March 24, 2009
We Interrupt These Women . . .
While it's still Women's History Month, it's also still Lent. As such I wanted to once again riff on some recent Lenten reflections by our publisher Bob Fryling.
Bob is delightfully elliptical; in fact, his leadership style is modeled after the ellipse, which he tells us has not one but two focal points. You don't choose between two apparently contradictory targets; rather, you embrace the paradox of both and allow them to simultaneously inform your mission. An example is the suggestion that the goal of ministry is "to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." When you think elliptically, you get to write funky sentences like that.
This elliptical orientation makes sense of some spiritual realities that occupy the background of our faith experience. Most of the year, for example--especially in a culture as preoccupied with the self as one might accuse contemporary Western culture of being--our faith experience orbits the central idea that we are loved by God. One of our authors once critiqued this lopsided theology as "Goduhluv," to be said with an Elvis-Presleyan sneer. And in fact, if we're honest, even while we eagerly worship the "Goduhluv" we retain this nagging instinct that if God loves us totally, it's because he's overlooked something about us.
We retain this nagging instinct because it's the other focal point of the ellipse that we inhabit. "We are sinners," Bob told us this morning. He didn't wag his finger and shout it in accusation but rather shrugged his shoulders and spoke sheepishly, apologetically. "It's embarrassing," he admitted, and he's right.
We tend to think of sin from the side of triumph and distance ourselves from it, denouncing it as horrific and detestable. It is those things, but it's also central to the ellipse we inhabit, and to admit as much is to shrug, not out of cavalier resignation but out of exhausted futility.
Sin is where we live during Lent. It's a helpful corrective, I think, to the general tenor of our year, in which we hover around a different focus. And yet to live too long in Lent alone, to enter into the orbit of our own sinfulness, to gaze on it too intently, is to lose sight of the equal and paradoxical Easter reality that organizes our ellipse: we are loved by God.
Bob told a story about a time while he was working in campus ministry when a young woman asked him for some advice. He thought she needed to pick a class for her fall semester and was taken aback when she broke down crying. "I can't believe that God would love me."
Who knows what occupied her field of vision as she wept; perhaps she was embroiled in a low self-image, or perhaps she was orbiting the reality of sinfulness. Really, who cares? What was obvious was that this woman was trapped in Lent. She had lost sight of Easter. Bob wisely offered her a glimpse. "I challenge you to read Romans 8 every day for a month." Here's a key passage:
There are forty days in Lent. Sundays don't count. Every Sunday in Lent is a reprieve, a day of rest in the midst of our forty-day Lenten observance. So maybe on the remaining Sundays of this year's Lent we can begin and end our days, and so begin and end our weeks, and so occasionally divert our orbit during Lent, by reflecting on this passage; by remembering that God is not subordinate to our sin, and that whatever else occupies our ellipse, we continue to live in the love of God.
In other news, I was recently sent an analysis of Strangely Dim from a college student who shall remain nameless. She had several insightful observations of the site and its authors (I feel a bit found out, to be honest), but I wanted to highlight one judgment she handed down on us: as a blog, we are, I'm simultaneously proud and chagrined to say, "always family friendly." Put that in your bubble pipe and blow bubbles with it.