Okay, a quick break from the To Live a Faith That Is Authentic series.
I have some questions I’ve been needing to ask. It’s time:
What does it take for you to admit you’re wrong? How much evidence do you require?
This is a great post on the issue from Jayson Bradley, whose blog both inspires and discourages me at the same time.* What a gift!
When your text (how you’re communicating, not on your phone) is kindness and acceptance but your sub-text is “you’re not good enough,” do you really believe yourself that you’re being kind?
When two humans have lived together for many years it usually happens that each has tones of voice and expressions of face which are almost unendurably irritating to the other. Work on that. Bring fully into the consciousness of your patient that particular lift of his mother’s eyebrows which he learned to dislike in the nursery, and let him think how much he dislikes it. Let him assume that she knows how annoying it is and does it to annoy – if you know your job he will not notice the immense improbability of the assumption. And, of course, never let him suspect that he has tones and looks which similarly annoy her. As he cannot see or hear himself, this is easily managed.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
If we’re all hypocrites–and I kind of claimed that we are–then what do we do about it?
The worst thing about falling for appearance-oriented Christianity is that the first person you fool is yourself. Once you start mastering the church’s language, rules, and expectations, it’s easy to believe that you’re making spiritual progress. But the true signs of your spirituality are largely invisible to others. And if you really want to be genuine, you need to spend more time focused on your secret acts of devotion and your growing awareness to God’s constant empowering presence. This pursuit is your true Christian testimony. Everything else is window dressing. Jayson Bradley again, “Coming to Grips with Christian Hypocrisy“
Why is it so much easier to complain than rejoice? Why do we so quickly stop appreciating things and take them for granted but also instantly moan the second they don’t suit us?
This clip between Louis C.K. and Conan O’Brien is the best short response I’ve heard, but the language is NSFW. Be warned.
You can read all these questions as guilt arrows, aimed at your heart, or you can read them as sincere, help-me-to-understand-myself-and-you inquiries. If we live continually in the understanding that God has grace for us, then we can desire answers. Truthfully, two of them for myself and two regarding others.
A political one now, because we’re immersed in this Election year:
If it’s so easy to believe that the other side is corrupt, deceitful and manipulative, why is it also almost a given that our side is righteous, truthful, and pure?
One of my best friends, who is much better read than I am, has become increasingly convinced that the depths of our depravity, motivated by greed and power, surpass our worst nightmares. Put another way, our history is nasty and we have whitewashed it and turned it into a fairy tale. Doing so isn’t patriotic and it most certainly is not faithful to the Gospel. We believe that Jesus is, himself, the Truth. We believe that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. And we believe the truth will set us free.
Personally, I think this is some of the free we need to be set:
And it’s interesting, when I teach my students about African-American history, I tell them about slavery. I tell them about terrorism, the era that began at the end of reconstruction that went on to World War II. We don’t really know very much about it. But for African-Americans in this country, that was an era defined by terror. In many communities, people had to worry about being lynched. They had to worry about being bombed. It was the threat of terror that shaped their lives. And these older people come up to me now and they say, “Mr. Stevenson, you give talks, you make speeches, you tell people to stop saying we’re dealing with terrorism for the first time in our nation’s history after 9/11.” They tell me to say, “No, tell them that we grew up with that.” And that era of terrorism, of course, was followed by segregation and decades of racial subordination and apartheid. And yet, we have in this country this dynamic where we really don’t like to talk about our problems. We don’t like to talk about our history. And because of that, we really haven’t understood what it’s meant to do the things we’ve done historically. –Bryan Stevenson, “We Need to Talk about an Injustice.”
My daughter, whom I treasure above pretty much anything on this earth, has entered an academic community of much brilliance, severe demands for justice, and, from what I can discern from a distance, little grace. Getting it wrong, misspeaking about the issues, stepping outside of the agreed-upon orthodoxy, does not get you gentle correction or instruction.
I love learning. I believe in justice. I love my daughter. And I’m convinced that seeking justice without grace fulfills the words of Bono:
They say that what you mock
Will surely overtake you
And you become a monster
So the monster will not break you
So I ask, “How do we live grace when we are surrounded by un-grace? How do we receive grace for ourselves and offer it to others when no one offers grace to us?”
*As in, inspires me with great posts and powerful insights, discourages me because I foolishly compare mine with his and he’s better.