Thursday, March 2, 2006

Grasping the elephant

There's an old quote whose author I've been unable to verify. Someone asked a sculptor how he was able to sculpt an elephant out of a block of marble. His answer was that it was easy, that he started with a block and chipped away everything that didn't look like an elephant. I ripped that quote for my profile page, but it crossed my mind again recently.

We are what we are. Somewhere below the marble shell, I am an elephant. (That quote's also been used for angels and a few other things, but an elephant will do.) I'm taking a couple days out of town to clear my head and get away from it all. Somewhere in there, I hope to grasp the pachyderm. Of course, there's another story about three blind men being asked to describe what they found in front of them. One mistook the tail for a rope. Another said the trunk was a snake. The last identified one of the legs as a tree. I have to wonder what corner of my elephant I'll discover first. That has got to be one butt-fugly block of marble to endure so much refinement and still be so misunderstood.

This all floated to the top when I showed up at Vineyard Community Church in Marietta, GA this afternoon. I have a friend who's just planted here a few weeks ago. Like three people know him. I dropped his name and said I was early for The Violet Burning's show. They offered me some wifi and drinks out of the fridge, and I crashed on their sofa for the afternoon. Having been planted at a Vineyard for three years, I can walk into just about any Vineyard and be accepted like this.

I'll hand them this much. When you say, "I go to such-and-such Vineyard", there is an understanding that you are cut from a certain cloth -- sculpted from a certain marble, if you will -- that you and they hold in common. It's oddly even farther-reaching than being a Catholic or a Baptist. The whole denominational division of Christianity (I will accept for discussion's sake that Vineyard is a denomination) introduced some oddness into the family. This is one group of believers with such a common, natural, culturally real personality that just the name itself carries as much familiarity as skater or surfer or cowboy. I'm no longer in a Vineyard, though I'm in a Vineyard-like independent church. I may actually come to miss having a denominational name that carries so much familiarity.

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