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Do we have realistic expectations for others?

September 5, 2008

When I began the journey toward a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and freedom from the tyranny of “religious performance and religious obligation” (to borrow a phrase from Wayne Jacobsen), I felt a strong compulsion to defend my decision and, more than that, to convince others to do the same thing. It was an instinctive response, so to speak, that I had previously acted upon over the years; for example, when I first embraced a particular theological worldview I felt the need to engage my friends, challenge their perspectives (which I had shared only weeks or months prior to my headlong pursuit of a new direction), and try my best to convince them to join my “new” way of thinking.

But I was wrong to do that. As I deeply desire the fellowship of others, I have no right to such fellowship and camaraderie if it has to be forced. I have always enjoyed the liberty and freedom of making up my own mind about things; and sometimes I end up going completely against the flow. What I have come to realize is that I should cherish the same thing for others…to respect their journey and what God is doing in their hearts through the amazing influences of the Holy Spirit. This is my journey, not their journey!

So I have laid down my “weapons” of persuasion and “surrendered” my friends into the same gracious care of the triune God that I myself enjoy every day. If I were able to convince them to join me on this journey outside the box, then either (1) someone else along the way may persuade them to take a completely different path or (2) they may grow to resent me for pressuring them into something they were not ready for. And it’s just not worth it.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. October 16, 2008 4:50 pm

    I am glad I read this. With everything I am learning now, I am eager to share it but I agree, I need to lean on God and I should not push whatever i am learning onto others.. not even my husband.. He will see certain things in due time.. even now he sees certain aspects that I am learning without throwing it in his face.

  2. Derek permalink
    December 2, 2008 6:39 am

    Totally agree!

    I first started the revolutionary swing in my personal theology a few years back at a deep-south bible college. turns out, thats not a good place to talk about the a non-fundamental view of things, let alone the kind of theologies I was discovering. (imagine engaging a room full of southern baptists about the “Death of the Theistic God”) It stung deeply that none of my friends would join me on my quest and that disillusionment left me cold to the faith for a few years. luckily I’ve started to look around at the new movements afoot, and I’m certainly wiser about trying to push others to join me on the search.

    It’s still a struggle though. anytime I read a new idea or discover something hidden all I want to do is tell all my friends about it. Most don’t want to hear it. Thank God I met my wife, whose always willing to listen even if she thinks I’m a little nuts.

  3. admin permalink
    December 2, 2008 9:58 am

    Getting There: Thanks for leaving your thoughts! I’ve wrestled with the same decision regarding my wife, but I think she’s coming around on her own time.

    Derek: Funny you should mention Southern Baptists, because I was born and raised in those circles. I even attended an SBC seminary, so I may have been one of those fundamentalists you’re talking about. With that sort of background, I have found it extremely difficult to break free (old rituals die hard) and even begin to think in a new direction.

  4. Derek permalink
    December 2, 2008 7:05 pm

    My thoughts exactly. Our tradition is the ground we walk on. It’s hard to let go for fears of falling.

    Not to mix metaphors, but when your wandering in the wilderness of our modern (or post-modern, liberal or post-liberal or narrative or emergent or neo-orthodox or whatever) faith, It would be nice to have a companion, someone to double check the map and make sure we’re heading in the right direction.

    I think the internet has helped quite a few people find a signpost along the way, but I worry that the connections are so fleeting and unreal that we are missing the essential nature of true, human, interaction.

  5. Mike permalink
    December 3, 2008 6:22 pm

    These are great thoughts. It seems that the harder we push, the more we are just pushing away. I am going to ponder this post very much over the next few days because I think that you have captured something here that I have simply overlooked. In theory, I have said that I accept all views but in reality, when facing an opposing view, my first instinct is to debate (read as argue) instead of discuss.

    Thanks for the eye opener.

  6. December 3, 2008 8:26 pm

    I found your blog through Mike above.

    Great thoughts. I can strongly relate to what you say here and in your about page.

  7. December 3, 2008 11:38 pm

    I found your blog via john smulo’s blog comment post…as ‘thechurchgeek’ I’m thinking I need to take seriously your thoughts on this blog so I’ll be reading more. I often try to tell/remind my congregation that tons of people are thinking less and less about being part of the institutional church. Some don’t believe it, others I suppose don’t want to hear it.

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