16 June, 2008

That Sinking Feeling

Wow. Unanimity. What's that?!


I'm actually a little surprised that everyone agrees that "the answers" are not all in scripture. It's as if I'd figured out that the Earth is round ... yesterday. Being me, I'd let everyone know of my discovery by making some bold statement about how I was willing to sail past the sunset, confident that I'd return alive. Everyone else would look up from their newspapers and say, "Yeah. It'd be fun to sail past China and under the two great capes, Horn and Good Hope. Enjoy your trip!"

Fortunately, here in blog land, none of you could see my jaw drop. :-)

Well, and I'm still not used to people agreeing with me about much of anything. :-D

I was raised amongst three groups of Christians, all of whom shared basic doctrines and some theological differences, but all of whom were unanimously committed to scripture as the sole, final, absolute, complete, sufficient source for every question of life. Any question more complex than how to get to Arby's could be answered directly, completely and unambiguously from scripture.

Did I mention that my denominational background is, "Damentalist?"

And did I explain that Damentalism is what's left after you take the fun out of fundamentalism?

My Damentalist elders would have had a scriptural answer to my question, "How could I know not to marry a girl in 10 days." They'd have pulled something out of the scriptures (no, not those other places) about many counselors making for safe plans and the Lord not being the author of confusion and haste making waste (some of them would occasionally confuse Ben Franklin with Solomon), and assure me (and themselves) that had I only been firmly grounded in scripture I'd not have made a Gordian Tangle of my life.

Here's the problem, though. The kid sitting next to me would spend 12 years engaged to some poor woman, marry her, and divorce in two years, and they've have found every bit as strong scriptural arguments against what he did. And some other joker would call responsibly on a young lady, court her for 6 months, be engaged for 12 months and 3 days, and marry her with her father's blessing and muddle his life, and they'd have every bit as strong scriptural arguments against what he did.

The common factor is that their understanding of scripture's perfect guidance is clearest after-the-fact. They're like gypsies gazing into their crystal ball pronouncing the future as dim, until the dust settles and the weeping's begun. And suddenly, their wisdom doesn't taste like honey in my mouth any more. I just wish it were sweet in my belly.

So, as I look at the possibility that wisdom is something we learn, more like riding a bicycle than being born again, it resonates well against my experience. You all obviously agree with that intuition, and I think scripture would support us together.


Have you thought about the tremendous burden and responsibility that puts on us all?

Hey! Being a Damentalist was easy. As long as I could not think of any scripture to stop me, or at least could plausibly explain it away, I could charge forward with my life like a rhonicerous on the scent of tasty daisies. I could examine the scriptures with an open heart, and whatever it they did not proscribe was fair game.

For example.

I could look at David snatching up Abigail and think 10 days was a LONGGGGG courtship. I could even be proud and thankful that I didn't have to collect the foreskins of 200 Cajuns as a dowry for Michal (and I didn't have to worry about the whole dying while trying thing, either. Those Cajuns can be mighty opinionated about their foreskins, I've heard.) I could even look at a handful of brothers maturing beyond the message of John the Baptist the very first time they heard Christ presented by Paul, and figure it was a wise thing to follow a man who brought a higher gospel.

The bible is full of stories of short courtships, immediate changes of doctrine, and droppings of everything to follow the leading of God.

Haste is commended by scripture over and over and over, if you're looking for that sort of thing. And my personality is always looking for a good reason to make haste. Always. Always. I'll even settle for silence on the subject that just lets me make my haste with a low-humming conscience. It doesn't strictly have to "quiet" for me.

But if the scripture is silent on some things, then I need to be cautious. I need to seek wisdom. I need to be sure I'm not being an idiot. Or simple. Or even a fool. If the scripture proscribes only those things that might show me to be evil, but leaves unmentioned some things that might show me to be simple or a fool, then I need to grow up.

It's a shame to have to learn that at 44, but I'm afraid I'll learn it again at 54, and again at 64. If the Lord is kind to burn this lesson into my memory through the fires of self-imposed experience, then maybe I'll only have to learn it this one last (major) time.

And I'll lay one more responsibility at my feet, and this one may fall at yours, too. As the church, as one of the three that agree on Earth (thank you, Missy!), I have a responsibility to those I see being foolish as I was foolish. I have a responsibility to turn my hard-earned wisdom into their narrow escape. And when I say responsibility, I mean that the church needs her holders of wisdom to step forward for those who need them. I mean that the Lord needs those who have received wisdom at His hands to pass it along to His sheep. I mean that He might hold us responsible for hiding our experiences from each other.

Perhaps the only purpose for my life is to serve as an example to others (http://despair.com/mis24x30prin.html) but I think maybe that's a pretty important thing.


Lynne said...

Sorry, I didn't get to reply to the last one .. busy couple of days! But I absolutely agree with you. One of my separation points from the house church I was once painfully part of was on precisely this issue -- they were trying to run my life for me by a set of proof texts, and my response was: 'hang on a minute, it's a bit more complicated than that!!'

