Editor’s note: This is part two of a two-part series. Read part one here.
I’ve been thinking, at 57, about how disappointing the world, other people, the church, society, politicians, even myself, are. And yet, I hope. I still think things can be better. This is mysterious.
I went to Mount Think-About-It to consider it and came down with two tablets carved in sand, so they can be easily revised if needed. But these are some things I have thought about in my experiences thus far.
No. 6 – Let it begin with me. A changed world begins in changed people. Changed worlds can also change people. But the most powerful change is when outer and inner converge.
Watch out. Right person, right time, right opportunity and right choice are a recipe for something the world is waiting for and doesn’t know it.
No. 7 – Technique isn’t enough. At some point, there is this mysterious power called inspiration, which comes from the words for “breathe into.” Change is part analysis, part prescription and big part art.
Technicians and engineers are often in danger of attempting to work without the artistic, without the visionary.
No. 8 – Suffering is being alive. “Passion” is a word that gets used a lot, but now we tend to see it as “overwhelming love for” and even “desire,” without the medieval meaning so often connected with it – submission, suffering, being subject to something.
Originally it referred to the crucifixion of Jesus, the passio, in Latin, thus “suffering love.”
If the medieval mind was too heavy on the “being subject” part, I wonder if we have severed love too much from it.
Grieve, suffer, ache, long – these are all the aliveness of love. Change begins when we let ourselves “love” the world passionately, and therefore suffer inevitably with and for it.
No. 9 – Change alone, rejoice alone. You will love your neighbor as yourself, a friend of mine used to say.
Self-loathing people loathe others. People who want to fix the world in an external way never really connect to the human and utterly involved nature of this enterprise.
You can stand at a distance, of course, and lob grenades at the foibles of humankind. This is called commentary.
But the object of change must be connection and communication and ultimately a summons to understand and join together – not merely celebrate a superior mind in a hopeless world.
No. 10 – Assessment is necessary and impossible. You cannot finally know the good you do any more than the evil that you are doing, not fully.
This is never an excuse not to act. Christians talk often of “faith” – but too often as a noun rather than a verb. That is, it is too often a thing they “have,” like an AAA membership in case of a spiritual flat tire.
This “thing” is something they possess, a rabbit’s foot and a lucky charm that can be tossed aside after one freshman philosophy course because it is not really faith at all.
Faith “trust” is more like a “conviction,” a belief about the way things are that is so deep that nothing so superficial as mountains of consensus and cultural agreement can shake it away.
Results are good, but they are not required to act, and they sometimes dissuade us from what must be done. Get busy. Do something.
Gary Furr is pastor of Vestavia Hills Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.