We do this with animals by putting them in cages. We do this to children to a certain extent when we discourage inventive thought, measure progress against rigid standardized norms, and focus so many of our educational resources on the promotion of uniformity and conformity. Instead of simply a fine-motor-skill exercise, coloring inside the lines is too often a metaphor for education.
And we do it all the time with faith:
- We reduce, codify, systematize, summarize and bullet point the historical scope of God's witness into manageable sound-bites.
- The great arc of the story of Grace is traded in for some formulaic religious pseudo-certainty.
- "Do you know the Four Spiritual Laws?" becomes a more important question than "Are you engaged in an ongoing exploration of what it means to know and love and serve God?"
So our conversation drifted into the idea of relationship.
My friend Bill reported a study where medical doctors visited patients for exactly three minutes. Some were instructed to sit by the bed while others were told to stand at the end. Everything else about the interactions was identical. When patients were asked how long each doctor stayed, the one at the end of the bed typically scored less than two minutes, whereas the doctor who sat down at the side was perceived to have interacted for more than twice as long.
So here's my thought: Maybe the doctors who stayed longer did more than give the perception of a longer visit - maybe they actually did spend more time with the patient. Maybe there is a shift in the space-time continuum when relationship enters the equation? Maybe time - as we understand it and experience it - is not so immutable as we would like to believe. Maybe the idea of immutability is more of a need for us to believe than it is an actual property of time...?
I'm actually serious. 21st Century America has effectively reduced reality to that which we can measure, quantify, replicate in a laboratory and observe with the five senses we're most familiar with. The faith community often buys in to this limited viewpoint by attempting to gain credibility via offering scientific "proofs" when possible. As if God needs the sanction of humanity to verify truth that is not contained within the parameters of human understanding.
When relationship with God enters the equation, we're dealing with something that defies our need to control and to limit and to package...
.... And yet we stand on street corners handing out tracts that purport to offer salvation in five easy steps....!
All I can say is "Good Grief!"
I belief that's enough for a Monday!