a Christmas present, Augustine might see hints of God’s wondrous love.

I like that because my delight with Christmas presents might be seen as an act of spiritual devotion. Then again, it might be my unbridled selfish desires. And oddly enough, I suppose it is really a mixture of both. And God in his grace is working and transforming me in spite of my selfish motives.

But for now, let me go back to the presents! I have a question for you. What is the most memorable present you have ever received? I asked myself this several days ago, and oddly enough, it’s not an easy question to answer. All the presents blur together in my mind. Sweaters and pants and shirts and toys and boxes and bows all jumble together in one confusing mix.

So I’m not sure I can answer the question. After a few days of consideration, I have begun to remember the Bozo riding in the Bozo car that still sits in my house to this day. Then I remembered a Fisher Price circus set and a golf ball yo-yo and a train. Oops now the memories are flooding my mind: multiple race tracks, G.I. Joe dolls, magic tricks, a chemistry set, and a Tootsie Roll machine. Now I can’t stop. On and on I could go for pages listing trinkets and toys that delighted me for seasons of my childhood.

I failed to mention that the first gift which came to mind was a broken toy: a little car with broken wheels. I hated this gift but remember it more than any other gift. My sister and I were attending a youth choir Christmas party. We exchanged gifts using numbers we drew from a hat.

When I opened my little package, I was shocked to find a used and broken toy. Sad to say, I burst into tears. “Why me Lord?” “Why in heaven would someone have given me a broken toy?” As usual, my sister came to the rescue. She quickly pooled some money with another girl, and they ran down to the bookstore to buy me a puzzle.

I appreciated her kindness but somehow always felt a tinge of guilt playing with that puzzle. Why was I so sensitive and selfish over such a small thing? The memory stills haunts me on occasion.

I still wonder, “What is the story on that broken car?” Who thought bringing a broken car as a gift was a good idea? Were they too poor to buy something? If so, maybe this little broken car was actually a treasured gift, and they were giving me something of great value.” I’ll never know the story before it came to me, but I can tell you the story after I received it. Discarded. Trashed. But not forgotten.

Every gift is not simply a gift. It is actually a story in motion. It had a story before I got it and in one way or another it becomes part of my story once I receive it. For every gift that someone bought for me over the years, there was a moment or many moments of wondering, “What would Doug want?” Or possibly, “What can I get the best deal on?”

A whole series of thoughts might have occupied someone’s mind: “What size does he wear?” “What color does he like?” “Maybe I’ll just get him a goofy toy and call it a day.” For every gift someone bought for me, a thought or series of thoughts passed through their mind about me.

Now I realize something rather odd about the gift. It is actually an extension or symbol of the relationship I enjoy with that person. They took a few minutes to think about me and to find a gift for me because I am in relationship with them (even if that relationship consists in simply feeling some obligation to buy something).

Now this might seem odd, but I come to realize that gifts are but symbols for persons in my life. The wonder of gifts might not only point to some deep longing for the God, they might also point to the wonder of human relationships.

Looking around me at all the people in my life, I realize that I am surrounded by all shapes and sizes of gifts. Some talkative. Some quiet. Some big. Some tiny. Some friendly. Some a bit grumpy. And yet, in the mystery of God’s grace all these people are gifts of love and relationship God has granted me in this life: hints of His divine and all-surpassing love.

I can admire the packages. Or I can open up the gifts. How? I listen, enjoy, appreciate the wonder of the people around me. I can realize that each of these people have a story that extends far beyond me. But in some mysterious way I am part of their story and they are part of my story.

Every person in my life will change me and I will change them. I can celebrate them and thank God for them, or I can act like I got a bunch of broken toys. And ask, “Why me?”

I hope I’ve learned that even broken toys have mystery and wonder and stories that may unfold surprising hints of God’s goodness and grace.

As I celebrate the 12 days of Christmas this year, I am opening up gifts. Not physical boxes, but the amazing wonder of people in my life. From family and friends to the mystery of the stranger in the story, I am surrounded by gifts of wonder and glory. May I have eyes to see this wonder and sense the stirrings of a love from deep heaven that binds us together in grace.

Doug Floyd

“From a human perspective, when you compare [God] to the other gods of the other religions in the world, you have to say our God is really sort of odd. He uses the most common of people, people that aren’t any different from any of us here; he comes in the most common of ways, when by his Spirit an anonymous young woman is found to be with child. And the strangest thing is that he comes at all—he’s not the Above-Us-God, too holy to come down. This God’s love is so immense that he wants to come down. And he has proven his love by the fact that he did come down and touch our ground.”
James R. Van Tholen, Where All Hope Lies (cited from ChristianityToday.com)

Stories upon Stories upon Stories

June 15, 2008 Leave a comment

The Bible is not simply one story but many stories. And these stories form patterns that are repeated again and again. For example, the creation story appears in Gen 1 and Gen, but then variations of the creation story reapper throughout the scripture in places like Job, Proverbs 8, John 1 and Romans 1. Each story reflects a different aspect of the pattern.

Some of the many stories appearing in the Scriptures include:

The story of the Law

The story of Sojourn

The story of Slavery and Exodus

The love story between a Groom and Bride

The story of Father’s and Sons

The story of rebellion and redemption.

