Tag Archives: church

Complacence

20 Jun

If you want something enough, you fight for it. I wonder if it’s a complacence we’ve come by because most of us have never had to struggle for the rent, or our family’s food, in childhood. If it’s the complacence of the developed world.

Que sera sera and if it doesn’t happen, it wasn’t meant to be. Who said that? What about that persistent widow? This idea of looking on and complaining unproductively or politely standing by while someone squanders your inheritance…

It exists in the public sphere. Christians forget to be vocal, to be politically active, in addition to being prayer warriors, to be socially conscious, to be economically wise. It exists in our relationships – a miserable and rather invisible blight. You pursue your relationships, you prioritise, you know that those are the only things you call permanent in your life. You don’t let it slide, expect it to be God’s work. It is God’s work, but he might not be so willing to give you a precious son or daughter of his, if you’re not willing to be careful with them. You too – you’re precious, you’re not to be treated with that complacence. Your community, your church, your family, your wife or husband – they are called to that position by God. As you are called to that position by him. Your government is called to be the support it is. Society is called to operate by laws of love, mercy and justice – Christian norms. And if any of these institutions and relationships goes against them, you are called to be not-complacent. To speak, preach, teach and write of the right. In love. To also always consciously correct yourself, test yourself. In love (yes, even to yourself). In humility. In the knowledge that one might be wrong, always. But to always try and try again.

Not a culturally biased idea of the right thing – God’s idea.

Sigh. Rant over!

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And with two, they covered their eyes…

21 Apr

Someone asked me why I cried at church. But I expect to cry, so I didn’t know the answer.

Because beauty breaks your heart. You look, at the beauty that even angels fear, you love, you sense the presence of Someone infinitely bigger than you, yet infinitely gentle, and then, as the hairs on your neck begin to re-sensitise, you know His eyes are on you. That’s all. He is just… looking at you.

And He’s not looking at anyone else. And the breakage happens – just as you look back.

He takes my defenses down. Every time.

In the ministry, I think, God allows you the overwhelming honour of looking with Him. As you see what He sees, as you see the broken roads those tattered sandals have trod, or the memories of day-long trips for fatal water that those young eyes hold, or the suspicion of a life that has never known an unbroken promise, or the shocked immunity of your child who learns that others have died for rice… and as you look back and see the reflections glinting in His steady eyes, the breakage happens.

But it is only there, as I sit in that presence, as I let myself look into those eyes, and trace the shape of its shadows and stories and suffering and grace, that love hits me – and the impact barrels through my chest, past my diaphragm into the world that I saw with his eyes.

Every time someone weeps out of less than joy, every time a friend has sold their dignity, every time someone hates and knows it, every one someone cannot shrug away the sin, I must sit and I must look into those eyes. For the beauty to break through the calluses.

In the reflections, the stories make sense.

Ecce, Dominus.

Today, my heart was broken by this

iAnalyse

7 Apr

I analyse. Incessantly. Mostly myself, mostly critically, ‘most all the time…

Here is what I have come up with. I have upper-middle class sympathies and inclinations, I am quick to recoil from the failings of society that can be massed into a statistic, I have several of my own failings that sadly are less open to scrutiny. I don’t know if analysing my categorisability will make me want to fall into another category… In fact, I don’t think it will. But I am intrigued by the quirks of judgement that go with categories and labels.

Teen pregnancy, alcoholism, addiction, lack of a college education – Lord, may it never come into our lives. And I agree – amen! I don’t want it there. But but – there is little said about the domestic friction, the violence in Indian homes, the gender dominance, the deep-seated resentment of familial structure and dependence – these things, we will never bemoan openly.

I’m not bringing down the standards. Far from it. I’m saying in giving ourselves obvious standards, social standards, we find it easy to be the new ‘genteel unhappy’…

The Lord weighs the heart…

And then there is more to my self-analysis. This is the real cruncher. The level at which I analyse most of the time… Just plain ol’ me. I don’t know where you are on this spectrum – but you can be objective about your thoughts, about your beliefs, you can tell when you’re irrational, you can tell when you’re instinctive, you. can. criticise. and be your worst opponent in an argument.

This is a blessing. I kid you not. I mean, it’ll take you a while to find out but it really is… Because when it comes to accountability, you’ve already done the hard work. I am also grateful for the times when this isn’t self-induced but instead I am listening to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, convicting, moving and gently nudging to acknowledge truth, to hear His heartbeat and not my own.

And although it hurts, and although your self will try to take over and be merciless, I love that vulnerability in the presence of God.

I give you all my pieces, Lord. Hold me together. And take the unbroken parts and break open the flaws set in stone… Change my heart.  Find it here, as I lay myself before you. I give you only broken worship. There is no one else I trust, but You – Your Holy Spirit and His revelations, and the people you use and nudge me to listen. Hold me close into wholeness then. I do, I really do – I give you all my pieces.

Churched Christianity

24 Mar

This happened several days ago. She told me I was getting old. For certain things in life… Most of my friends in the workplace and at university were/are older than I. I am older than her by a year. Everyone in the course last year that I want to join next year was four years older than I, at least. I say these things not to defend myself. My first reaction – like yours – was to wince and nod. It was to accept the constraints. I do think I am getting old. And I know with another part of me that that is untrue. There is a difference between realism and this willingness to believe the least of yourself. But it hurt to hear it because most other people outside of church do not think so. Most of my friends don’t normally share this view either!

