Saturday, July 24, 2010

The In Between Times

The title for this post is a suggestion of where I am right now in many ways. Physically I am in between trips to the commode as I and my wife struggle through a bout of Cheung Po Tsai's revenge. At my age I am pretty certain I am somewhere in the middle of my life if I make it past 80. Spiritually I am in the in between spaces as well. There is not a lot of flash and splash right now, and in many ways it feels like a bit of a lull before something happens, one way or the other. This is giving someone who spends a lot of time in contemplation a lot of time to contemplate. The place that I am in has also formed the materials for the framework of my ruminations. There has been a lot of searching about what all this is really about. Like a man on a journey I have reached a point where I am wondering if I really want to be carrying as much stuff around as I have been. This has certainly been true in a materialistic/financial sense, because our move to HK had very little to do with fiscal reasoning as do any of the future options we have considered possible (That is up to Dad of course!). It is also true in a spiritual sense. The baggage of things that I have hung on to need to fall away if they serve no needful purpose. I am not a man of many options in life, so everything needs to be considered from a very pragmatic view. When you feel yourself heading swiftly for the eye of the needle you really reconsider what you have a grip on, and what has a grip on you. Either way it will be ripped off when you go through, and if you are hanging on then part of you will be ripped off as well. Not fun.
Much of what is falling away is the stuff that has been flapping in the breeze anyway, but has remained attached because there was a lack of desire in doing away with it with such a finality. You know the things that we say we don't believe in and yet that lack of belief doesn't really manifest in any tangible way in our lives? These are the things that are flapping around like the tattered remnants of sails and rigging after a storm. Their substance was tested by the tempest and found wanting, but what if I just might need them for some reason in the future? What if I liked how my boat looked with all that beautiful canvas stretching in the wind? What if someone else said they liked those sails, and that they too had ones just like them? What do I do?
I haven't had any inclination to fix those particular sails. All they have been doing is hanging on and bashing against my ship. The noise has raised a few eyebrows, as have the dings, dents, and scrapes on the hull.
Time for a reality check. The sails and rigging I am referring to are my beliefs in the fabric of the church. The beliefs that I used to hold regarding big names and big events. This is a sacred cow in North America, as anyone who has raised a voice about it can attest. Right from the Emergent Church to the pulpits of the TV preachers there will be an immediate line of defense formed if someone confronts the dynamism of the dynamic one at the front, or on the cover of the book or CD, or the conference brochure, or website. There will be a deep loyalty and scriptural reasoning behind every rebuttal. There would have been from me as well not that long ago. I had my favorite preachers, and in fact the daughter of one of them is actually an acquaintance of my wife's here in HK (too weird). I had my favorite musicians who were just sooooo anointed. There were authors whom I felt were way ahead of all the others.
Not any more. I want to cut this off of me. I am tired of its useless bashing against my mind and spirit.
The realization I had today was that this is much of what has been hindering the body of Christ in the west. How on earth are we going to see an effective body rise to meet the challenges of the days we live in when we continually abdicate our place in the body to someone with "credentials" and fashion sense? What do they have on the guy down the aisle from me? What do they have over anyone else in your local body? Nothing really, but the position that we give them. Who questions what they are being taught. I see so many notebooks out, but when I have been able to peek at the contents it is just a shorthand of the message being given. Dictation basically. Where is the critical testing of these messages, and more importantly the lives behind them, that the church was commended for by the resurrected Lord? Many will say that we know these people because they have been recommended by other people, but who has really spent any time with them? The star culture we have nurtured puts up a near impenetrable wall around those who being allowed to speak to thousands, and if something goes wrong they run off and huddle away by themselves while the spokesperson tells you the latest filtered news. Filtered because,"YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!" (read: Nicholson in A Few Good Men).
Where also is the testing of the people like me out in the pews, chairs, or bar stools? If I am too never leave the nursery, and always live in the shadow of these "greats" where is my sense of personal destiny and purpose? If I am meant to just sit and consume these pre-chewed meals, not cause any waves, definitely not ask any hard questions how will I find a path to a meaningful maturity? At best I may become a respected servant of a Sunday morning machine at some church down the street.
The funny thing is that most of these voices are telling us that we need to be the effective salt and light in our world, but not at the expense of their position, airmiles, or general thunder. Just ask yourself how easily one of those people will relinquish their death grip on that sacred conch called the microphone. This is when you see that they really don't trust you not to screw things up for themselves and everybody else. My question to that is why is it that if they are called to train and equip me, and I have been under their weekly tutelage, why can I not be trusted with what I might say? Anyone else out there asking that question??? I am not a dynamic speaker, nor do I covet the sacred conch, but the question remains. You may be trusted to speak to a small group in a cell church setting, but don't you think about striding up those stairs to the platform and give forth on a Sunday morning.
Enough ranting, now for the practical aspect of this for me. Cutting this stuff free in my life will look like honoring and respecting each member of the body equally. Considering whatever gift, message, etc. as equally worthy of consideration as anyone else. Testing each person by the Holy Spirit rather than just taking someone's word for it. Enjoy messages, music, fellowship and other things by His guidance as well. Encouraging every seed no matter where it has fallen. Finally, it will also include the possibility of more of these rants, because if I truly believe this stuff then what I would have to say by the guidance of the Spirit would be as beneficial as what Paul said when he spoke this same message to the Corinthians. Look it up for yourselves:

1 Cor 1: 12What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ." 13Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? 14I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15so no one can say that you were baptized into my name.
and again (must be important, huh?)
1Cor 3: 1Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? 4For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men?

5What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

Hope you don't mind if I share this post with a few people, Brad. You've nailed some things that have been going on in my head as well, and I like how you've articulated your thoughts. Stay well, cousin, and be blessed in every way today.