Grasping

I spend a lot of time worrying about things that don’t matter.

I could probably fill an entire library with a catalog of these things: trivial things, like pop culture.  Irrelevant things like worries for the future that won’t come to pass.  Unimportant things, that arise out of my own brokeness and insecurity.

I am thinking this morning about that last category.  I am thinking about the unimportant things that I worry about because I am broken.   Let’s call them the UTTIWABIB.  The world we live in preys on our uttiwabibs.  Our particular society makes some of them worse.  Consider, for example,  the quest for power and prestige.

Modern-day America creates a hierarchy, a power pyramid.    No matter how we dress it up, no matter how we justify it or rationalize it, there will always be more losers than winners in the power game.  This is the whole point, really, of the pyramid.   It does not matter how catchy Adam Ant’s attempt at a comeback was; no matter how prettily he sings “There is always/room at the top”  it simply isn’t true.

And even if it was true?  Even if there was room for all of us?

I don’t think it’s necessary for me to say much about the ways we can sell our soul.  Like so many things, we can all see that pretty easily when we consider others.  I suspect it is a little less obvious, the ways we do all this ourselves.

Every time we consider the appearance over a reality, every time we worry about what people will think, every time we think about spin doctoring things…  whether it is in our relationships or our work place, our friendships or family connections… every single time we do this, we are selling out.

Let me say that in a way that is more difficult, but much more important:

Every time I do that, I sell out.

I was reading in the book of Mark, this morning.  There is this pair of events.  The way they follow back-to-back is not an accident, I suspect.

The first thing that happens is that two of Jesus’ followers approach him.  They tell him that they want to sit at his right hand.

“You don’t know what you are asking.” Jesus says.  Put differently: You think this is about power and prestige.  You are grabbing after power.  Shortly thereafter, the other followers become “indignant.”  A funny word, indignant.  It seems like the other followers aren’t any better than the first couple.  It seems like perhaps they are upset because others gaining power and prestige would be at their own expense.

Because Jesus comes at them all, and explains that this is not how he operates.  His own followers are playing politics, they are grasping after power.  This is the way of the world they all left behind; Jesus seems to be asking what the point is, of following him, if things just go back to the way they have always been.

And then the second thing happens.  They are out and about.  And a blind man asks that Jesus would have mercy on him.  The followers try to shut the man down, but he calls out, and Jesus hears him, and Jesus heals him.

It’s not really clear how much time has elapsed between these two events.  But they happen back-to-back.  And it is an interesting contrast:

His followers, the guys who are supposed to know what is going on, they say: “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”  And the blind man, he says ““Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

There are a handful of interesting implications in this contrast.

Jesus followers are supposed to know who he is.  And yet they adress him as teacher.  The blind man calls to him by name, and recognizes Jesus’ lineage.

The followers are looking for more than they need, more than others have.  They are looking for an extra rebate, a bonus.  The blind man just wants to see.

When Jesus’ followers are given what they ask for, it is almost a dark parody; it carries this sinister underside that they have never intended.  Basically, they are told that that sitting at Jesus’ right hand means suffering and death; this is what they have asked for, this is what they will get.

The blind man is healed.  He follows Jesus.

Perhaps the bottom line is just this: we ought to ask for the things we need.  But we ought to be careful of acting entitled to more than what we need.  Healing?  That’s a good thing.  But power and prestige?  That comes with a pretty hefty price tag.

 

 

 

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jeffsdeepthoughts

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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