These are just some of the many stories that appear, reappear and reappear again. All these stories might and probably would have seem disconnected. But Jesus comes and fulfills/embodies every story. All the stories are flowing in and out from Him.

These stories might also be thought of as bardic songs. The ancient Celtic bards would sing songs of adventure and love and nature and war to the people. Their songs not only entertained but also helped forge a common memory of the tribe.

As we read the story (and sometimes realize we are acting in some of the story patterns), we also discover that we are being forged into a common memory of a family that spans time from beginning to end.

Hans Urs Von Balthasar speaks of the complexity of interwoven stories. He calls this a “symphony,” ” a dance fo sound.” Here are few of his thoughts on symphony from the classic treasure, Truth is Symphonic – Aspects of Christian Pluralism.

In his revelation, God performs a symphony, and it is impossible to say which is richer: the seamless genius of his compositions or the polyphonous orchestra of Creation that he has prepared to play it. Before teh Word of God became man, the world orchestra was “fiddling” about without any plan: world views, religions, different concepts of the state, each one playin gto itself. Somehow there is the feeling that this cacophonous jumble is only a “tuning up”: the A can be heard through everything, like a kind of promise. “In and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets…” (Heb 1:1). Then came the Son, the “heir of all things,” for whose sake the whole orchestra had been put together. As it performs God’s symphony under the Son’s direction, the meaning of its variety becomes clear….Initially, (the musicians) stand or sit next to one another as strangers, in mutual contradiction, as it were. Suddenyl the music begins, they realize how there are integrated. Not in unison, but what is far more beautiful–in sym-phony.

From Clocks to Calendars

April 30, 2008 2 comments

If I ask a person, “What time is it?” Normally they will respond with an answer that includes hour and minutes such as, “It’s 5:45.” The clock and the watch have trained us to think of time in terms of minutes and hours. While we don’t normally count time in terms of the second hand, our watches usually provide us with the ability to count seconds as well.

While this is one way of thinking about time, it has actually limited our field of sight by reducing the vast ways we should think about time. We think we are managing minute blocks of time, so we scribble on our calendars and PDAs and Blackberrys, 30 minute meetings, 60 minutes meetings, and so on. But the idea of time management is much more ancient than trying to follow a hectic schedule that may or may not have any lasting sginificance.

A better way to think about time and time management might be in terms of calendar instead of clock. Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy suggested that if you want to understand people from a given point in history, you should look at their calendars. What days and weeks do they observe as significant?

Calendars teach us that for over several millenia, people have counted time in terms of significant points in time. They associated meaning with specific points in time. For example, two of the oldest points in time that people have counted are the spring and fall equinox. Planting and harvest are activities that took place during these events, but the activity is hinged with significance beyond simple survival.

The spring and fall equinox were “times” to exercise tribal memory. Consider Halloween. This ancient holiday has had different names and manifestations, but it has consistently remained a time for remembering. The idea of dressing as skeletons or ghouls would be a connection with some Celtic traditions of looking back to ancestors or spirits that have not freely entered into rest.

So the calendar provides a way of remembering. In the church, the liturgical calendar is rooted in memory. Not simply memory as thoughts but memory as action. We remember the birth of Christ by certain activities. We mark the memory. We build a monument in time: a memorial. This memorial serves as a reminder for who we are and the community that helps to define us.

As long as we are limited by minutes and hours, we do not have the ability to really see time: past and future. This infatuation with measuring and controlling small bits of time, limits our ability to really understand who we are, where we are and what we are supposed to do. As a result, we become slaves to the urgency of the moment. And in one sense, time then becomes captive to space.

We search for significance in timeless space such as nicer cars, bigger houses, more stuff. Without the weightiness of time, this stuff is empty. Simply look at the latest foible of some rich and foolish to see the emptiness of lots of stuff with no weighty significance of time.

A healthier understanding of time moves between the past and the future through memorials. By looking back and forth, we might begin to see larger epochs of time. We might think in terms of years, decades and even centuries. Our grasp of time and our call to act in time will move us beyond actions that benefit us in this moment, this hour, this minute. Rather, we learn to act in ways that anticipate, and create a future that extends far beyond us.

Obviously, this way of thinking and acting is not appealing if I need immediate satisfaction. If I am in fact a slave of space, and I want my moment in the sun now, I will not see any value in acting in ways that benefit the future or in some ways complete the past.

But if I want to act and speak in ways that are rooted in the weightiness of time, I must rethink the way I approach time and the way I respond. To help us better understand where we are and what we are to do, we can draw from Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy’s cross of reality and think in terms of moving in four directions: past, future, inner and outward. These four directions encompass time and space.

To think more about the relation of time and human, I will write the next post on life-time.

Relationships, Houses and the Tabernacle

April 29, 2008 Leave a comment

doug and kelly house

We can begin to think more about how space and time intersect by considering the Tabernacle.

There are three areas related to the tabernacle: outer court, Holy Place, and Holy of Holies. The Israelites can come to the outer court, but only priests can enter the Holy Place. And only the High Priest can enter the Holy of Holies at specific times and according to specific rules. The Holy Place is veiled from the eyes of those who are not priests, and the Holy of Holies is veiled from everyone except the High Priest.

