Sunday, January 15, 2017

On NOT Letting Go


Twelve convictions for which I am vigilant and seek redemptive expression

I keep reading that I'm supposed to "let go" as part of my spiritual growth. Franciscan Richard Rohr and Henri Nouwen preach this in their writings, which I embrace. Lots of spiritual gurus do. The principle is that only by letting go of something lesser or false can we embrace what is greater. We say “no” to what sabotages and diminishes so we can say “yes” to life and wholeness.

I buy that. I've done a lot of letting go: regrets, hurts, harm, violence, guilt, shame, grievances, grudges, betrayals, childish notions, naivet├ęs, ideologically-based assumptions, institutionalism, etc. I have no doubt I will continue to undergo what my friend Morris Weigelt calls “blessed subtraction.”

At the same time, I am convinced there are some things those of us who accept our calling as ambassadors of reconciliation or change agents cannot or should not let go.

Here are some convictions I have not let go--nor plan to, unless I am mightily persuaded otherwise.  In fact, instead of letting go of these, I am drawn to pursue their change or distinction as part of a creative stewardship of the capacities, relationships and opportunities I am given. Instead of resignation into carelessness, release into divine "beyond us" action, or yielding to collectively coercive human agendas (in the name of God's or a government's will), I consider vigilant wrestling with these challenges as part of working out my salvation with fear and trembling in this world in this time.

1. I'm not letting go of my God-given ability to make choices about my life, or my ability to choose my responses to things beyond my control that directly and indirectly impact my life.

2. I'm not letting go of what I have learned and continue to discover through diligent study, diverse experience, and contemplative living.

3. I'm not letting go of my sense that working daily with purpose, self-discipline, perseverance and joy is as critical to spiritual vitality as any sabbatical breakthrough or mountaintop experience.

4. I'm not letting go of my sense that all authority needs to be fairly questioned and validated through its reckoning with truth and its service to--and empowerment of--all within its range of margin-seeking and accountability.

5. I'm not letting go of my right to dissent and talk back to those who would presume to "tell it like it is" or try to define reality through their use of power, control, or influence.

6. I'm not letting go of my sense that being faithful to loved ones, friends and the poor is more important than doing what seems expedient for my professional or personal advancement.

7. I’m not letting go of my sense that vigilance against dogmatism and legalism of every sort is necessary for personal spiritual and emotional health, and to check the encroachment of these distortions of reality purveyed through ideologies and institutions.

8. I'm not letting go of my sense that the biblical call to compassion and justice for the poor--not as left-over charity but as a system-challenging and economic and social order-redeeming priority--needs to be lifted up through clear, pointed, and persistent articulation and action.

9. I'm not letting go of my sense that there needs to be vigorous push-back against those who reduce the Christian Gospel to institutional promotion, evangelistic crusades, speculative prophecy, church politics, partisan politics, and success strategies, instead of incarnating in word and deed the liberating kingdom of God.

10. I'm not letting go of my sense that much of what passes for preaching in churches tends toward shallow, standardized propositions, franchise-reinforcing promotions, ideologically-based diatribes, or borrowed moral-of-the-story messages instead of solid biblical exposition with valid contextualization, and hermeneutics and application--and I'm holding out for the latter as the enduring best practice.

11. I'm not letting go of my sense that predominant "pro-life" positions and single-issue politics have little to do with the overarching and connected biblical value for all humans, all living things and the earth and creation itself, and, if left to be articulated and applied as it is, will undermine the integrity of the Word of God.

12. I’m not letting go of my sense that redemptive love can be expressed and genuine community can be found in unlikely, unorthodox people and situations, and that grace can be read and revealed between the lines of lives considered outside the walls of the church in ways which don't seem to be recognized inside.