Tuesday, March 16, 2010

IKEA

Another fabulous morning is beginning at the beach with some extremely hot (think lawsuit) coffee, big comfy chair, and a fireplace that is actually on. It’s quiet here in my little corner of the world. It’s still dark out thanks to daylight savings. I can still see the lights of the ferries as they shuffle people from the seclusion of their islands to exposure of their city. The 37 is shuttling a new group of weary workers downtown. I could feel guilty, but I’ve given it up for lent.
I’m feeling a bit under the weather this morning. I think it’s the residual effect of princess Lily’s less than peaceful sleep from the other night. It gives me an even greater appreciation for parents of younger children, although I must admit to enjoying the seniors tour version of parenting that is otherwise referred to as grandparenting. I just wish that it came with better instructions.
Speaking of instructions…. as I have been leading my community o’ faith through a study in the book of Ephesians, we are being led to the reality that what’s contained on these pages might be known as life instructions for Christian faith. When asked what insight that they are gaining from our journey through these pages, it was overwhelmingly agreed that the impression is that “this faith thing in incredibly hard”. It might not be the most theologically astute answer, but practically speaking (and I always look for the practical) they are right on the mark. My response is, to quote an unknown source “of course it’s hard, if it weren’t hard then everyone would be doing it”.
As one who teaches from it, I’ll be the first to admit that one of the most difficult parts is in interpreting the Book of books, also known as the Bible, also known as the instructions. Let’s be honest, just taking the time to read the instructions is a monumental task. It just may have something to do with the reality that the Christian faith is more readily accepted by women than men. After all, with any given project, who is more likely to try to wade through the instructions, and who is more likely to just toss them with the packing material and head out on their own….just sayin.
Anyway….having been to IKEA a number of times over the past few months, I am reminded me how impossible these instructions can seem to the faint of heart and the unmotivated. You’ve not lived in American culture until you’ve assembled something from IKEA. The tagline for IKEA is “You don’t have to be rich, just smart”. They’re not talking about the wisdom of purchasing their multilingual erector sets either. Their talking smart, as in the ability to put something together completely from worthless instructions and a brilliant inner mechanical intuition…and then to be satisfied when the end product reveals a number of unclaimed screws and bizarre, MacGiver like, tools. They have even given up on printing words with their instructions…they just use pictures.
One of the greatest realizations that a human can ever come to grips with is that faith does not come neatly packaged, nor does it come preassembled. It is a promise of extra screws and somewhat tenuous connections that somehow are going to, at least on the outside, look pretty decent. That is why it is called faith and not assurance. The only thing that we can have assurance in is faith. All of us have lives that are held together with contact cement where screws should go. Many have hinges that need to be shimmed and some of us need special tools to shore up one side or another. The bad rap that IKEA stuff gets is that “it won’t last”. If you count longevity as constructing it and then using it relentlessly without any additional attention, then you’re right…it won’t last, but then again neither would you. In psychiatric circles that’s know as denial. Something purchased there will need adjustment and extra bonding assistance from time to time. The doors might sag and the drawers may hang up, but with some love and attention, it can be back to functional.
I personally believe that IKEA is another metaphor for how we ought to honestly be living our lives, especially when it comes to matters of faith. If you encounter someone who tells you they have absolute assurance of their own faith lives and how they should be lived, I have some advice for you. Run. Or as the Bible puts it, “flee”. I don’t care how much they paid for it, it’s not true. Unless you have screws left over and a bit of wood glue added here or there, it’s not an honest life of faith. I know some who would look down on the IKEA side of life. At least it’s honest.

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