Work in Progress

Baseball, Seminary, Wrestling, and the Dreams and Days of one Mike Work's Angeles experience

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Hard Truths

It's been a week of hearing and learning hard truths about myself, and they’ve been largely been relational in nature. I'll speak more specifically in person, but for now, here's a correlated word from Eugene Peterson,

"By insisting that God is three-personed, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - God inherently relational, God in community - we are given an understanding that God is emphatically personal. The only way that God reveals himself is personally. God is personal under the personal designations of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and never in any other way; never impersonally as a force or an influence, never abstractly as an idea or truth or principle. And so, of course he can't be known impersonally or abstractly.

We are not used to this. We are schooled in institutions that train us in the acquisition of facts and data, of definitions and diagrams, of explanations and analysis. Our schools are very good at doing this. When we study persons, whether God or humans, we bring the same methods to the work: analyzing, defining, typing, charting, profiling. The uniquely personal and particular is expunged from the curriculum; and that means the removal of the most important things about us - love and hope and faith, sin and forgiveness and grace, obedience and loyalty and prayer - as significant for understanding and developing as persons. The fact is that when we are studied like specimens in a laboratory, what is learned is on the level of what is learned from an autopsy. The only way to know another is in a personal relationship, and that involves at least minimal levels of trust and risk."
(Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places 304

And I don't know how to trust others, nor do i actually listen to other people without predicting their words and preparing my response, or ask people questions rather than finding out things. I've developed a bit of competence and resourcefulness and can do my work well, yet am a type-a control freak who tends to take everything on his shoulders rather than sharing. It's like my strongest traits and greatest strengths come out of huge deficits elsewhere, and my deep passions come in areas where I carry the most baggage. Looking down the road, this freaks me out.

I don't like it, and want to change, especially when i see how i depersonalize and dehumanize other people, while putting that sort of conduct at the top of the list of 'things that are just wrong.' Big 'my bad' right there, and repentance, change of direction, is called for on my part.

But the really hard thing about this is that it's not something I can do on my own. Just as I can't dissect God and boil God down to a concept, I can't do that with people either. One doesn't learn relationships apart from persons, and trust doesn't happen when one doesn't take risks. Risks with my life, no problem. Anything crazy, I'm always game. But taking a risk with another person, actually trusting and caring enough to speak honestly and truthfully, to actually put love into practice...i don't go there often.

Watched Garden State again recently, and it resonated deeply, brought emotion to the surface, and inspired. I'd add Andrew Largeman to the composite of movie characters that i identify myself with (see 02.04.05 post). Si has a great post on the film, and much of what he says is what I'd like to say.

I'll be straightforward here. It's a challenge to believe. To believe that following Jesus really does make a difference, that the church really is a community where we can relate as healthy persons, that love is real, that God can change people, that there is a distress that leads to life rather than death, to actual heart-felt change, rather than an endless cycle of condemnation (2 Corinthians 7, many thanks to Winn for preaching it three years ago), and that we can ask the hard questions, hear the hard answers, and not completely flip out and start throwing punches.

Crazy, but if this whole Jesus thing really is true, then everything changes, including those lessons learned early and often in life. 'Trust me; I tell you the truth' is directly at odds with that 'you can't trust anyone,' but what if we actually believed it, and let it define our lives? Would we change? Would I change? I think so.


  • At 3:34 PM, Blogger Kevin Lewis said…

    And this is especially challenging to do in a world where we busy ourselves with school, work, and all sorts of other crap. How do we possibly develop meaningful relationships with God and each other when we barely give ourselves time to rest? Or when the majority of our church commutes from long distances...I would love to join a commune :)

  • At 12:35 PM, Blogger work said…

    Bingo, Kev.

    I am task-oriented to the tee, a master of planning out my schedule to the quarter-hour and maximizing efficiency. I tell myself i do this so that i can have flexibility and freedom for spontaneity and time with people, who always take priority over things.

    But the challenge of communicating as much (in word and deed) is pretty tricky, and i often see it rise to the surface either when the intensity leads someone away from engaging with me because i'm so 'busy' or when i get overly zoned in on one project, to the tune of 'okay, five minutes, we need to get this done, so let me handle everything. then we can hang,' rather than working through a problem together as a team. Those're the pangs and pains.

    Tangentially, the whole commuter church phenomenon really began to disturb me late in college, seeing groups of friends drive a half hour to go to church. It strengthened their bonds with one another, yet the phenomenon does disconnect persons from their local setting, and it's especially prominent here in LA. Commuter church also makes it a bit tricky to incorporate someone from one's locality into the church, and i can see myself asking 'now why are we driving here? to listen to someone we don't know and aren't likely to meet? explain this again...'

    All for communes, I am...although marriage could lead to a reconfiguration of what that looks like.


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