Saturday, February 2, 2013

another way

Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one. -F. Nietzsche

What exactly are we supposed to do with our anger? A good friend of mine once called it the healthiest emotion, which I think it certainly can be. Be angry and do not sin.

Feeling angry on a regular basis and not sinning is fairly exhausting in my own strength. Placing people into categories puts a band-aid on anger; making it easier to dismiss those with whom I disagree. Underneath, though, the wound festers.

Facebook, that great reveal-er of the human heart, helps us right along with this, doesn't it? So many broad proclamations; so many opportunities for subtle jabs. And so it goes: oh, you voted for President Obama? You must believe in abortion on demand and want to see churches stripped of their right to teach what they believe. You're a liberal elite. Obviously, you don't care about what the Bible has to say. Oh, you voted for Governor Romney? You must want all women to be barefoot and pregnant, with no agency of their own, and believe that everyone on Medicaid is lazy. You're a conservative, completely unaware of your own privilege in this society. Obviously, you don't care about the poor. (I've hyperbolized this a bit, but not too much, as you probably well know.)

My own personal Battle of the Categories has been largely internal. I feel compelled (Holy Spirit, is that you?) to let some light in. I want to see people for who they really are: a great many things.

I am thankful for the everyday prophets who call me out of the false dichotomies I have railed against and find myself slipping into. Categories make us feel safe, but they also kill any chance for relationship. In real life, people defy those categories. In real life, we have to find ways to champion justice and mercy. So many people talk about the straight and narrow road in terms of salvation, but these days I think of that phrase in terms of my interactions with other people. It is hard to be kind out in the open and in secret; not to think of anyone as ridiculous. (Because, if you hear their stories, you'll know they're not.)

My husband does something that I love: he wanders the halls at church, and talks to people. He's brave and curious enough to ask the good questions, and talk about the real things. Back when we first met, I used to think man, he makes a lot of eye contact. It's disconcerting to be noticed when you're trying to hide, but don't we all need that? He is a listener, in a world of people who just want to be heard.

Here's a thing: as I've moved from a place of struggling with the nature of God to a place of struggling with evangelical culture, as I've come closer to conclusions about questions I once didn't have answers for, I find it much easier to place people in categories. I find I've become less interested in the stories of people I don't agree with. Yikes. That needs to stop.

Here's another thing: I like having a few more answers these days. I like it that when I hear something that misrepresents who I've found God to be, a voice in my head firmly says no. There is so much more peace in my heart this way. But at the same time, I don't want to ever be comfortable with writing people off.

Something I love about Christianity, in its purest form, is that it offers another way. The only agenda we have to cling to is that of Jesus.

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question. "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
Matthew 22:34-40

(Oh, Jesus. I love you. You cut right through all the noise.)

Loving God with all my heart means I stay vulnerable, sensitive, open to the idea that I may be wrong.

Loving God with all my soul means I keep a sacred space for Him to work on me, with me, through me. It means I'm careful about what ideas about Him I let in.

Loving God with all my mind means I get to ponder, deconstruct, find the holes, imagine, and rejoice when He reveals new things to me. It means I get to grow at my own speed.

And loving my neighbor as myself? That means other people get to grow at their own speed. It means they get to protect their treasures from the harsh light, too. It means I should strive to create a safe space for them to be vulnerable. 

There's a beautiful line from one of my favorite poems: I Ask the Impossible by Ana Castillo:
...love me as you always have:
not as admirer or judge, but with
the compassion you save for yourself in your solitude.
Admiration isn't necessary; neither is judgment. There is another way.

2 comments:

tona said...

Beautifully written Emily. You are a very talented writer. I am typically more of a blog lurker and not one to comment, but much of what you write resonates with me. Thank you for your honesty and transparency. This quote came to my attention recently and I have been trying to let its meaning soak deep within. Thought I would share.

"The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them."
Thomas Merton

Emily said...

Thank you Tona! I'm a lurker most of the time too :) I love the quote; gives me plenty to ponder.

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