Friday, February 25, 2011

The Very Sane Prayer of a Slightly Unstable Man

If you are anything like me there are six or more books simultaneously sitting around your house with bookmarks stashed about 1/2 the way in, 12 more books sitting on coffee tables and shelves waiting to be read, two more on the way from Amazon, and 1,000 more you wish you could be reading.

It takes me a while to finish a book b/c I am reading too many others at the same time.  And, if the books ceases to be compelling enough it might remain unfinished so another greater client may be welcomed to the table.

If you are anything like me there are a lot of projects you get started on and don't complete.  Nor sure it if it is adult ADD, laziness, caffeine overload, or a sign that I just take on too much at once.  Whatever is the source, it is a part of who I am that I am not a big fan of and have been working on, slowly with minor gains, for a long while. (Which is one sign of success that I haven't given up on the project of fixing my tendency to give up on projects prematurely.)

So, if this resonates with you at all, or if you are conversely an over-do-it perfectionist who must complete every little thing you work on or you can't sleep at night... I have found us the PERFECT prayer.

It appears in Moby Dick from the mouth of Ishmael, the emo narrator.  He spends some time in the book on cetology, which is the classification and study of, you guessed it, whales.  Near the end of that chapter he says,

But now I leave my cetological System standing thus unfinished, even as the great Cathedral of Cologne was left, with the crane still standing upon the top of the uncompleted tower.  For small edifices may be finished by their first architects; grand ones, true ones, ever leave the copestone to posterity.  God keep me from completing anything.


It seems that God has been answering that prayer in my life for a long time!

Alas, there is something very deep about that prayer that has nothing to do with my own attention deficiencies.

This is a prayer I want to give my life to.  I want to give my life to something that matters, something so much bigger than myself that my children and their children will be compelled to take part and continue it only to pass it on to their posterity.

I want to live and dream and work and exist for things that I cannot complete in my own life time.

Let me offer one possibly controversial example.

I was disappointed to see signs and t-shirts with Dr. King and President Obama's face on them reading, "Dream Fulfilled," "Dream Come True," "Dream Realized" and the like.  Before I go on I must say that I was not and am not disappointed that he is president.  I was and am thankful that we have an African American in the Oval Office.  It is LONG overdue.  The reason the signs were slightly off putting to me was that I don't think Obama's election realized King's dream.  I think this election is unquestionably A PART OF Dr. King's dream, but I do not think it finalized it.  Let me say that again, I think that Dr. King, as I am, would have been thrilled to see this occur and would have seen it as a vitally significant movement towards his dream - just not it's end.

What is so powerful about King's dream is that is offers an unending trajectory of mankind, a compelling draw that constantly moves us onward.  What makes his dream so rich is that it cannot be completed by any one generation or any one event.  There is still inequality.  There is still racism.  There is still hatred and misunderstanding.  There is still a breed of legal obedience and nationalism that loves some and rejects others.

I say this to say that Dr. King lived and died for a mission that could not be completed in the course of his lifetime, even if he'd been granted a long, full life not ended by murder.

I want to live for such dreams.  I do not want to be content filling my days with tasks and goals easily completed and simply done.  I do not want to leave my life having no legacy but that of personal success, security, or comfort.  I want to live and die for the dream of God's kingdom come upon this earth destroying all injustice, inequality, fear, hatred, brokenness, and pain.  I want to build grand things, true things, that leave the copestone to my grandchildren's grandchildren.

God, keep me from completing anything.

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