But I have a pretty convenient system of half-forgiving things and forgetting about them – I mean things interfere less with your to-do list that way. I don’t know if ‘forgiving’ is the right word or if there is such a thing as half-forgiveness either 😉 I mean, what I did was basically be ungracious in my own mind.

I simply decided to think this friend was perhaps not as mature as I was, had different definitions about culture and society than I did, had different constraints on what it was to be a woman and different ideas about “having life and having it to the full”. ← That’s all. All beautiful things to have, and all rather easy for me to think and not remember this little commandment.

Ah but look at the new NIV’s rendition of this, which sometimes – some very few times in my life – does make sense.

I think it does especially for people who are used to considering themselves below everyone else, less than average, less than ideal, not anyone’s idea of beautiful… So many women I know do this. I know some men do too, but I don’t know enough who will tell me to say ‘so many men’ 😉 We forget how much God has planned for us and we cut ourselves short. We imagine we’re incomplete without that house or that car or that husband.

We accept the constraints that people give us.

What is horrible about all this is that nowhere does it grow as much as it does in the church. We live in accordance with the church, not God.

We worry about how ‘churched’ we look and are. Our witness fails to be about God’s calling on our lives.

NO – I was not equating a husband, a car and a house but I am trying to point out that we do equate them. To often. As if everything in life is about planned acquisition, the next step, moving on, the natural stages.

Who gave us natural stages? Not God. Not really. Isaac was born well beyond natural, people laughed at Noah’s idea of building a home, Eli’s sons didn’t pick up on the whole dynastic paradigm of churches today… they went pretty wrong and God saw it, unlike our churches… Jonathan would rather have put his life in danger, let God’s purposes be fulfilled than be his father’s son. David chose to follow God out of the expected life of Jesse’s son, out of his sheep and his music, to building up a nation that needed it.

In my generally three-cornered conversations, this was one of the times I managed to stop and listen to God and to be honest with my friend. To be more gracious. Oh – that does not come naturally for yours truly as it does for her friends 🙂 ! Sigh. I told her we were only too old/frumpy/inadequate/whatever other excuse for some ‘Christians’ – it was the saddest thing I had to say. She agreed. Because, of course, it’s not ‘good’ to want more, it’s not ‘good’ to want to change the world, it’s not ‘good’ to be loud about poverty and homelessness and illiteracy and oppression, and it’s not ‘good’ to be discontent with wrong and injustice… Oh, discontent is sin… of course.

Think again. Pray. Again.

These ideas we have about a person’s possibility in the world – they come from a limited idea of what God can do.

You know that willingness to believe the least of yourself? It sounds to God like you’re believing the least of Him. And He’s fighting for you because he thinks

you

are

wonderful.

Stat.

Keeping It Wise

20 Mar

I had a Skype date with one of my best friends – she’s pretty close to being best, except there’s God and all that 😉 and there might be a guy in the offing, ya never know! And I’d like him to be a best friend too… I’m conscientious about these things 😀

Anyway, the K-dawg and I got down to it and sniffled our way through her early Sunday morning and my powdery face mask, with video off and on… We talked among (MANY) other things about passive-aggressiveness and intimacy (however minimal) before marriage. Now the one only relates to the other in this: a mutual friend entirely disagrees – or equally possibly, resents – K’s closely held views on the subject, but instead of confronting her disagreement, she makes jibes at the invalidity of her position… And I share it in the hope that any one who reads this will disagree or agree (phew!) without discounting it 😀

Well, before we go further, I shared K’s position. We might have minor differences but in general, we agree on that one. I’m not in agreement entirely with some of the theology in this subject but there is validity, although it is highly personal.

We were talking about a couple at Oxford that we knew that had a no-kissing policy until marriage. I actually know a few others like this – and I think it’s awesome. Quite simply, I do not want to be able to compare an experience. K shared how she was glad that a friend she’d known had held to that policy for her and him, when she was new to Christ. She is so grateful although she wasn’t then… It isn’t just kissing – haha, I am neither so legalistic nor trivial. It is a personal judgement we make for ourselves of course, but it is something we do need to think about and too often we have forgotten to think about it, deliberately. And I think it depends on the person entirely. If you can shrug off the intimacy, and you know that there is a different level of emotional giving that is solely for the woman or the man you marry – hey, go you 😉

I know that I regret every moment I spent not seeking God, before he found me. I know I would regret every moment of seeking someone else, who wasn’t it… I am entirely in favour of relationships with the opposite sex where we get to know them, socially, in mutual contexts, interactionally, as a friend and people we share our thought lives with. These help us grow. I am even in favour of seeking each other – taking one man and woman now – with intention, honouring each other but asking to know more about the every day person, the interests, the thoughts, the ideas and the passion for God in the other person. The relationship they have with God that defines them – because it defines you. These help us grow and mature, and love within Christ, honourably. But to imagine more without a God-confirmation, to give covenantally without a covenant… It isn’t just physical, it’s emotional and to that extent, spiritual.

If the relationship of a man and woman on earth is a metaphor of that between God and us – take it seriously, take it personally. I have to remind myself: Stop abstracting it. He wasn’t looking just for a dating relationship, he wasn’t looking for a maybe. He wanted us and he asked us to choose. It’s God, you know – he’s a jealous God… You just – you just don’t touch that.

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