Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wary of living a cliché

The stained-glass in the duomo in Milan includes some of the finest examples in Europe.

I often wonder about what it means for me to be "A Spiritual Man." I actually spent a good deal of time mulling over the concept during my long walk with Scout last night and then again this morning.

We use terms like that quite glibly in the Christian world. We're quick to use phrases such as, "I gave this day over to God..." Did we - really? Then there's "I'm holding you up in the Lord this week..." and the perennial "Jesus is walking with me..." OK, but just what did these clichés actually look like? How about another favorite, "I'm seeking the Spirit's leading in this decision..." How's that working for you, and just how much effort did that involve?

Much of contemporary church culture tends to promote a kind of "insider" lexicon that makes as much sense to other people as the confusing world of technical terminology and acronyms employed by so many professions.

When I was a teacher I was a leader in the fight to de-institutionalize our language when meeting with parents, especially in the world of exceptional-education. I almost got the sense that - for some educators - the use of confusing techno-jargon made them feel more important, as if we were custodians and even guardians of a body-of-knowledge that only we could wield.

But the idea of "insiders" and "outsiders" achieves little more than condescension and alienation... and I suspect that often (and in a wide variety of disciplines) that is exactly the idea.

It's often that way with Christians, too. As if we breathe some kind of rarefied air in a place reserved only for those who know the password and the secret handshake; a place where you have to be "in the know" to understand what anyone is talking about; a place where we become the gate-keepers, so to speak, the decision-makers regarding who is in and who is not.... Whereas the Bible tells us very clearly that the job belongs to Jesus.

"Jesus said again, 'I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.'" (John 10:7-10)

To be a spiritual person, then, is to engage life with the passion and commitment God designed us to enjoy. Fullness of life! I'm not done with thinking about what it means for me to live as a spiritual person. In fact, I'm committed to exploring and experiencing that posture more and more - so that I can communicate the truth of it with more authority and less cliché.

Question for the day: "Does my spiritual profile give any indication that I have life to the full?"

Below: Lake Como, Italy. Keep in touch! Derek

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