Transcendence. If you've hung out with certain groups of post-modern young people, you've probably heard of this. It seems to have become the 8th virtue of my generation. In a way, this makes perfect sense. Post-modernism is defined by the fact that no one really seems to know what it means. After all, the only people who claim to know what it is are people who 1. Invented the term and 2. Are not themselves post-modern.
But as i was saying, it makes extraordinary sense that a generation characterised by its lack of characteristics would, at least in some areas, find the idea of throwing off labels so compelling. I understand that urge myself. To be free, to throw off the weight of cultural, communal, and personal expectations. To be, to think, to act unhindered, to escape to highest heavens and darker depths on a whim... yes, that would do nicely.
And yet, when I think about that more closely, I wonder how much difference there is between my desire for transcendence and my habit of escapism. To be free is one thing, to be meaningful is quite another.
Let's be honest, you and I. My motives are mixed. They always have been, they most likely will be until the rebirth of Creation. And one of my many motives (which I am fully convinced God used against me) in pursuing a mission trip was a desire for transcendence. To be more than the one my community sees me as, to be more than my history. By escaping to another country, another cause, the freshest of fresh starts, I hoped, at least in part, to find my new self waiting on the other side of transcendence, radiant and shiny and gently glowing purple in the brilliant white haze I thought was adventure.
But there is no such thing as a journey of self discovery, no fresh start waiting at the end of the road. I've gone as far as I can get from my home, to the most remote major city on earth, only discover that what I was looking for was living with me every day.
Location doesn't matter. Plans don't matter. Believe it or not, attitude doesn't matter. There is no transcendence. There is only you, and there is only me. And while I may not be stuck with you, I will always be stuck with me. The same labels I acquired in the Pacific Northwest have found their way to Australia.
Beyond transcendence, there is only ness. Ness you love, ness you loathe, ness which has been created uniquely and especially for the pleasure of the Sculptor. Ness which is being reformed in the image of the Artist. Ness which causes the Musician to burst forth in song. Ness which causes the Father to hitch up his robe and run down the road.
Ness which has no need for transcendence.
I have heard people claim that we are all just stories in the end. But if we are a stories, we are a choose-your-own adventure we cannot restart. The question is, can you handle it?
Can you handle the truth there is no changing who you are? Can you handle the fact there may be something of your ness that will never fade away?
Can you handle the fact that there will be days where it is a genuine struggle to give yourself grace?
Because there is no transcendence, no escape, no freedom waiting on the other side.
But there is grace. There is mercy anew. And there is intense love, extreme joy, a call for sacrifice, and a never-ending climb.
Because the real truth is this: beyond transcendence is this simple fact. There is you, and there is God.