Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Usually you hear that word in reference to someone making a speech or another long diatribe. That something either is, or appears to be disjointed is a criticism that the speaker or writer is failing to make a coherent point in their work. Having been disjointed when I preach and when I write is a given. You just can't be totally coherent all the time, can you? Only the filter of time and a good editor can even begin to bring it all together. Others might have the skill to present well-reasoned and coherent writing. Me, sometimes I stumble in both the spoken and written word. It just happens. With work, practice and discipline, I have over time been able to become "less" disjointed, but I can't claim that it doesn't happen to me on a regular basis.

Still, I find myself wondering on that word and thinking about how it matters in life today. Disjointed is a good way to describe our current societal state. Sure, we have leaders who continually attempt to make sense out of a senseless world, but the chaos-the disjointed state-of reality is always pressing in; and when crises loom the sense of disjointed-ness increases. I have seen that in the Church, and in the wider world of economics, government...well, you name it.

Stumbling into that word today is no accident. I have been "enjoying" the damp and cool weather here in New Jersey for the past couple of days and some of my old injuries from soccer and aikido have been rising up again to remind me of my more reckless days. One injury in particular has been demanding my attention along with concurrent, strong doses of ibuprofen. Just about eight years ago, I was training with a buddy in an aikido dojo. We were practicing ways to reverse technics, something that is quite dangerous. Aikido is a "gentle" martial art, but its techniques of neutralizing or redirecting an attacker's energy are quite powerful. It is not easy to rework something like that into a reaction favorable to the original attacker. That day, the technique was focused on capturing and using a direct-entry technique toward the attacker's advantage. What happened instead was that my shoulder was pulled out of joint.

Something happens to your body when a major limb is disjointed. First, you realize that the limb you have been accustomed to using without difficulty is suddenly not available to you. You will it to move, but the muscles around the joint can't function. The limb is gone. I could, in that moment, move my fingers and wrist...but that was it. The rest was lost to me.

Then comes the pain. The body doesn't like being disappointed and disordered, and when your nerve endings catch up to the event you just experienced the complaint is "heard" in an intense and immediate fashion.

Finally comes a conscious reaction. "This is not good, do something," says your mind to your body. At that moment, I grabbed my own hand and twisted the shoulder back into its socket. Wish I could say there was something noble, or macho about that. It was neither. There was just an unreasoning, semi-conscious effort to move something that was creating discomfort, my injury, into a more peaceful state.

Being physically disjointed at that moment, and sadly again and again now that my shoulders have sustained this experience repeatedly over the course of my lifetime, has taught me something about being emotionally and spiritually disjointed. To be in that place either in heart, soul or mind means experiencing the same interior reactions I just noted that my body went through that day in the dojo.

My problem is that I am stubborn. I think that I can repair the dislocation in my heart or spirit in the same way that I am able to pull and twist my arm back into socket. In reality, that just doesn't happen. The "repair" I create physically is not complete, nor is the emotional or spiritual repair I perform myself. There is now a weakness in the joint because I insisted on doing it myself. I find if I insist on the same reaction to dislocation in my heart or spirit...the wound not only remains, it also increases over time.

This morning, during my prayers, the daily lection from the Hebrew scriptures was from the book of the prophet Ezekiel. In this passage, God recognizes the displacement of the peoples of Israel in their exile from the land. God promises to be the agent of restoration. They will be gathered from the lands to which they were dispersed. God will, upon their return, give them the power and strength to cleanse the land from its detestable things. The people will be given one heart and a new spirit will be put in them. Their hearts of stone will be exchanged for one of flesh. This is done in order that the people will be able to live in faithful relationship to God and in God's will for them. God will bring the healing. God will rejoin the peoples who are willing to accept that call to healing, that call to return from being disjointed to being whole again in God's will..

For those who reject that healing/cleansing, though, the return is that they will receive their rejection back upon their own heads. That weight is theirs. God does not lift it.

I look back on that moment when I pulled my own shoulder back into its socket and I realize that though I may have been quick with an expedient fix, the legacy is a weakened joint. It will never really be whole again. (in fact, that choice nearly cost me my life-but that is another story for another time) As I ponder the places where my heart and spirit have been broken, I hope and pray that I will allow God and other people into that disjointedness enough to allow true healing to take place. Again and again God has demonstrated more than enough mercy and grace to accomplish that end. Now, it is up to me and others like me to open up enough to let that correction be jointed once more, whole in spirit, heart and flesh.

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