Exegeting Your Life

You don’t have to spend much time on life’s cause and effect treadmill, to realize that making it up as you go along is like a Vegas weekend – the odds are going to catch up with you sooner or later. So either you can choose to learn to read the road signs of your life, or you can just pretend that the current road your on will eventually lead you to where you want it to end up. But whether it’s about reading the road signs or reading the tea leaves, it’s all a matter of interpretation – so maybe it’s about time we all begin to take more seriously our role as interpreters.

Linguists will tell you that it is seldom, when translating from one language into another, to arrive at a simple one for one translation – that in fact an accurate translation requires contextualizing the intent. Given that every language is embedded with subtle shades of cultural idiom, a faithful translation must take into account the prevailing customs and ethos, in order to even begin to convey intent. Then add to that, the multiple layers of the immediate context of the topic being discussed – the translator must have a good working knowledge of the particulars of the topic in question. For those exegeting scripture, they have the added complication of trying to divine the ancient cultural mindset . . . without imposing their own modern thought process.

So now let’s imagine for a moment that I applied the forensics of exegesis to your life, attempting to inductively contextualize your intent – using nothing more than your words and deeds set against the backdrop of our current culture . . . would you be able to recognize yourself at the conclusion of my interpretation? Is it easily apparent to others what you intend your life to be? It is rare for a person living with the disconnect of cognitive dissonance to ever realize their conflicted condition . . . without a crisis tipping point forcing their hand. This is why it’s so important that you exegete your life as you go – in order to discover whether or not your living intentionally.

3fcd8f90952a19354e6b0c4b58be99e3_lThere are many hard humbling questions we must be willing to face, questions pregnant with expectation of what God might be calling us to within the context we’ve been given. Culturally, we find ourselves at a unique point in history, where our anthropological moorings are not only being re-defined, but are being re-invented out of whole cloth. So in this flux of context, there grows an acute need to anchor what you believe, and to intentionally live out your calling . . . to strip down your confession to the essentials.

It is our spiritual discipline as sojourners to soul-search. Along with St. Augustine, we must freely confess that there are rooms in our heart we have not allowed God into, and that the key to those rooms has long been lost, so we must invite God to break down those doors, and make of our lives an outpost of his presence. In this way our discipline of faith isn’t merely a vague imagining of what might happen – but an intentional longing after God . . . a longing that we might be changed.

This is a song from a Mo Leverett project that I recently finished producing.
I love the vulnerability of it – the honesty of it’s self-evaluation.


Out of the Corner of My Eye

The resident phobia of the artist is the consuming idea that it’s all been done before, that it’s all been used up, and all that remains is a derivative rehashing. It’s all just overworked metaphors and clichés, employed ad nauseum. How many times can you paint a sunset or a bowl of fruit? How many love songs can there possibly be? Surely such redundancy has to begin to erode the significance of the very thing you’re trying to explain in your art, until you think a tedious parody is all you could ever possibly muster. And yet, the artist persistently breaks the bonds of such a gravitational pull.

So I enter this field that has been plowed thousands of times before and plant my seeds in the belief that something new could grow, something with a simple beauty, with a practical subtle elegance — something that once ingested will cause something else to grow . . . and go much farther than the limitations of my reach. But I can tell already that this ground is hard and resistant, as it is a winter field left fallow beneath an all too familiar sky. Even so, I till this earth and toss my seed, and wait . . . to see if it will render a new Advent song.

violinWhen I look directly at Christmas, I find a storehouse of memories and touchstones, an intertwining of personal experiences with my faith traditions — and over the years there is a discernable cumulative effect. From here the path forks — these accumulating memories and touchstones either serve to enrich our appreciation of the unfathomable depths of meaning this season offers, or they fade into the wallpaper and become the predictable white noise that begins to hum in the back of your head during the month of December. Sometimes when you look directly at something it comes into focus for a moment and then begins to blur – this is especially true of familiar things . . . we just allow our minds to fill in the blanks.

It is out of the corner of my eye where I begin to see something different, something that my longing for a more visceral experience of an incarnate God might find – a God who enters my world of humble means as a peasant child born amidst the scandal of a teenage pregnancy. This image does not come to me in the sterility of theology, or a loftily orated sermon, it comes to me in the crushing imperatives of everyday life, asking of me – how does this child fit into your life, even now? And just before I can reflexively respond (allowing my mind to fill in the blank) – I get a catch in my throat, and realize my words will only be empty . . . that in truth this question is far more profound than any platitude I might speak. So this Advent I come to this manger in the silence of my meditation, trying to reimagine how my whole life could, even now, be remade by the birth of this infant king.

This is an Advent song I wrote with my old friend Mo Leverett a few years back

Let the Angels Bring the Music
Words: Greg Doles & Music: Mo Leverett

There is a star that leads me home
Along a path I’ve learned to trace
It shines the way that Christmas can fill an empty space
If I open up my window
And if my mind is clear
I can hear a song of angels floating on the atmosphere

So let the angels bring the music
Of an ancient melody
All of creation knows this song by heart
And teaches it to you and me

It’s like a gift I had forgotten
Or a song I used to sing
A promise slipped into my pocket of a chance to start again
But if I only squint my eyes
Just as the evening fades
I can see those angels gather over where the child is laid

So let the angels bring the music
Of an ancient melody
All of creation knows this song by heart
And teaches it to you and me

There’s a hollow in this mystery
Where you can hear a baby’s cry
And where a mother sweetly whispers a gentle lullaby
And if my wounded heart is open
And if I’ll lay aside my pride
I can know this mystery’s beauty, dream of that silent night

So let the angels bring the music
Of an ancient melody
All of creation knows this song by heart
And teaches it to you and me