As I approach the “Big Sixty” (a little over a year away!), I find myself resonating more and more with Father Richard Rohr’s words, “I don’t need to push the river as much now, or own the river, or get everybody in my precise river.”
Frankly, on many occasions, I’m not even sure there is a river!
But that is not how it was most of my life. I had a handle, so I thought, on the truth. Life on the ground, however, has a way of humbling one. It’s like the old saying, “I once had six theories but no kids. Now I have six kids and no theories.”
I’m just not as smart as I used to be.
I’m not suggesting ignorance is the desired destination. Careful thinking matters. God calls us to love him with all our mind. Intellectual laziness and cowardice (more on that below) is irresponsible.
But there are more negotiables at this stage in my life. Less hills to die on.
We are all products of time and space, subject to cognitive biases. Culture, gender, class, race, educational background, religious heritage, family upbringing, coupled with our age and psychological makeup and a million other variables, cause us to see (and not see) in particular ways.
Our understanding is and always will be fragmentary and provisional.
The Truth is always bigger and better than we can imagine. Systematic theologian Kevin Vanhoozer writes (I’m substituting Truth for “Christ”): “Truth is no tame lion: truth cannot be domiciled in and domesticated by any single church or denomination.” In our pursuit of knowing the Truth, I think there is much we can learn from our brothers and sisters in the Orthodox, Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant traditions if we believe in “the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.”
Much of my own theological journey was built on fear . . . fear of the unknown, fear of being wrong, fear of failing, fear of ambiguity, . . . fear of doubt itself. To venture into unknown “neighborhoods” was a precursor to getting lost (i.e., losing my soul).
While my neat and tidy theological formulations created a sense of security and safety (and, I’m embarrassed to admit, superiority), that world was becoming stuffy. I was feeling claustrophobic. And the manifestation in my life was a less desirable fruit.
I am having to let go.
Of being right. Having the last word. Being the authority. Needing certainty.
In the field of addiction-recovery, new approaches, procedures, and treatments are being conceived faster than I can count to ten. I am excited and cautiously optimistic about the fresh possibilities for healing available.
Judgment will have to wait right now. Time alone will reveal just how good and helpful these new pathways are. There is simply too much gray at present.
The late Brennan Manning shares a story from his book, Ruthless Trust, that has helped me over the years:
“When the brilliant ethicist John Kavanaugh went to work for three months at ‘the house of the dying’ in Calcutta, he was seeking a clear answer as to how best to spend the rest of his life. On the first morning there he met Mother Teresa. She asked, ‘And what can I do for you?’ Kavanaugh asked her to pray for him.
‘What do you want me to pray for?’ she asked. He voiced the request that he had borne thousands of miles from the United States: ‘Pray that I have clarity.’
She said firmly, ‘No, I will not do that.’ When he asked her why, she said, ‘Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.’ When Kavanaugh commented that she always seemed to have the clarity he longed for, she laughed and said, ‘I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.’”
I hope you don’t mistake my ramblings as the rantings of an old, grumpy, disillusioned man. I actually feel like a child again. I think I am being born again . . . again.
Of course, beliefs matter, but they take a distant second to actions. On the Day we stand before God, we will be evaluated not by our doctrinal positions but by whether we loved.
Becoming better lovers is the essence of Christianity and, therefore, Christian addiction-recovery.
Wherever we land on some of some of the finer points of theology, may it in the end lead us to love Jesus and others more. If it doesn’t, I submit, it is worthless.
While I am less settled on many things these days, there is one statement upon which I am firmly settled: Jesus is the Christ, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.
I cannot prove this assertion any more than I can “prove” a mother’s love for her child. Notwithstanding, I have staked all “bets” on it.
Such is the nature of faith. Pastor and author Brian Zahnd writes, “Christianity is a confession, not an explanation. We will always attempt to explain what we legitimately can, but we will always confess more than we can explain.”
To those of you who have supported this ministry, be assured: We at Life Challenge believe in Jesus the Christ. Our hope is that the precious men and women we serve encounter the love of God through his one and only Son. We believe this alone is the ultimate “cure.”
“We can see and understand only a little about God now,
as if we were peering at his reflection in a poor mirror;
but someday we are going to see him in his completeness, face-to-face.
Now all that I know is hazy and blurred, but then I will see everything clearly,
just as clearly as God sees into my heart right now.
There are three things that remain—faith, hope, and love—
and the greatest of these is love.”
(1 Corinthians 13:12-13, TLB)