Rich Paxson

The Discussion Forum assignment requests four statements about the writer. One of the four statements must be a lie.

Here are my four statements. Although I’ve lived most of my life in a rural environment, I am originally from Chicago’s south side. Volunteering at my church where I am the Treasurer is important to me. Most of the items on my “bucket list” involve traveling to places a long way from my home in Iowa. Following the rules, or at least knowing the rules before breaking them, is important to me.

The last two readings in our text for this exercise are: “Doubt, crises of faith, and occlusions of the self,” and “Looking at faith through the eyes of the one who gives us faith.” James views “occlusions of the self” through the lens of doubt which leaves one “a bit unmoored.”

“So I want to make the point that what we call crises of faith are, more often than not, far better described as occlusions of the self. They are bits of us cracking up, and because of that we are a bit unmoored as to who we are and how we belong.”

Initially, I thought of James’s crises of faith, or ‘occlusions of the self,’ in the context of restorative medical procedures. I thought of lying prone on my back in the dentist’s chair listening to the hygienist detailing various occlusions in my mouth. I remembered speaking with my cardiologist after the angiogram revealed a significant occlusion in a coronary artery. Occlusions are interfaces occurring between the upper and lower teeth, or plaque blocking coronary artery blood from getting to the heart muscle.

What are the outcomes when a dentist adjusts a misaligned dental occlusion; or, the surgeon cracks up the bits of surrounding plaque that occlude an artery feeding the heart muscle? Acute or persistent pain in the jaw subsides, restoring proper speech and nourishment for the body. Life-giving blood flows to a weakening heart. Does it follow then that breaking up ‘social other occlusions’ opens possibilities of awareness and knowledge of God’s love?

God gives us faith, which comes first as we recognize the Other other’s presence in our lives. After recognition comes inclination to respond. Then comes the ability to pay attention intentionally, to repent in response to God’s call from the peripheries of our lives. Leaving out the “v” in lives, as I did just now in a typo, changed from the peripheries of our ‘lives’ to from the peripheries of our ‘lies.’

The lies of our temporal facades reflect occlusions built up through long interaction with the social other. They block the eternal world of God’s timeless love in action, the world where we are free to live as if death were not. Breaking up these occlusions, these interfaces between the self and Creation, opens the Way for Christlike occlusions to approach us with the companionship of the Other other’s gift of faith not only at Eucharist but anywhere and everywhere we are open to God’s abiding Presence.