It is the end of another summer. Fifty-one of them have gone by in what seems a much shorter life. I am alone. On the Island. At the Lake.
My eldest son, Liam, gmails me from Ottawa – enjoying his fresh compatriots at the Small is the New Big College. Rylan meanders the frosh-weakened corridors of the University of Toronto. And Imbi and Kaili begin the move of our present transient home to the next. From Oakwood and St. Clair to the Eastern edge of the Beach. This time next year we will return to the Danforth – after a three year hiatus from our Toronto home.
I have struggled of late with writing substantive posts. Certain passions of mine have not cooled enough to quit scorching the bluetooth keyboard I percuss in frustration. The present leadership in much of Westernized Christianity leaves me gasping in amazement at what is presented as Biblical Christianity. (The twelve apostles must have been the first church board, appointed by that gifted and rich CEO, Jesus.) Posts like this, this, this and this are jumping off points for what I want to write. I have started and stopped my Big Man leadership post more times than I care to admit.
Today I received an email from one of the finest writing teachers I know, Jeff Sexton. (Jeff’s material played a key role in the writing course Imbi and I taught in Kenya in May/June.) Jeff quotes from Richard Mitchell‘s speech, Writing Against Your Life.
Now, if you take up writing seriously, I can’t promise this, but I can hope this: I hope that it will make you profoundly unhappy. I hope that every day will bring you some bad news from the frontier of that unknown territory in which you work. I hope every day you rise up from your desk and say, “God, what a fool I was yesterday!” So that you can say that again tomorrow. And thus write against your life.
There was a very popular whoring book around lately — I don’t know, it hasn’t been for some time, I can’t remember when, it was called “I’m Okay” — uh, something — “I’m Okay, You’re Okay.” Oh, what pleasant news. Believe me, you’ll never lose money by telling people how nice they are. You’ll never lose money by telling people, “Hey! Don’t worry about your miserable rotten behavior and your perversions, and your lies, and your thefts! You’re okay!” No one will blame you for this, and you may actually do quite well. I don’t know about you — I suspect, but I don’t know about you — however I will tell you this: I am not okay. I am not okay. I do not carefully define my terms when I think. I do not test, rigidly, as though I were a stranger, every one of my quaint and curious notions, prejudices, and beliefs, I do not do this, I am not okay. I lie. Whether I lie to you is none of your damn business; I lie to me, as to what I am and how it is in me. And I am not okay. (And I don’t think you’re okay either, but all I can do is suspect that.)
Okayness does not ever come; I’m sure of that. But writing is the path towards it, and it’s a path that hurts.
“You’ll never lose money telling people how nice they are.” Indeed. The leaders of Westernized Christianity would not disagree. As Eugene Peterson writes,
The pastors of America have metamorphosed into a company of shopkeepers, and the shops they keep are churches. They are preoccupied with shopkeeper’s concerns–how to keep the customers happy, how to lure customers away from competitors down the street, how to package the goods so that the customers will lay out more money.
Please, trust me, these “shopkeepers” are not okay. Neither am I. Nor are you. If only we can learn to grasp the truth, become truth-tellers – one to another. Not buying into some perverted nonsense of living your best life now – merchandising a happiness that will never lead to joy.
Part of my own feeble attempt at truth-telling it is to write. However much it hurts. As rocks crying out are wont to do.
UPDATE: This from Bob Hyatt’s Blog quoting Michael Frost’s book, Exiles
“How did the contemporary church get to be like this? How did we end up with armies of church leaders who resemble corporate executives and act as if church is a global business? How is it that the subversive, radical nature of the life of Jesus has been so domesticated that we find ourselves in our current position, with Christians living in ghettos and losing touch with our most dangerous memories?… We have preferred the adorable alabaster Jesus to the flesh-and-blood radical Messiah. We have imprisoned Him in a stained-glass cell and want only to worship Him, never to follow Him.”