Letting Go of the Rules

I just read a truly blessed blog at: A Pilgrim's Ponderings (http://pilgrimsponderings.com/?p=14#more-14) At the heart of Tony's message is something many of us hope becomes true for us as we age: that we let go of more and more of the rules and certainties and live into the ambiguities of love and compassion more and more authentically. (NOTE: for another take on the importance of ambiguity, see the blog Avdat at: http://marvinlindsay.typepad.com/avdat/2008/08/i-cant-get-that-talk-of-the-nation-episode-about-the-indeterminacy-of-gender-off-my-mind-i-think-about-it-in-light-of-bruegg.html)

Tony's point is simple: often when we start out in ministry we not only think we know more than many others, but our insecurities push us into acting like that is true, too. But when we age - and really have to face our failures, faults, glaring contradictions, wounds and pain - there is the chance we might become more tender towards others and gentle towards ourselves.

He writes: I (began) as someone who taught the Bible to people and returned (or became) someone who taught people the Bible. You may have to read that last sentence again, it seems subtle but there really is a profound difference between teaching the Bible to people as opposed to teaching people the Bible... When I transitioned to being a someone who teaches people the Bible my list of stake truths (those are the ones I’d like to think I would be willing to go to the stake over) shrank dramatically. It used to take a legal page or two to hold all these truths, now I can fit them comfortably on the front of a 3×5 index card. Those who teach people the Bible clearly understand and are comfortable with not knowing everything. They love mystery and consider it vital to walking with and worshipping Jesus.

Life and love are complicated. Maybe that's why I find myself going back to Buechner over and over again. Last night before I went to sleep I read these words about imagination in Whistling in the Dark: Be the man who trips over a suitcase of hundred dollar bills buried in the field he's plowing if you want to know what the Kingdom of Heaven is all about (Matthew 13: 44)

Listen to Jesus saying, "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11: 28) until you can HEAR him if you want to know what faith is all about. If you want to know what loving your neighbors is all about, look at them with more than just your eyes... Hear not just the words they speak but the words they do not speak. Feel what it's like to be who they are...

When Jesus said, "All ye that labor and are heavy laden," he was seeing the rich as well as the poor, the lucky as well as the unlucky, the idle as well as the industrious. He was seeing the bride on her wedding day. He was seeing the old man in front of the TV. He was seeing all of us. The highest work of the imagination is to have eyes like that.

For the past 10 years this has been my favorite verse in Scripture - especially the way Peterson reworks it in The Message: Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. (Matthew 11: 28) So today, on my father's birthday, I think of aging and ambiguity and the unforced rhythms of grace. Here's another guy who has been thinking about this stuff along with Tony and me and Beuchner and my dad... Yusuf Islam. And it still sounds as if he's got it right!

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