The great moments in my life are marked by redheads. My younger brother, much like a delectable salad dressing, is an Asian Ginger. I married into a family of wild redheads. Most of the awesome people I know rock shades along the spectrum of strawberry blonde to deep auburn.
Redheads are a rare and extraordinary people.
So when my redheaded friend Lydia set me up on a friend date with her redheaded friend Afshaan, I knew it would be legendary. Double the ginger, double the awesome, right? Right.
Afshaan is a delicious mixture of seeming contradictions: she is a redhead from India. She is softspoken and sarcastic. She is from Dorchester, but she is stylish (Southie burn!) And she is a writer who doesn't blog!
I had my first taste of Afshaan's deep and ancient wisdom (probably absorbed via osmosis while she roamed the hills of rural India) in a college creative writing course. I have been jonesing for another hit ever since, so when I saw an opportunity to force her into guest blogging for me, I jumped at it.
I was not disappointed.
Afshaan does not regularly grace the world with her writing, so if you like what you read, make sure to leave a comment to guilt her into doing so more often. Peer pressure is a powerful tool and together we can make a difference.
If you think her writing sucks, just do the polite thing by keeping your stupid opinion to yourself and instead harass her cool (brunette) musician boyfriend at http://reverendmusic.com/ . After all, he put her up to this.
Take it away, Ging.
I've been reading my way - slowly and not too surely - through Genesis. I find the stories can be confusing and sometimes downright infuriating. As these people, these Israelites, are making their rambling way across the literal and personal deserts of their lives, I find myself getting a little... well, judge-y. Time and again I'm so annoyed and disappointed with these characters - why don't they keep their word? Why do they ignore God? Why do they live in fear? Why do they do these terrible things?
I was starting to get a little fed up with these so-called people of God when I was struck by something. What if - for some crazy reason - someone decided that my
life was worth writing about and documenting for the ages - an account that people would read for the next, I don't know, thousands of years, over and over again to try eke out some meaning, some spiritual truths. What would the story say? Well, first of all, kept to the bare facts, it would probably be a little boring. But also, it would probably be confusing and infuriating (sound familiar?). If someone were to actually write down my daily reactions (or non-reactions) to God, my repeated bungling of my life, my absolute forgetfulness of the amazing promises of God that are waiting to be claimed, they would probably be disappointed. Why didn't she keep her promise to that person? Why did she take the easy way out in that work situation? What is she so afraid of in life? Wait, HOW old is she and WHY doesn't she have her drivers' license yet?
(This is a fact: I am 26 and haven't gotten my drivers' license yet.)
What if the petty little mistakes and deceptions of my day to day life, the lies I tell others and myself, the lack of regard I show to God and my friends (not to mention enemies!) - what if they were written down into a story and read by millions of people? Oh, it would be embarrassing, devastating. What I've grown to appreciate about reading through the Scriptures is that they don't shy away from the complete and utter failures of their characters. How was - on the one hand - David a man after God's own heart, and - on the other hand - a coward, an adulterer, a deceitful and disloyal friend? How am I - on one hand - called beloved, a child of God, worth fighting for, worthy of even death on a cross, and - on the other hand - an anxious, petty, fearful person who often chooses the path of least resistance even if it means being deceitful to myself or to others.
How is this possible?
What I've realised as I'm reading through these ancient stories, is that what makes these stories beautiful is God.
Are the stories of the Bible tales of perfect, sinless people who do perfect, sinless things? No, because it's a story about humans - and let's be real: perfection, sinlessness, and humans just don't coexist. No, it is a story - a journey, if you will (see, Marri, I'm incorporating the theme!) - of broken people traversing broken lands and making mistakes and being redeemed by God. Time and again God is faithful to them - allows for and covers their ugly humanity with His grace. Is a story about a group of brothers throwing their brother into a well and then selling him into slavery a beautiful one? Nope, not if it stops there. Is a story about God saving that forsaken brother and raising him into a position of dignity and power and growing him into a wise, compassionate, and godly man so that one day he might save the lives of those very brothers who betrayed him and relieve them of their hunger and shame - is that a beautiful story? Yes, absolutely. God consistently makes the small magnificent, restores the forsaken, emboldens the fearful, is a companion the lonely, makes the plodding pilgrimage into an adventurous journey - in short, He makes the unbeautiful beautiful.
And the most amazing thing - the Big Story that all these little stories are woven into - is that through Jesus, God did the impossible - he broke the time-tested equation that sinlessness and humanity do not coexist. He gave us a saviour who was human and could understand the daily aches and pains of being in these not-too-trusty bodies of ours. But he also gave us a way out: through his life, showed us an alternative way of living that was so beautiful it seemed (and is) impossible but for total reliance on God. Because God understands that weare beautiful and capable of acts of immense dignity and compassion, that we can grow - but he wants us to understand what we often sort of vaguely keep at the back of our minds: that true goodness, true dignity, true holiness is only possible through Him. Without His grace flooding our lives and filling in the broken, empty spaces, our lives - my life - are sort of just disconnected episodes of failures, half-hearted attempts at "being better," unkept resolutions, frustrating relationships.
No, he refuses to leave us at that.
He comes in there and adds colour and depth and joy and bravery and ADVENTURE! He says, "Come with me!" and we sort of look at him a little befuddled and scared and he's waving his hands and saying "No, seriously, come here!" and then we enter into His presence and you know what?
There's nothing like it.
He is calling us into His presence to make sense of our boring or maybe brazen lives, to take us in and make us beautiful. He is weaving our stories into His.