I think I’ve figured it out…
“Figured what out?” you ask? Glad you asked.
Now, I’m hoping I’m not just having a backsliding attack of “Omniscience”… (see earlier post). But I’ve been wracking my brain for a while now, trying to figure out what’s wrong. What’s wrong with the world? What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with the Church? What’s wrong with my clients? What’s wrong with life?
I know I share those questions with a lot of people. Grandparents, pastors, teachers, ministers, moms and dads, civil servants, even teenagers…
A lot of the time, I hear people opt for the answer, “Culture”. That what is wrong with all those things is our “Modern Culture. The degradation of moral values due to the proliferation of electronic media, materialism, instant gratification, television, internet, etc. etc. etc.” Dunno about you, Gentle Reader, but I hear this argument all the time. Pulpits, talk shows, you name it….
Never been a big fan of this position myself. For one thing, “culture” is inescapable. Anyone’s culture is comprised of the norms, values, and mores… the folkways and traditions… of a particular people in a particular time and place. If you or I suddenly found ourselves in 18th Century Japan, we would not “fit with the culture”, we would be considered “odd”, and if we refused to adapt we would be considered, at best, “handicapped”. Religious practices are an element of one’s culture, but do not comprise a culture in and of themselves.
Nope, never been a big proponent of “throwback vintage” philosophy… “If only life were like the ‘good old days’ (whenever those were)… everything would be fine.” OUR “good old days” include things like Viet Nam, World War II, the Nazi Holocaust, the Russian Revolution, The Great Depression, The Dust Bowl, The Great Influenza Epidemic of 1911-1918… just TONS of “good ‘ol stuff” I’d just as soon give a miss, thanks.
Somehow, deep down, I’ve always known (even as a little nipper) that the key to “what’s wrong with stuff”, wasn’t a matter of culture, nationality, or era. It was deeper than that, simpler than that…
And finally, today, as I helped another counselor understand their client’s needs… it just slowly dawned on me. God just rang, in that still small voice He uses sometimes, and I felt such a solid affirmation on this that I knew I had it. I had the answer. And it was now, for me, forever more “figured out”.
The answer is deceptively simple, and I think I’ve even mentioned it here before… God’s said it to me before… long about New Year’s or so I think.
What’s wrong with…. fill in the blank?
We are systematically losing our sense of the Sacred.
We are raising entire generations without ever communicating to them the truth that, being created in and by the Holy Hands of God, ALL creation… ESPECIALLY PEOPLE… wondrously and marvelously fashioned in and by His Potter’s Hands… are SACRED!!!
A friend told me today how amazing she found it, that people all around her were such “Takers”. That their entire value systems were based on the presumption that they were entitled to take as much from as many as they could, without being stopped. This doesn’t just mean illegal activity… this is a worldview. This is the worldview of entitlement… that for whatever reason or justification someone puts on that… education, occupation, breeding, good judgment, or just blind luck… that that person is innately better than someone who does NOT possess those traits, characteristics, or blessings. And, in that view, the “superior” is entitled to more than the “inferior”, and even entitled to take what “lesser beings” have. She noted that people were incredibly obsessed with only the “Now!”, no past or future, just what they could have and get for themselves right now. .
Some of this rang with me. Some of this didn’t. I admitted that the Lord has been spending many many months now, helping ME learn to focus on the “Now”. But in a very different way than she meant it. God focuses me intensely on the “Now”, because THIS is the only moment we have… to be Present with Him… to love Him… to flow His love and grace forward to others. That so much of theology and religion loves to focus on the “then” (in the past), or on the “out there” (in the future in heaven)… that we utterly neglect the Now… this moment… this person, this relationship, this love, this grace, this blessing, this mercy. It is so easy to be a “theoretical Christian”, rather than a “practical one”. James addresses this with eloquence.
I told my friend I knew what she meant, but I didn’t so much see it as a problem of the “Now”, as a problem of the “Take”, rather than “give”. “Now” is the moment God gives us, gifts us with, to pour ourselves out in blessing to others. It is NOT the moment to exploit others and the world for our own use, pleasure, gratification. That is the essence of Vampirism… to draw life into oneself at the expense of another. We are to provide others with waters of life, welling up from an inexhaustible spring within us…. not draining others dry.
Told her just what’s being said here now, that it seems that the single, simple, “problem” with… well… EVERYTHING really… is the loss of the awareness of the sacred… and, with that… the treatment of all things, and people, as “profane” and insignificant.
Whether on the world stage, in the national arena, our communities, our homes, our workplaces… when is the last time you saw true acknowledgment and reverence to the sacredness of anything or anyone at all?
I’d love to say our Churches were a key to reversing this trend… the lynchpin of the solution. I’d love to say that… but is it not the case that for all too many churches, we are not so much part of the solution as we are of the problem?
Oh yes, we may hear the WORD “Sacred” within such hallowed halls… but listen more closely and see WHO is sacred. God… yes, certainly. And then “Our Clergy”… ok. And then “OUR Members”… all right. And then MAYBE “Other People Like Us, who Think like us, who worship like us!” And… that’s about it. Anything and anyone not “In Here” in “Our Sacred Space With US”… is soiled, profane, sinner, wrong… to be shunned or “ministered to” with rubber gloves, spiritual disinfectant, and a ten foot pole. THEY… are NOT Sacred. They will BECOME Sacred when they “get like us”, “sort themselves out”, “surrender to us”, and “enter our sacred space”.
I’m not saying this is true of Your Church, or My Church. I’m just saying it is true of a multitude of churches I see, hear, and pass through. Oh, you won’t see it on their bulletins or leaflets… but you’ll see it in their foyers and doorways when “the wrong sort” deigns to try to attend. You’ll see it in their deacons’ or ministry meetings. And you’ll CERTAINLY see it in their Business Meetings. When I trained as a “Program Evaluator”, we were taught to “read everything, all the promotional material a program wants to hand you. But, when you want to know what their REAL values are, don’t labor over their ‘Philosophy of Care’ or their ‘Official Statement of Values’… spend your time analyzing their Budget. THAT’s where you see the Board’s real Values reflected.” That’s true of more than community programs.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Anyhow, just thought I’d share these reflections with you, Gentle Reader. Want to change the world? Treat EVERYONE as the sacred child God has fashioned them to be. Sinner or saint, they are more likely to respond to love and respect than to anything else. Let young people know, there is not only a “God out there”, but that He is here, too… and we are surrounded by the wonder of the sacred.
And if, just maybe, you happen to be in or near one of those “There’s US…. and There’s THEM” type Churches? Well, maybe you can help them remember who Christ came to heal, to save, and to live among. (The sick, the sinners and lost, US!) How amazing is it that the King of All, the Lord of Hosts, would lay all that down to come be Light in OUR darkness.
How fabulous… that while we yet rejected and despised HIM… He and His Father freely chose to treat us as Sacred.
I’m yet such a work in progress, Gentle Reader. Keep me in your prayers, and thank you! Blessings and Grace to thee!