Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Honest faith

MckMama has a rant up this morning--why is someone criticizing her whatever she chooses to share or not share? Why don't people just believe her? People say they want honesty, but do they really? It made me want to post a comment on her thread with a Mark Driscoll clip I listened to a while back. (But I can't find it). He made the comment in one of his sermons that there are only a select handful of people from whom he will take criticism--his elders, a few mentors, his wife. People who he trusts to have his best interests and God's best interests in mind. All the rest, he can't afford to take the time and energy to chase down all the anklebiters, naysayers and sour grapes and convince them to like him. There's wisdom there.

Say what you will about Driscoll. I certainly have issues with the man. But I give him this--he is who he is and he offers himself to the church and he doesn't take the time of day from critics who say, essentiall, that who and what he is needs to change (let them tell you how!) in order for his life to be something fit to offer to the church.

There's a tension in the church between deep and surface living. How much of ourselves do we expose to each other? And how much is appropriate to tell and under what circumstances? Am I willing to tell you when I'm just having a lousy day? (And when is it honest for me to do that, and when am I just being self-indulgent in my complaining?) How about things like financial problems, or marital problems? Is it honest to talk about those? Dishonest to hide them? Are there times when talking about such things to someone you don't know very well might be a betrayal of intimacy? What about issues of faith and doubt? Worry. Parenting. All mixed up with "I don't feel like doing the laundry," and "What's for dinner?" and "Did you see the new Harry Potter movie?" and "I'm having a great day because my potty-training child did NOT have an accident today." (The thing about "small talk" is that most of most of our lives are honestly made up of wonderful mundanity. We might say we want honesty . . . that we want things to be genuine . . . but what are we after, really?

The thing is, I don't think that most of us understand people in general, or the world, or our own lives, or other people's lives nearly as well as we think we do. We don't understand how the mundane and the profound are woven together as the warp and woof of life. We don't understand the ways that sin breaks us. We don't realize that someone we know has dealt with that--that among my 200 Facebook friends, probably every "that" is covered. We don't understand the reality that "that" is going to take years to heal, and is going to leave scars--and that there will be days that that seems really important, and plenty of days that I'm more concerned with what's for dinner.

We want honesty, but we're not prepared for it when we get it. It's too raw. Too scary. Too boring. Too threatening. We want to think we understand. Honesty shows us we don't. We want to think we have the answers. Honesty shows us we don't. We want the world to be a safe, manageable, controllable place. We know that we ourselves are buffetted and thrown about, but we want to think that someday, somehow, we'll get to a place of answers. But when we really interact with each other, we discover that none of us is one self-help book or one good sermon, or one inspirational song away from having it all together. We discover that giving or receiving a bellyful of honesty requires humility and commitment far beyond what most of us are willing to give most days. It means saying things like "I'd never thought of that before," and "I don't understand, but I'd like to." It means expecting to find that we're all sinful, complex, broken people in a sinful, complex, broken world.

Too often, when we say we want honesty, we just want to be voyeurs. Too often, when we get honesty, we try to trim off the edges so that it will fit back in the box. But we were made by a God bigger than we are, who placed us in a world too complex for us to understand. And he made each of us unique. Different. Should it be any surprise to us when other's individual experiences and stories seem alien to us? When our finite interactions with an infinite God seem too big to handle and comprehend?


JP said...

Sometimes I've found that often we're not looking for feedback on what we write. We just want to write it. But we write it in a way that makes it appear like we do.


Sara said...

It's undeniable that honest feedback on anything as personal as our writing can be difficult. I write, as much as anything, so I can figure out what I'm thinking--get the thoughts out of my head, and hang words on them so that I can see *what* I'm thinking . . . the words are the bandages around the Invisible Man, showing the shape, so to speak. And other people's reactions help in the definition process--if you have any further feedback, JP, I'd be interested to hear it.

Tyler Dawn said...

No one wants honesty -- it places us in a position where we are forced to face an uncomfortable truth about ourselves, namely that we really aren't as caring, engaged and compassionate as we want to think we are. We really can't afford to see others as real, that they have problems and real lives. It gives us an uncomfortable feeling as we agonize over whether we should do something or not. And when we do nothing, we have to face the fact that we are not what Jesus called us to be. Much easier to fool ourselves by making those around us feel like fools for burdening us with their troubles. Then they won't share, and we can feel like we are some sort of divine Body when we aren't even allowing blood to flow from one part to another.