Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Hiding Places

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I am searching to find the words to express what I'm thinking. First I will tell the story of what happened and by the time I'm done with the narrative I may have connected the mental dots.

Randomly, about two weeks ago I got an email from an old friend who now lives in back in Europe.  We were roommates for about four years. I rarely see him anymore and he isn't the greatest of communicators.

The e-mail was a virus that had taken over his address book and was replicating itself and spreading through contact list like spores thrown into an April breeze.

I contacted Tony to let him know.  He thanked me. A few days later, Tony's wife sent me an unusually personal e-mail. She said that Tony had longed to speak to an old (and mutual) friend Bob, but Bob had seemed very evasive.  Tony and Bob's friendship goes back even longer than Tony and mine. But Bob had disappeared off the face of the earth abruptly about 15 years ago.  Bob and his wife had been missionaries in China for almost ten years before they suddenly vanished.

Maria pleaded with me, "Please! Can you find Bob? This would be so helpful for Tony . . . just to know how his friend is doing."

I do have some act for finding people so, I thought I would try.  I had tried to find Bob for my own satisfaction and had failed. I mean I knew were he was, but all his contact information had been erased as if he was in a witness protection program.

To make a long story short, I started my investigation and within three days found someone who speaks directly to Bob. However, this friend said, in so many words, that Bob wanted to be left the hell alone and all his contact information was private. He did promise to contact Tony if I would send Tony's e-mail via this friend to Bob.

But here is the thing that has been on my mind ever since.  You see, Bob was one of the most jealous Navigator disciples I had ever known.  He was "hard core" if you know what I mean. He gave himself no breaks.  He was tough on himself as he had been tough on others as a Special Forces drill Sargent.

I don't know what happened on the mission field. I have to read between the lines to try and make sense of it all.  I did hear that he had some type of mental breakdown and became a recluse afterwards.

I ache to talk to him. I had a failed missionary experience myself so I think I have something to bring to the table. But there seems to be hostility in attempts to speak to him and the writing on the wall says let it be.

Somehow, there is this great awkwardness and even weirdness within Christendom that is hard to put into words. I saw it a lot when I was a Navigator. Where a great leader would disappear and then reappear a couple of years later with a new wife half his age. But we weren't allowed to ask any questions because somehow that was God's mystery and pyramid of authority . . . where only a small inner circle has the gnosis of what the hell is going on and everyone suppose to act like they don't care.

I've seen these weird things play out in numerous churches . . . secret whispers between the power-brokers about things that seem to make no sense. Like the speck of dust at the center of a convoluted snowflake I have the feeling that something not so good sits at the middle of these confusing pictures. Then those specks of dust are wrapped up in so much spirituality that it looks like the glaze of lace fanning out from that snowflake. It is that strange mystery. The more "spiritual" the people the more weird the stuff is around them.

Somehow this friend of Bob and mine, the one who delivered the message to Bob (not Tony), told me that Bob has to be let alone and I should never try to contact him again. It is like there are some spiritual principles at work here . . . but none make any sense except one . . . and that is Bob is hiding. He is hiding because of shame. He has shame because he totally had misunderstood the gospel that he was sharing with the Chinese. He wasn't godly afterall . . . nor was I . . .  nor is anyone.  

I won't try and reach this old friend again. I will just let it go. We will each grow old and die in our own towns in our own states far apart and we will never communicate again. It is a crying shame. I want to comfort him.  But we Christians are taught to be perfect . . . or to hide . . . and nothing in between.

On another note, this week is our big art festival and I've missed the entire thing. It was due to other obligations, too difficult to explain here. But I find refuge in the web of the artist.  For it is the artist that can express what we mortals can not though our meager words.  I can look at an incredible painting, a sculpture or even hear music that speaks to that place that is inexpressible. It is sort of how Charismatics think of speaking in tongues. But even the novelist are the same type of artist because, while they use words, they spin words in ways that we can not.  I am less rich for having missed the art and I hope that I make it a priority next year.

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