Boxed Inside The Clean Club

(Due to summer busyness, I’m rerunning an April post.)

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I’ve never been much of a club person. The main reason is probably because the majority of  clubs in the small towns I’ve lived in are usually craft-oriented. I’ve lived among whole colonies of Martha Stewart clones.  These amazing women organize clubs for quilters, knitters, scrapbookers, beaders, potters, wool-spinners, candlemakers, soap carvers and twiggy wreathers, to name a few.

But never anything for someone with my particular disability. You see, I was born with an unfortunate predisposition to clumsiness and fumbly-fingeredness.

I am handicraft impaired.

There is no humiliation quite as raw as the type that occurs when someone like me struggles through a Friendly Plastic jewelry making class only to find that their modeling plastic is anything but friendly. Especially when the year is 1989 and everyone else has produced glorious purple, fuchsia, and silver-colored earring medallions with their plastic chunks. My medallions look like toucan poop on juice can lids.

There is only one club involving craft-making in which I can achieve a modicum of success. It is called Kindergarten. My back and legs may cramp from crouching on the tiny chairs, and the cracker portions may be unsatisfyingly small, but the oohs and ahhs I receive from my tablemates when I hold up a completed paper bag pig puppet make it all worthwhile. I am at home in the safety scissors crowd.

Sewing defeats me before I even start. I cried my way through sewing in 4H and got a generous D in ninth grade Home Ec when the teacher pointed out that I had sewed the skirt waistband onto the hem end. I modeled that fiasco with a Mrs. Wiggin’s gait as the darts constricted my knees. (Does anyone else out there remember Carol Burnett as Mrs. Wiggins and how Tim Conway’s Mr. Tudball said Mrs. HuhWiggins?)

Suffice it to say that I’m happiest when I’m outside a crafting club, rather than inside where, even though the members are sweet and kind and the coffee is delicious, I just don’t fit in.

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The most notable member of the mega-righteous Pharisee Club was Saul–later known as Paul the Apostle.  As a Pharisee, Paul lived and breathed the Old Covenant practices and prided himself on mastering the art of regulation-keeping. He reported that he was “faultless” in his legalistic righteousness. This extreme legalism also blinded him. Similar to the other strict Pharisees, he had no vision beyond what he presumed God to be.

Metaphorically speaking, Paul and his Pharisee cronies lived in a big box.  Orderly, spacious, fenced and hedged, it was their Law Clubhouse. It had taken centuries to build, but was nearly complete by the time Jesus arrived. The Law Clubhouse became an elite retreat for the brightest and best of the Pharisees. They stayed separated from the rest of society in the immaculate building and admitted entrance only to those who conformed to their high standards.

As nice a place as the Law House was, however, its interior was always dark. And that was exactly what led to the blindness of the Pharisees. Like moles living underground, the Pharisees had no need for eyesight as long as they stayed inside their familiar, dark dwelling. They could feel their way around just fine.

Inside the Law House, Paul was the supervisor of the house’s security team, ordering various punishments and death sentences to the pagans who tried to gain entrance illegally. The blasphemers who, even though they didn’t submit to proper rule-keeping, claimed to be children of God. Being that sort of commander was hard work, but somebody had to do it. And, in spite of, or maybe because of his blindness, Paul did it well.

Unfortunately though, like an Olympian whose promising athletic future is brought to a screeching halt by a serious injury, Paul’s career was derailed on the road to Damascus. In a curious twist, his Pharisaical, spiritual blindness would be zapped with a dose of physical blindness. He would be struck blind by a LASIK beam so powerful it would knock him right out the Clubhouse and out beyond the perfect hedges. When he would finally regain his sight, he would find himself among the clumsy pagans he had previously punished. And he would surprise himself by enjoying their company.

Even more astonishing would be his face-to-face with Jesus. Once his blindness was cured, Paul would see that Jesus was the Messiah and that Jesus had chosen to live outside the immaculate Clubhouse.

Outside the rules.

Outside the traditions.

Outside the box.

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Pharisaism is an equal opportunity disease. It infects Christians of all persuasions, denominations, and non-denominations. Its symptoms are not necessarily manifested in the practices of individual churches, but in the prevailing attitudes of individual members. I believe God is happy with the differences He has created in the hearts of believers, so we shouldn’t judge whether or not Pharisaism exists in certain congregations based on their worship preferences.

Unfortunately though, Pharisaism has definitely sickened some churches. These are the ones with a number of people as ill as I used to be. The ones with the amazing ability to craft gorgeous church services and build frameworks on which to display their immaculate standards. Places where even though the members are kind and sweet, and the coffee is delicious, the  orthodoxy-impaired among us just don’t fit in.

Places and people that the struggling, fumbly-fingered sinners steer away from in the same way I run from an army of kindly scrapbookers carrying their nauseatingly organized supply boxes.

But that’s okay. I’m perfectly content to spend my time crafting a poem–an ode to God–while waiting in the car in a Home Depot parking lot. A lot of inspiration can occur when one’s husband is dreaming big in the store’s power tool aisle. And sometimes, even though my poems are now written outside a church clubhouse, they still turn out theologically correct.

At least my kindergarten friends think so.

Our family photos. Scrapbook this, Martha Stewart!

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