Monday, July 11, 2005

The Old Show

"I meet people along the way who model for me, each in a different way, what a new kind of Christian might look like. They differ in many ways, but they generally agree that the old show is over, the modern jig is up, and it's time for something radically new." (A New Kind of Christian, Brian D. McLaren, from the introduction, (c) 2001).

I just started on this book, A New Kind of Christian. Already, I feel a strong pull toward the author and the discontent, the confusion, the hope and the determination I find in his words. It is so radical and earth-shattering to me to think of the way the world I grew up in is not only changing, not only flawed, not only inadequate and in need of revision, but to think that it is over. The "Old Show" is no longer around. It's dying, failing. It's over, and not only do we want or need something new. We don't have any other choice. We either let it go or we die with it.

McClaren shares his frustrations with the Christianity he grew up with, the Christianity he had promoted for years from the pulpit.

"But at that low tide of faith, my soul was trying to tell me something important, something I needed to listen to. Just as feelings of suicide are often an exaggerated way for our soul to tell us something we have been denying, something like, "The life you're living is insupportable; you can't keep living this way," my ministry death wish and urge for spiritual escape were tellimg me something I needed to attend to."

I find it great to witness these kinds of revelations happen in others, who have gone through many of the frustrations and difficult questions that I am still going through. It is also wonderful to think of depression, not as a trial to be overcome, at the end of which one might sink back into the same old complacent life and drift along as before, but actually to be a wake-up call. I could see my life and think, "If I could seriously ponder ending my life, then I can do anything. I can change anything in my life. So instead of ending my life altogether, I'll end my life as I've been living it and start a new kind of life. I can now see a third alternative to the status quo and suicide."

I now count it perhaps a misfortune that I have never seriously pondered ending my own life. My trust in a God who cares about me, it seems, has been just strong enough to guard me against such things but still leave me complacent. Don't get me wrong. I have no intention of getting suicidal, even just for a few days. But I do intend to change my life, or perhaps allow God's spirit of power to change my life (not to be confused with sitting back and waiting for change to sweep me up out of Kansas and over the rainbow).

I personally look not only at my Christianity, but at my entire life, the way I live the way I interact with people, the way I sit at home and do nothing productive or nothing interesting and don't even have fun for long stretches of time, and I say there must be a change. "I cannot keep living this way." I fear that the life I am living might actually be supportable. I fear that I will continue to distract myself from discontent instead of listening to it and taking steps to change from it. I'm afraid I will, like Pip in Great Expectations, check my finances, see what terrible shape I'm in, and feel rather good and productive after a good self-evaluation and then sit back down for a nice complacent ride-along, having actually accomplished nothing at all.

But I do not think that God's mercy is so small. I do not think God's power is so weak. I do not believe that God's faithfulness is so slim, nor his goodness in question, nor his promises so untrustworthy. He will bless me, and I will be a blessing in this world. May the love of Christ abound.