Lawyers and Witnesses

Witness Statement

It’s illumination, not explanation, that truly convinces people.

Many years ago, whether he realized it or not, this is what Marty was doing with me.  He was illuminating.

He was not trying to position himself above the arguments, as if he had a God’s eye view.  He was speaking out of his own experience.  And he was honoring, (even if he didn’t agree) my experience.

I am working at doing the same.  As I share Jesus’ love, I try to remind myself that the I’m not called to be a lawyer, just a witness to what he has done.  And there is a big difference.  A lawyer creates the arguments and steers the discussion in a direction consistent with his agenda.  A witness speaks on the subject at hand, speaks out of his own life experience: what he has seen, heard, and felt.

And the thing that I know is that someone convinced by a witness is truly convinced.  All those years with people acting like lawyers, with me acting like a lawyer and debating them.  At the end of the day, even when the things said by a lawyer sound right, there is still this little doubt in the back of our brain.  “These guys are professional convincers.  Perhaps I’ve just been manipulated.”

God is a god who turns things upside down and reverses them.  He is a God who flips power dynamics topsy turvy and turns our expectations backwards on themselves.

Our expectation is that it is the person we are speaking to who benefits in these relationships.  We have all this knowledge, and we pour it into them, and then they are made like us.

It’s not untrue that a person learning about Jesus benefits.  What is untrue is that the person pouring into the learner is passive and unchanged.

Seeing through the eyes of someone truly seeing Jesus for the first time is such an awesome thing.  It brings us back to that child-like sense of wonder.  It reminds us of who we are in him.  Even if I didn’t know what was going on, I think I’d be able to figure out when people I know well are talking about Christ to people who don’t know him.  I imagine they’d say the same thing about me.

There is a picture here, I think.

We have this God who pours into us.  And there are ways that we want to assert that he is unchanging; that he is unchanged by this process of changing us.  It’s much like when kids first learn that their actions and thoughts can hurt their parents.  There is an element of insecurity.  A moment of fear.

But if the parent (whether it be God or an earthly parent) was not changeable, emotionally invested in the experience, could we feel loved and cared for?

God is desperate for us.  He is emotionally wrapped up in the process.  In this way he is changeable… and I thank God for that.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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