I believe the Bible is the Word of God,I believe it is true and contains everything necessary to salvation, and a lot of clues on how to live godly lives, but it is NOT a magic answer book. And (sticking my neck out a bit further) I think that's the way God wants it. He isn't playing some power game with little robots who live by a set of legalistic rules, He wants sons and daughters who honour Him by wrestling with the hard questions of life, trying to work out how to live with love and integrity in their own unique circumstances, and sometimes even wrestling with Him. He never said it would be easy, but I think there are some hints that it might just turn out to be glorious ..

It's painful, it turns your heart and soul inside out and leaves the hard questions dangling in the air, but in the process He teaches you real wisdom, the sort you can't get out of any book, including His.

Missy said...

Surprise! I agree (with you and Lynne).

I think one thing that has been very helpful to me from scripture is learning from the example of Christ what a Godly person "looks" like. Not primarily so I can follow - 'cause my heart of pride would grasp that as my own doing - but so I can reach out to Godly people.

As a church, we NEED to be open with each other. We also need to be safe to do so. It's so hard to get both together, but not as hard as you'd think. It means I have to start it, but once I get momentum - ah, beautiful! Others are just as desparate as I am for it. 'Course, our nature is to live in the dark - not let anyone see who we really are. I find it so strange that what we usually hide ends up being so common. And it could bring us closer together if it comes into the light.

But safety, yeah, that's a big deal. But Godly people have compassion. I know that.

Milly said...

My first honest response was well Duh Kevin. It was 4something am and I was feeling a bit sassyish. At work I said to my boss “Dude do you need sock puppets to understand?” a co-worker/boss who was standing next to us said “I could draw stick figures if you think it might help.” We both yelled “I love you!” as he walked away mumbling. I so love my job even with a migraine. :-} As I read on I realized that you get that we were all raised differently. I often at family events say show me the scripture. I’ll eat a bug the day they do, more than 40 years and still no bugage. No worries here.
I also want to say that I agree often with you so what does that make me or are you really hold’n out a lot? ;-}
There are no life plans God doesn’t tell me that my next step to life is in Milly 46:4 He tells me that when I fall He’s there. He sends me reassurances from friends that my moves are justified. He stop and s its with me when friends seem to me MIA.

No there is no clear life map and I’m sure if there was I would have taken the wrong path on many occasions not because I got lost but because I was lost to the world. I have a good sense of direction but the paths of my life weren’t always in His plan. Agree that someday I will be able to sit with someone and tell them what I’ve been through. You’ve shared what you’ve been through and I can say that the Familyhood Church has been a help and the man that showed us a true heart has comforted at least me.

codepoke said...

3 great comments. Thank you all.

It's really difficult to admit so deep flaws, but they're what really happened. In some cases, you get to find out "everyone does it," but I don't think many people are as capable of idealistic error as I am. I take my idealism very seriously, and I took my scriptural idealism as gospel - so to speak. :-)

Thank you for great lines like:
> He teaches you real wisdom, the sort you can't get out of any book, including His.

> learning from the example of Christ what a Godly person "looks" like. Not primarily so I can follow ... but so I can reach out to Godly people.

> I often at family events say show me the scripture. I’ll eat a bug the day they do, more than 40 years and still no bugage.


eclexia said...

I've been thinking now for several days (since your previous post) on the responsibility we have to share and pass on wisdom, and how that helps to fill in some of the gaps that are in Scripture.

Two thoughts:
1. I think we could do a better job training (and modeling) to younger people the importance of seeking and listening to such wisdom. Being willing to listen to older and more experienced people is not a natural thing it seems, at least not in our culture.

2. I'm not sure it will always be heard or make that much of a difference. BUT, I do think if we take seriously that facilitating wise decisions is an important part of our job description as co-members of the body of Christ, that it will involve not "hiding our experiences from each other."

It is one thing to pronounce from my mouth, "I think you are making a foolish decision." It is another thing all together to share from my life, wisdom that I have gained the hard way--and to honestly share that hard way with you. I think the humility that is communicated from that type of wisdom-sharing sort of oils the listening/hearing wheels. I also think it allows real connection between people, on the same level, instead of being a one-upmanship.

It takes humility to listen and receive--to take seriously the advice and opinions of others. It also takes humility to give such advice and opinions without hiding the experience(s) out of which such advice and opinions have grown.

Thank you for your vulnerability and honesty in doing that here.

blest said...

Makes me think of the whole What Would Jesus Do thing. Has its uses, but Jesus was never a girl or a mom!!! It really isn't as all-applicable as people want to believe.

And I LOVE love LOVE despair dot com. That site is one of my favorite pick-me-ups...which says something about me, I'm sure.

karen said...

I'm agreeing with you, CP. Surprise, too!
Maybe I'm just feeling "sassyish."
I love that word, milly!

On the other hand, I'm in a place right now where I'm looking back on life and relationships and wondering, "Why did that seem the right thing at that time?" when it all looks wacko to me now.

So, who am I to comment? :-/ :-)