Fall 2005 Issue
Creation Is Eagerly Waiting
In case youíre not familiar with that last passage it is where Jesus is raising Lazarus from the dead. Jesus is calling him out from the tomb where Lazarus had been buried.
There are those who say the atrocious treatment we have been giving to all of Godís creation has now put us into our graves. That ecologically we are already dead, but the news has not quite caught up to us yet. Maybe, maybe not, but we have been "dead" and in the tombs of ignorance, apathy, and greed with regard to the rest of Godís creation, for a long, long time. Perhaps it is time for the "children of God" to step forth from those tombs, "come out" and embrace life with a new perspective.
WHO AM I?
When Jesus asked his disciples "who do you say that I am" (Matthew 16:15, Mark 8:29, Luke 9:20), I do not think he was confused and looking for guidance or confirmation. Yet, we as Christians often ask the church "who am I" in a "what am I supposed to be" sort of way. The end result of this is we wear a lot of masks in the Christian Church.
Of all the ills beseeching the Christian Church, I believe this is one of the most destructive. Externally and internally, it is where we get the reputation for being a bunch of hypocrites. Look at most any category of societies ills, and Christians will likely be participating at roughly the same percentage as the general population. What does this say about us? It says we are real human beings just like everybody else. Most of us know this. But, we are afraid to speak openly about it in churches or Christian circles because of the finger pointing and judging from other "masked" Christians who have been taught to play the game. If you are like me, being "a new creation in Christ" does indeed have a tangible reality, but how or what is taking place remains a mystery, since almost all of the old "stuff" is still there to be dealt with. That is just the truth of it, and there is no reason to pretend otherwise. Growth depends on honesty.
Making that point, in his book "Amazing Grace" Philip Yancey tells the story of a prostitute relating her dire situation. When asked why she did not go to a church for help, "Church!" she cried "Why would I go there? I already feel terrible about myself. Theyíd just make me feel worse."
A few years ago I read an article about someone who was involved in Internet child pornography, and they made the statement that what they wanted most was to be accepted by others, as they were. That really struck me at the time. Here is a person involved in an activity almost universally condemned, expressing exactly the same human need as the rest of us. And, you know what? Until we can respond with a "yeah, that is a tough one," as if their "sin" challenge were no different than our own, it is highly unlikely that any change will occur for either of us. Divide and conquer works just fine for the dark forces within us all. I am not appalled or surprised by revelations of "revolting" behaviors. Our "Christian" masks, and hypocritical condemnations, provide fertile ground for such happenings.
A friend once told me about an advanced spiritual growth class where one of the assignments was to list the worst five things you would never want to see written about you in the headlines of a newspaper. I do not remember the full explanation, but part of the purpose was to acknowledge the "but for the grace of God" there go I dynamic of humility. I believe all of us carry the seeds of destruction within us. What kind of a foothold they get depends heavily on how alone we feel we are left to deal with them.
I once wrote a short poem which says, "the more wisdom I gain, the more I realize what little wisdom I have." To climb even a few rungs up the spiritual growth ladder is to see that each new perspective expands the scale of that still to be achieved. Even in the practical matters, what once was presented as black and white takes on shades of gray. Someone recently declared to me that they "know the difference between right and wrong." While I am not a person who sees everything in terms of relativism, I am not at all certain I know what falls on the "right" side of the fence, and what belongs in the "wrong" category. I do know that much of what I was taught as "right" has turned out to be blatant lies. An example of this I deal with daily, is how and why Indians, particularly the Cherokee, were subjected to the way the new Americans treated them. Manifest Destiny, the Puritan ethic, God versus those savages, as it turns out was not at all about being "right." It was mostly about greed, racism, power brokering, expedience, and the might of superior technology and numbers. Some people, I suspect, actually believed they were "right" in the "big picture" with these actions. But, the more I read and learn, many, including those in key positions, knew the gravity of "wrong" being done, and either simply followed orders, or went along with the consensus mob attitude that it was "right." So, where does that leave us with regards to right and wrong? It causes me to remove the masks of right and wrong and leave them along the road while I simply seek the truth. Let those of ignorance or arrogance declare the truth as right or wrong. And, by the way, a-r-r-o-g-a-n-c-e is just another way to spell ignorance. I know that well.
Gullibility has been a constant companion in my life. In its best form it manifests as trust. Sometimes it becomes stumble and fall, feel humiliated, then try to get up and dust yourself off. I tend to pull back at those times, typically seeing them as "failures" instead of lessons. Then I remind myself why I have taken the path I am on. That it is OK to be however I am, while compete and compare remain great pillars of destruction.
By now it should be clear to you. If you are one of those people who sees me as an exceptional example of a Christian, please do not. I struggle with as much as everybody else. Someone once told me that my poetry and writing reflects an openness they would never be able to let people see. But, even the willingness and courage to stand before the world in my nakedness, I have compared more to that of the circumstance of the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz, than anything grand or noble.
I mentioned just the other day to a close friend that the first ten years (after leaving State Farm) was simply about trying to find my way, discover who I really am, and what God wanted me to do with that. I said I need to refocus on those and be careful my life does not become all about trying to make the (T&SC) non-profit corporation succeed. These are two distinctly different endeavors. The first is all about being real, both in darkness and the light. The latter usually turns into putting a good face on things to accommodate everyoneís sensibilities. In all honesty that would feel like a betrayal of my journey into truth. That is why you will not see me pushing very hard to fill empty positions, or make things happen otherwise. The corporation is a group endeavor, or it is nothing, and I see it as such. And even though I am a significant piece in that puzzle, and it is a significant piece in my life today, I experience it as distinctly separate.
Like everyone else, I am whoever, however, and whatever I am. I am also constantly changing. This is the way God created me. It is my quest not to apologize for it or hide from it. I must trust there is purpose in this process, or why would God have chosen to make it so. Believe in God ó trust in the process. It is as simple as that. It is just not always easy.
A Little Humor To Close Things Out
One Sunday morning, the pastor noticed little Alex standing in the foyer of the church staring up at a large plaque. It was covered with names with small American flags mounted on either side of it. The seven year old had been staring at the plaque for some time, so the pastor walked up, stood beside the little boy, and said quietly, "Good morning Alex." "Good morning Pastor," he replied, still focused on the plaque. "Pastor, what is this?" asked Alex. The pastor said, "Well, son, it's a memorial to all the young men and women who died in the service." Soberly, they just stood together, staring at the large plaque. Finally, little Alex's voice, barely audible and trembling with fear, asked, "Which service, the 9:45 or the 11:15?"