What we want… except when we don’t

I’ve learned a lot about myself and my failings through parenthood. All those horrible contradictions within me become painfully clear…

  • I’m not a control freak, except for those several hours each day when I am.
  • I couldn’t wait for the kid to talk and walk, until of course that meant the kid could walk away and talk back.
  • I want the kid to think and make his own decisions, except for those thoughts and decisions which make me uncomfortable.
  • I don’t judge people…. except for the ones that I do.
  • I’m don’t contradict myself… yeah. We know the answer to that one.

As an observer, leader and lover of this organization that is the church, I see that same pattern. Maybe because for so long the church has been mother, father and general authority figure, I don’t know. Maybe it’s just the way shared leadership works, especially when the keys to the house (if not the kingdom) are passed down as much by watching as actual teaching. What we say we want just doesn’t always match up with what actually happens…

  • We long for a church that is open to the moves of the Spirit… until She leads us into someplace less comfortable
  • We offer up our burdens to God… until we pick them back up to carry a little longer
  • We hope for young people to come and contribute their gifts… unless those gifts include leadership and vision
  • We believe the Scriptures are living and open to each generation… as long as they read and understand them the way we tell them to.
  • We want God to answer our prayers until the answer is no… or wait…

I suppose it makes sense, given that in some ways the life of the church is the life of the believer writ large. And certainly a church is only as sinless as those within it, which is to say not very. And we know the right words to say, pray and sing. Dr. Colyer would call that “knowing how to manipulate the symbols” but not really having the faith or the knowledge to back it up. Just because the folks who play health care professionals on TV can spit out those terms in a reasonably believable manner doesn’t mean I want any of them doing triage the night I walk into the ER.

That’s part of the reason I’m not jumping on the bandwagon that “breaking away from 2,000 years of tradition” is wrong or dangerous in and of itself. Does breaking with tradition require study, prayer, discernment and great care? Yes. And it should engender the same from amount of true openness to correction from all parties, whether seeking to change or not. The longer something has been upheld by tradition, the more care needs to be taken to assure that we are not simply manipulating symbols of faith, rather than living by faith. And the more we need to trust God to reveal the way forward for all.


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