Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Conversation with Titus Ronet (with commentary)


My son, eat honey, for it is good, 
Yes, the honey from the comb is sweet to your taste;
Know that wisdom is thus for you soul;
If you find it, then there will be a future,
And your hope will not be cut off.
Proverbs 24:13-14 

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I have met for 30 minutes with Titus once a week for the past 11 weeks.

He drinks only water. I drink scotch. I like to drink in front of the patients I meet with (unless they have a history of alcoholism) to try and break their perceptions of who I should be to them. I am no father. I am a brother. I may be a priest, but I am made of flesh and blood. I am like them.

Titus infuses me with passion for my work. My heart is lit by his words to set my body free of the inconsequentials of this life. My mind is aflame to be free of the tediousness of my daily physical tasks. So far, it would seem the God of my life put Titus in front of me to save me from a wasteful existence. It would seem so... but what of his soul? Oh God, what of his soul?

Titus doesn't drink. I asked him why once, and he politely told me, like he has in every other situation, that he knew of no reason why he should escape. It is hard not to hear such words as convicting... but, I admit, I need the alcohol to keep my composure in the midst of such a man as him. I need scotch during my encounters not as a means of escape, but as a means of coping with the reality, the here and now, of Titus Ronet.

I've written down the stated words of our latest meeting as best as I could recall them.

Good afternoon, Titus.
Straight for the scotch, today, I see.
You are a handful, good sir. I need a little liquid courage whenever I come into your presence.
...
Do you think I am wrong for drinking?
You know better than to ask such a question.
Why do you say that?
How could there be a wrong decision?
Do you not believe in hypocrisy? Even those most ardent believers in relativism tend to disparage the hypocrite.
What are you doing? You are hear to talk, and you have this hope, this aspiration for yourself. You want me to repent of myself; to join your cause.
Yes. Yes I do. I won't lie to you, Titus.
No, you save the lies for yourself. 
That's not fair.
Take another shot, Doc. 
You think I'm a hypocrite? Is that it? You muddle me together with all your past hurts and experiences. All religion is the same. All men have licentious motives. All men only want. You cannot do this; you cannot simply number me among their count.
Hypocrisy is a two-step process, no?
How do you mean?
A hypocrite performs two actions. First he states a conviction, and then his action betrays that conviction. Fair?
Sure.
Those are two moments in time. Two-steps.
Sure.
I am trying to only see the current outpourings.
You are trying to remove the past, every past, all the time? That's impossible Titus.
I am trying to only function in any one moment. If you knew me, you would know fully why this is so necessary. 
If I knew you? Titus, you can't hold the world away at arm's length. I've spent enough time with you to know who you are. Do not ration me as a mere stranger.
Tell me, Pastor, what is the point of Christianity?
It is a relationship with the very God that formed you, the very God that loves you, the very God that knows you.
What does this relationship look like?
How do you mean?
What does it look like? What does it resemble?
He is with me always. There is not a moment that He is apart from me.
Even now? Is He here with you?
Sure.
He is with you when you lie, when you cheat, when you steal, when you sneak a look at that woman who is not your wife?
I've made no claims of perfection, Titus, you know this better than most. 
And yet He leads everyone in such petty lives. 
Men are flawed.
It is not a matter of being flawed. If God is with you always, then you walk in constant betrayal. That would be an ever queer relationship, no, one based on such continual degradation of the other?
Life is tough. People get distracted. They lose their way.
Ah yes, they forget that God is with them.
Something like that.
I think this is not what your religion is about.
Because of the hypocrisy?
I interest you. I can see it in your beady green eyes. You are not yet satisfied with me. You are not yet quenched. This is tangible alliance. If you were in relationship with this omniscient God in such a way as you pretend, then you would be stuck in a state of continual infatuation, of ceaseless hunger. Christianity is not about this, is it? No. It is about the comfort of the next life --
And you don't need hope for the next life, you need hope for the next. 

(At this point, Titus leaned in over the table. His eyes trapping mine. I was stuck here, where he put me.)


If you believe in this God of yours, why aren't you aching to know him better? Why aren't you all worshiping him day and not? You do not even pray as faithfully as the Muslims do. You do not meditate on him as the Buddhists do. You do not fixate on fidelity as the Mormons do. You do not focus on obedience as the Jews do. If you want to prove to people like me that God is knowable, then why do you act as if there's nothing else you need learn about him? Have you tapped out? Have you seen all there is of the infinite? Are you already quenched? If so, if you know all the recesses of the eternal, then I can tell you now, it is a shitty world, and the eternal is a bore... but something tells me that you won't make claim to knowing it all. And yet you betray your own words, your supposed convictions. You ask of hypocrisy. Sir, I don't believe in it. People do what they think is best. People do what they believe. People nurture the relationships that are pleasing to them. You want to convince me that the God of the universe loves me, then show me what that love looks like. Lovers cannot hide.

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Our textbook for American History was the book "Don't Know Much About History". The title, of course taken from that boo-woppy song, implies a certain disposition of humility.

Proverbs rakes us with a mallet over and over with the beauty of the pursuit of wisdom. We are to do this. We are to seek it out as something insanely precious. Our precious. My precious.

For a brief moment in college, I conceived of a church named called the "Don't Know Much About God Congregation". Such a name would perchance lead to a strong sensation of false-advertising, as that church community would still obviously need to be centered on the Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

But...

I don't know God that well. I know a few things. I guess one could say I know enough. I know facets of His story. I know plot points. I know the story of His Son. I know the story of His people. But there's so much yet to know, yet to learn, yet to acquire, yet to feel.

This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh...

I want to know more. I want to mine for the character of God. I want more of Him, more of His heart, more of His mind, more of His will, more of His story. Is that not what love in motion should look like? Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. This 'allness', is it something that is static? By no means! Everyday my mind is expanding, my capacity for love is growing, my physical body is changing... the limits are in constant flux.

Evangelism is a strange little entity. What, when we tell people about our Lord, are we welcoming them into? I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. Granted, this life is decaying, groaning, helplessly calling out in anticipation of renewal, but it is not all for nothing; the body is not evil, in eternal conflict with the soul. No, God fashioned for us physical bodies, and we will be physical into eternity. But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Into this promise we tell our fellow man of the great future, and what else? Is this the Kingdom not already here? Are we not born again into this present life? And heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, "The kingdom of God has come near to you"...But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

 




God is knowable. 

And there is yet so much to know.

Let us live evangelism as such; that the desperate worship and rich enjoyment of seeking out the Lord in every fabric, every cornerstone of life, would mark as as the Beloved. Let our evangelism be the gait of our search and discovery. Let our evangelism be the outpouring of our growing relationship with the Triune God.

If we call our friends into the kingdom of tomorrow only, are we not deceiving ourselves, living as the dead-in-waiting rather than the alive in Christ?

Is the Spirit not with us? Do we not believe He can be known as a lover?

Pine for God.

Put me like a seal over your heart,
Like a seal on your arm.
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy is as severe as Sheol;
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
The very flame of the LORD.
Song of Solomon 8:6

5 comments:

  1. 'It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia as it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get some idea of it if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a looking-glass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time there were somehow different -- deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know.
    The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can't describe it any better than that: if ever you get there you will know what I mean.
    It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed, and then he cried:
    "I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that is sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!"'
    --------------
    "The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning."
    And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at least they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."

    (both from "The Last Battle")

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