Friday, August 6, 2010

Our story, the story of God, and taking time in community to bring them together

This week for the Village Art Project we talked about Time and how it takes time to CREATE community.  This inevitably invites me think about time and how time is inextricably linked to community.  The following are some thoughts I  have about time in addition to some other things I've been contemplating lately.  Forgive me if this seems a bit tangential - it probably is - I suppose that's just how I am.

Time is something that often we're not very good at. Culturally, we don't value slowing down, listening, being contemplative, meditating, resting, sitting and stepping back. We have this idea that doing, action, forward motion, general movement, is instead what we should be striving for. We want things to happen quickly and in a controlled environment to make sure everything goes according to plan. And because just about everything we do involves some kind of interaction with people, we often overlook the beauty in people, aspects of people that should be appreciated, for the sake of time.

I have been thinking lately about story; about our "internal narrative" and the external realities that influence it over time. I have been thinking about how everyone has a story, and about how so many people hate their story. And yet, because it’s their story, they either defend it or hide it from others because its meaning is seemingly incomprehensible, often perceived this way because of pain built up over time. People who have suffered or who have not experienced the creature comforts they see around them, would logically want to trade their story, or even just part of their story, for a different less painful one. The problem is it isn't that easy. But too often we don't conceptualize the complexities of a person's story, and to their detriment, we try and convince people of an ease that simply doesn't exist.

Too often societally, we say poor people should just get a job and stop being so lazy, we talk about female victims of partner violence and accuse them of being stupid and we say they just need to leave, we talk about people who early in life never had a healthy attachment relationship with a caregiver and we say they just need to act more normal, we talk about people who have addictions and say they just need to stop. Do you see it? We profoundly over-simplify complex and painful stories we know nothing about. And in so doing, we vandalize grace and disfigure it into a repulsive misrepresentation; something that rejects rather than attracts. Over-simplifying someone else’s story like this is sad because it produces shame, and then humiliation, and ultimately only keeps people within their narrative rather give them the confidence to seek freedom from it.

I think part of God’s plan for the world, part of the mission of the church, is to help human beings live consistent with God’s story as revealed in scripture. The Gospel, a narrative of Jesus life, paints a picture of who Jesus is and how the people of God should live. The story of the Gospel is one that, in contradistinction to the agonistic, calls people into a different kind of story. This story is one about the Kingdom of God, and how in this Kingdom people love their enemies, extend hospitality to those that can’t reciprocate, the hungry are satisfied, the sinner is loved and the poor inherit life.

Followers of Jesus, Christians, will likely find it very difficult to help people integrate their narrative into the narrative of God - combining and making sense of their own story within the story of God – without meaningful relationship; more specifically, without friendship. It took a person’s entire life, a great deal of time, to develop the personal-historical story they have. As followers of Jesus, we are at best misguided when we expect individuals or a community of people to change quickly, and to change without the foundation of loving friendship.

Jesus gathered to Himself fisherman and tax collectors, failed revolutionaries caste aside by society. Then…..….He loved them.  Sometimes telling people about Jesus might need to be more about discipling people into a relational community, where a person’s story is safely revealed over time, rather than moving too quickly to get people to have an experience praying a prayer. God’s good news needs to be connected somehow to the deep yearning of a person’s internal narrative. This deep yearning, I think, so often looks like community, Koinonia community.

Reconciliation, at least in part, is about restoring human beings into authentic relationship. This is what we were meant for. Jesus spent time with a handful of broken, messed up people and loved them in ways that were beyond their comprehension. He didn’t over-simplify their pain by minimizing or too quickly moving past it; He sat in it with them. God is using community in my life and the lives of many of my friends, teaching us that when we love God and love people over a period of time, and in the context of friendship, the story of God becomes revealed in our time. All of a sudden, our need to defend or hide our story dissipates, and we find the story of God slowly and gently integrating into our own.

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