“No matter where you go…there you are,” stated the character Buckaroo Banzai in the 1984 cult film The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. This troubling truism has become a bit of a mantra for me as I stumble through life.
I frequently have too much going on. In the flurry of activity, a nagging voice hums in the background, I can do this better, I could be more efficient, I should do this, I ought to do that.
One of my greatest sins is to put more faith in my ideas than I do in God. Recently, I did this when I believed if I changed a few parts of my life—the setting, my workload, my stress level—then beautiful mountains of organization and productivity would pop up in the landscapes of my days. I’d become a whole new person with amazing new habits and time-management skills. I would write every day. I would submit everything before the deadline. I would live a more balanced life, a healthy mix of solitude and community, of service and contemplation.
“If only,” I believed, “the setting and the stress change, then I can reset the structures of my days and discover a disciplined and balanced life. If I give up the things that take my time away from writing, then I can find a new way to serve better and more often, to give of my gifts in the way I desire.”
It didn’t take long for me to fail and encounter reality. It actually makes no difference that I now work in a cozy log cabin on a quiet lakeshore. I still waste days.
“No matter where you go… there you are.” The movie-made mantra is heard in the depths of me, in response to my anguished prayer, during the regular wrestling matches with the demons of my limitations. Despite my temptation to twist my heart around the truth, to maneuver around the uncomfortable fact that I am a character constructed from all shades of darkness and light—a stew of annoying habits and surprising masterpieces—I can’t escape. I remain who I am.
I groan and realize I believed in a lie. I put hope in my human constraints. I ignored the Truth. Perhaps I despised the Truth.
The Truth, another name for God, the only thing I am called to really believe in, shows me my struggles shall remain my struggles no matter where I am. I persist. I remain as I have always been: disjointed, flailing, and anguished. A mix of moods and moments. A stew of success and wasted days. I remain me, just as God made me.
“No matter where you go… there you are.” Again and again, the Spirit seems to point me toward a new spiritual practice: grow in self-acceptance. Each time I accept the truth of who I am, I am offering a yes to God. I am acknowledging God as most powerful. When I accept that, somehow, God called me—gifted and messed-up me—to a life of service and sacrifice for the greater good, I am honoring the beauty of God’s creation. I am being a steward of myself when I admit I am weak and broken and also capable and beautiful. God knew—God knows—who I am completely, better than any other being. And yet, amazingly, he called me anyway. God knew who he was getting when I gave my halfway begrudging, halfway eager yes, and God received all of me—especially the parts of me that get in the way of being kind, grateful, and generous.
Spirit nudges me: “Yes, stay committed to the craft of creativity and chip away at improving in your habits. Remember that writing, service, and kindness take practice,” the Spirit says, “and so practice with the same sort of sacrifice and pain athletes give. But please, dear child, accept yourself and give each part of you, broken and beautiful, over to me. I, the Spirit of creation, can use all of you and all you give for the upside-down, inside-out kingdom, where the wounded are made healers and stuttering prophets lead nations to freedom.”
With nudges like that, I have learned, gradually, that the craft of creativity is its own sort of communion with the Divine. After I admit the truth of my dysfunction, my desperate need for God’s help and grace, I can be blessed and shared for all. Bread and wine are blessed, broken, and shared, and in each act of creativity we aim to bless God’s people with beauty, wonder, and Truth that points to the depth and mystery of God. We aim to break down the structures that confine us from being free, to break open the Truth of human experience. We then share, vulnerably, of our creations, shaking and uncertain about how—or if—what we give will be received.
The communion of creativity is its own sort of discipleship. We remain faithful and show up—even while we lug along our tendency to avoid what bores and pains, as is shown in the flickering of our fingers around on Facebook, rotting our efforts and distracting us from the flow of the Spirit. Still we return. We show up and try again. We are floppy as we follow the Spirit, but we are faithful. We offer gifts on altars and try to trust that God can use our meager, choppy offerings and efforts for the greater good, even though we had dumbly made an idol out of an idea and thought we could change ourselves.
“No matter where you go… there you are” is true. It is also true that God is there.