Saturday, March 7, 2009

Why It's Hard to Talk to an Evnagelical - Part II - The Chink in the Armor Syndrome Cont.

I wanted to do a post, deconstructing my last one. After that I wanted to re-construct how I had wished Jack had responded to me. But the more I though about it, I was feeling a little uncomfortable with the story that has me as a victim.

Today, while in the gym, I pushed my mind to come up with an example when I was the perpetrator. It was hard but not because I rarely am such a Evang-o-jerk. It’s a hard to remember examples because when I was most notorious was years ago. Not to say that I’m not guilty now. Now,I am often blind to my own faults . . . the log in my eye syndrome.

But, I did come up with a good example. It is good because it was horrible and will be brief to tell.

Setting: I was raising our support to go on the mission field twenty years ago. I had been travelling around the country but came back to Ypsilanti, Michigan to speak at a church service. After church I had the conversation with a man, Ron, who I knew fairly well. While we had been out of town for a few months Ron had suffered a serious heart attack . . . and he was only 38 years old. We had our conversation in the vestibule of the church.

Ron: I guess you heard about my heart attack?

Me: Yeah that was terrible. Are you okay now?

Ron: Well, I’m in rehab. I’ve changed my diet and am exercising. However, I’m scared to death. I just can’t sleep at night anymore. My chest pain started in the middle of the night and now I keep think I feeling it again.

Me: (With a big smile on my face) Hey Ron, I have a verse for you. (this was something we were taught to say in the Navigators . . . just before we slammed someone in the face with a Bible verse with the intention of making them feel really stupid and unspiritual).` Proverbs 3:24 says, “when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” My sleep is sweet. You see, I use to suffer from insomnia before I was a Christian. Then God gave me peace. Now I know that God will protect me. The worst thing that could happen (quoting a concept from Bill Gothard) is that I would die. But if I died; a) it would be God’s will, b) I would be in heaven with Him and c) so it would be great! You just have to believe what God says. (Then I padded him on the back and walked away).

Now, if I really loved Ron more than myself and was not interested in making myself look spiritual and tearing him down (in order to make me look good), I would have said something more like the following:

Me: Oh, I did hear about it and I’ve been thinking about you. Man, I would have been scared to death. How are you holding up?

Ron: I’m doing okay, trying to get in better shape, but I am scared, so scared that I can’t sleep well at night.

Me: Of course you are scared. You wouldn’t be human not to be. I’m sure that I wouldn’t be able to sleep either. There’s nothing unspiritual about that. Have you talked to your doctor about this? I mean, he might need to prescribe something to help you cope with your anxiety until you get over some of the shock of it. Man, you’re my hero. I think I would be going nuts by now. I have a lot of problems with anxiety. Honestly I can’t sleep the nights before I have to do a talk in front of a large crowd. I can’t imagine the fear of having a freakin heart attack.

Anyway, you get my point. The operative word is Grace. When we have a conversation, we want to go there relaxed . . . like showing up naked rather than in a suit of armor. We want the other person to respect us to the point that no matter what we say, they will (in grace) give us the benefit of the doubt. Of course I’m not speaking about extremes like saying “I thinking about trying meth . . .or I’m leaving my wife” without some questioning. But event that questioning should be done in a spirit of grace.

When the Church (capital C) creates a world where we can talk to each other without fear (wearing our suits of armor) then we can talk about where we really are in life. The more we know where each other are, the better the Church can be.

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