Now consider a house. We build walls around a set a relationships we call family. Family members can freely come and go from the house, but the house may be locked to those outside the family. We put a solid veil or a door between the outside world and the inhabitants of the home.

The door represents more than a physical barrier. The relationships within the home are veiled to the outside world. Within the sacredness of family, there are guarded memories, conversations, and stories. The space of the house represents a sacred placed for shared relationships or shared time. Inviting someone to pass through the outer veil is an honor. By inviting them into our space, we are inviting them at one level into our shared time.

The dinner table might be likened to the Holy Place. At the dinner table, we eat (break bread) and drink (pour wine). The bread and the wine (or whatever the meal) becomes a point of contact for sharing space and time together.

As we eat and drink in the presence of one another, we begin to discard veils. If wine is present, it can help accentuate the removing of veils/inhibitions. As we let down our guard (our veils), we begin to speak.

Around the meal, we tell stories. We share the highlights of our day. We recall memories. We dream together. We think out loud. The dinner table is place of the gathered tribe where people (both in the ancient past and in our current world), learn identity, connect to a family, learn proper social behavior, learn patterns and rituals that will shape their memories and dreams for the rest of their lives.

The dinner table extends beyond the family (tribe) and is a place of forming treaties between tribes. Thus the dinner table has been a place for negotiating great decisions like marriage, peace, business and friendship.

Beyond the dinner table, there is one other room that bears an even weightier sense of the sacred: the bedroom. The bedroom is an exclusive place of protection for only the husband and the wife. Behind the veil of the bedroom door, the couple removes all veils (both physical and emotional).

The physical veil is easy to remove and comes off on the wedding night. But the emotional veils guard such precious secrets that they take years to removed. And unfortunately, some couples never develop the trust of vulnerability required to begin remove these inner emotional veils.

Removing a veil leaves a person naked and completely vulnerable. Isaiah experiences the intensity of such exposure in his vision of the Holy God. A similar (though much less invasive) exposure happens between a husband and a wife.

This removing of veils binds memories and dreams together in a way that makes the couple both physically and emotionally one. The bedroom can be a great gift of healing and transformation when properly guarded, allowing for deep vulnerability, deep trust and deep shared time.

The husband and wife relationship gives a glimpse of the relation between the person and God. By the Spirit (through Jesus), the veils are removed one-by-one as we grow from glory-to-glory. Eventually we will truly behold Him with unveiled face—and we will be changed, glorified in the light of His love.

Without the Spirit’s grace of gently unveiling, exposing and transforming, the glory of the unveiled soul would be painful and terrifying much like Isaiah’s encounter and the encounter of the Israelites on the side of Mt. Sinai. This unveiling exposes our weaknesses, our sins, our absolute need for mercy and grace. Without mercy and grace, it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of a living God.

Thus the gift of a home begins to help us understand how space becomes a place which serves time: the sharing of memories and dreams and the essential mystery that forms us as unique persons.

Relationship Requires Space and Time

April 27, 2008 Leave a comment

Relationship with another human being does not exist in abstraction. It requires space and time. By reflecting on relationship, we may begin to better understand our relation to space and time.

Think of a marriage. The relationship begins and is cultivated in specific places and specific times. There are times and places where an intimate relationship bonds, and these might be thought of as sacred space and sacred time.

Sacred time might include a family meal, soft conversations in the bedroom, and even sleeping together (resting unguarded in one another’s presence). These sacred times occur in specific places like the dinner table and the bedroom. In a house, some rooms carry more weightiness due to history of cultivating relationships in these rooms.

The same activity may or may not enhance intimacy, depending on the participation of the people. Sometimes when my wife and I watch a movie, I sit on my recliner and she lays on the couch. During the film, I may also divert attention to my laptop to check my email. Or we might watch the film sitting together on the couch, sharing the experience in a more intentional way. The dynamic of shared time and space changes based on how we participate.

I would suggest that the element of intentional intimacy is located within time. Dumitru Stăniloa suggested that time is the interval between the offer of love and the reciprocation of that offer. Intimacy is not something that exists within a space but rather it is something that the people choose to do within that space. They choose to spend time together. We don’t speak of “spending space together” but “spending time together.” (I’ll share more on time and intimacy later.)

By choosing to use a space in a way that enhances our time together, we invest that space with greater significance. A house should be built in a way that accentuates the time we spend together. If we choose to use large spaces within our houses for private experiences such as bathrooms and walk-in closets, we may be suggesting by our use of space that our personal space is more valuable than our relational space. The shape and size of the spaces/rooms within a home and the objects within those rooms (furniture and decor) can all communicate stories or ideas that reflect the values of those who occupy those rooms.

So the content of our spaces and the uses of our spaces reflect the value we place on the times or shared relationships within those spaces. We’ve heard the saying, “A house does not make a home.” This statement reinforces that idea that a place to live, eat, and sleep may not always be a place where people forge intimate relationships.

On my next post, I’ll try to consider “How is a home like a tabernacle?”

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