As you likely deduced from my blog titled “The Shadow of my Blog”, I got in a bit of hot water because of my blog titled “Ouch, that hurt!” At the time I wrote “Ouch”, I simply could not process all the pain I was feeling and as I shared in “Shadow,” I simply needed to lament.
Not only is the word lament not used in our culture, the actual practice is equally as neglected. We have become a plastic people. We are taught to control our emotions, hide our feelings. Those who express deep emotions are often labeled “emotionally unstable.” I don’t know if it is just American’s or if people everywhere have gradually sought to stifle emotion as a part of our human evolution.
If any of the prophets and many of the psalmists whose writings appear in the Old Testament were to appear on the scene today, I feel certain we would quickly commit them to a mental hospital or drug them with anti-depressants. We would suggest they have a glass of wine or perhaps a Valium. We would instruct them to only share their pain with their therapist and insist that they not “rock the boat.”
Over the past several months, the issue of depression has come up several times in our Embrace communities at all levels. It seems to me that depression has reached an epidemic level among all segments of our society; rich, poor, young, old, urban, suburban, male and female. I am not psychiatrist or a trained therapist but I wonder if by stifling our emotions if we might be emotionally damaging ourselves and others?
By stifling our emotions, it appears to me that we have created a culture built on lies. When people ask, “How are you?”, we all know the correct answer is “fine”, even if we are dying inside. When there is conflict we are taught to simply walk away. If we refuse to be honest with people, not in a hurtful or harmful way, but in an authentic way, we will never build authentic relationships. Without authentic relationships, we will never be able to achieve intimacy. As I shared in my post Religionless Christianity: Finding God Outside the Institutional Church, I think we are a society starving for intimacy in our relationships.
If I am correct and intimacy begins with honesty, and honesty includes sharing of emotions including an occasional lament, then it seems logical to me that one element necessary for achieving true unity has to be honesty. I got into some trouble with my blog post “Ouch” because I shared that at that moment, I found it hard to love my friends to the far right of the theological spectrum. Was this a wise statement? Probably not. Was it an honest statement? Yes, at least in that moment.
However, my friend Howard helped me move beyond my own hurt when he shared the following on my “Shadow” post, “I get along with some better than others but have come to embrace the fact that those I have the greatest challenges with often come bearing the gifts of “reasons” and “seasons” in the rapids that bring the most growth.” Howard’s comment helped me see the “gift” side of being around people who think differently than me. I know one gift has been that I have been forced to clarify in my own beliefs over the years and to articulate those beliefs to others, most often through my writing. I have made many mistakes in doing so but I have grown through the process. So I just wanted to say, I am not really contemplating chopping off a few parts of the body to achieve unity.
A few weeks ago, an artist who is a part of our Fairfield missional community brought in his artwork. He graciously allowed us to use his art as the focal point of our reflection time. What came out of that time, was the realization that he, as an artist, was drawn to images that captured human struggle. This was a revelation for this particular artist who had never recognized that about himself. It was also a revelation to me as a writer. I realized that many of my most popular posts on this blog grow out of a place of struggle. I also realized that great artists, like my friend in Fairfield court, are the ones who are able to connect with people and help them to connect with their own inner struggles.
It would be far easier for me to do ministry solely with those who believe what I believe and avoid the struggle. However, it would not be nearly as interesting and I would have a lot less to write about. Three weeks ago, I could not see past my own pain so I confessed my desire to get off the unity bound path. However today, I think I can see a path that just might get us there. It is a path that not only allows for honesty, but one that embraces the practice of lament. It is a path that allows for struggle and the resulting gifts. It is a hard, rocky, uphill path but one I believe will lead us to a beautiful place. Over the next few weeks, I would like to dig a little deeper into the concept of unity from a couple of different angles and see where it leads us. I hope you will join me on this journey.