The alarm goes off and the day begins.
Routines begin too. Routines of getting ready for the day, walking the dog, eating breakfast, and perhaps enough time to contemplate a Bible reading, pray, or simply watch some morning news.
The tone is set by the time the garage door rolls up and I back the car into the street. What to listen to on the morning commute? Music? If so, a particular rock, alternative, or perhaps simply classical today? A podcast perhaps? I tend to avoid the radio due to all the stupid or vulgar hosts rambling on about celebrity news, politics, or platitudes of successful living. As if middle-class, suburban life was the pinnacle of existence.
Driving out of the neighborhood is like a drop of rain that slowly finds its way first into a trickle of water, then a stream, then a creek, and finally a river on its way toward downtown. One steel raindrop among thousands of others, amassing together in the rituals of industrialized, suburban sprawling, cities.
Finally arriving in my assigned parking spot most mornings finds me having to unwind a bit, already, after the past hour of alert avoidance and comic frustration at the chaos of traffic. The flood, or absence depending on the day, of emails awaits as I power up the computer and plug myself into the ergonomically approved chair at my desk. Luckily, I no longer have a cubicle.
Phones ring, emails are sent, conversations had with inquirers, students, and colleagues. Deadlines come and go while other events are prepared for and occur. Goals are reached, or not met. Work happens. Sometimes a conversation will occur which is particularly transcendent, bringing some form of purpose, meaning, benefit, or blessing to the gluttony of tedium. Other days, all is silent except for the small talk of business and sales with strangers.
Lunch is the desired, the looked forward to, escape from the desk. Whether simply going across to the student lounge with my packed sandwich, salad, or yogurt or out to grab a bite out, alone or with company, provides respite from the glare of back lit monitors. Perhaps I spend the meal reading a novel, which is blissful. Other times my mind is so muddled with work lunch kind of just happens. The mind just checks out for a bit, watching birds flit along the railing or pick up scraps of food to take back to their nests.
The afternoon normally drones on much like the mornings, except less productive since I am a morning person. Not unproductive, just less productive. But then again, what does productivity even mean? Is my value as a person measured solely by my production for a faceless company, school, or organization? Whatever motivates you, I guess, is what is important. I know we are working on getting out of debt, which means an income is needed. However, I refuse to let these details, this mundane aspect of societally-created life, keep me bound in its clutches.
So, by the time the reverse rush-hour is over and I enter the house to an excited, energetic dog where I wish I could absorb some of that energy toward other endeavors. Mostly, I'm just tired, emotionally and physically from the monotony. I rue sitting at the desk the next day, hoping for something that keeps me active. I long to hike with Amanda and Sonora, or perhaps simply to sit out back and stare at the stars, thinking of how there has to be something else that was intended for daily activities than what we've made it. I long to help others pursue their passions, and create equal opportunity for everyone to do so. Systems which oppress this possibility, creating classes, castes, or financial servitude are despised, stripping the complexity of humanity into utilitarian systems of efficiency or the profit of a dollar. No organization or government is eternal, too big to fail, nor should it ever be thought to be. Morally, if preserving the economy, making a profit, or ensuring an enduring organization, government, or church trumps the liberty, faith, and possibility of human community composed of interdependent individuals, then we seriously need to look in the mirror and check ourselves.
In just this way I am recognizing the need to move away from routines and commitments towards responsible living. Life is not about creating universal rules that are applicable for stability, but in understanding stability and rules as tools which lead and guide us to the real matters of character, eternal truth, and person-hood. In short, this is why Jesus can say the entire Torah can be summed up with loving God and others. Virtues and vices speak to character even if they are worked out in violation of, or compliance with, a law. Obedience is much more than compliance. Obedience understands a deep responsibility, a respect for, the lawgiver. It is making that lord of your life. Such is why you cannot serve both God and money. Or why false idols, be it sex, drugs, rock and roll, or religious piety, are to be avoided.
When I struggle with my schedule, I struggle with my false idols and what I make lord of life. What is life lived for? Are my actions daily showing a commitment to the American way of life (since I'm in America) or to what I value and who I know? What happens when they no longer hold any sway in my heart or mind? When only my intrinsic being, relationships with others for their own sake, and God matter? I'm glad God doesn't use a zero-tolerance policy with us, but continues to pursue, call, and attempt to reconcile us with him and each other throughout my failures, wanderings, and inadequacies.
What would life look like if we stopped trying to meet other standards, have more or better, and just lived? I'm tired of trying to meet perceptions of what a successful life should look like, but that doesn't mean I don't want to help. I very much want to help, but I want to help people live their lives in love. Bearing witness to their creator and redeemed from the ways we tend to live for ourselves or some other drastically different idol. Either of these ways is sin. Sin is simply turning away from God even if that turning away is cloaked in piety or legalism.
I'm not here to judge others I don't know about whether they are honestly on this path, but I am here for those I know, and for myself, to check intentions, actions, and passions to see if they are worldly, fleshly, or divinely, purposed.
Tomorrow, the routine will start again, and the tone will be set once more. To pray and yield to my lord, and allow that to determine my actions is necessary. Otherwise, tomorrow will simply be today remixed. I need the hope that it is not, that life is something other than the American dream. I reject that dream for one much closer to Martin Luther King's. I am in the process of deconstructing what I must in this rejection, to live with only one lord, my God, but in connection with everyone else I know. Love God, love others. It is more than a catchy phrase, cliche, or platitude.
Will I step out in faith to change? Will you?