Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Comfort Zones & Getting Out of Them

In my lifetime I have come to a place of comfortable 'understanding' or, at the very least 'acceptance' about certain issues.  Which is something that we do well in church circles isn't it?  Draw a box and then jam people...or God...inside it.  It helps us to maintain our nice, neat and tidy perception of how the Christian life should be.

But as I get older, I realize more and more that life is messy - and that messy life tends to blow up our neat little boxes and push us out of most of our comfort zones.  I've realized too that this is not necessarily a bad thing.  As a matter of fact, it is the opposite of that.  It is good.  

It doesn't always feel good.  We call it being stretched.  And when I think about being stretched the immediate image that is conjured up in my mind is that of Westley from the Princess Bride being stretched on a rack and ending up in quite a bad way.  In the words of Miracle Max, "Look who knows so much, it just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead."

I remember an organist in a church who we will call Frank who was the most talented organist I had ever heard play and who literally had a heart of gold.  He loved God and the church and the work of God as much as anyone I had ever met.  One day - a well meaning parishioner saw him driving in his car and smoking a cigarette (horror of horrors) and proceeded to call the Senior Pastor and some of the board members.  Something needed to be done!

I am sad to say that instead of help, the church gave him an ultimatum.  Quit smoking or stop playing the organ.  He was hurt and left the church and you know what?  I didn't blame him.  Because try as I might I couldn't see how we could justify that kind of 'judgement' just because his visible habit that we didn't like made us uncomfortable.  I was convinced that we likely had people on our worship teams that secretly struggled with lust or people teaching our Sunday school classes that were taking pens and construction paper home for their kids.  But we didn't give them ultimatums because we didn't know about their 'sins'.  We didn't want to know.  We seldom ever do.

As long as we don't know, we can sell a bill of goods that says everything is great, life is fine, it's all good!

But when something becomes public and obvious - that's another story.  'Make an example out of them' we think.  That way when someone else struggles with something similar, they will have the good sense to keep it to themselves.  Because we want to maintain this facade that says nothing bad ever happens here.

Again from Princess Bride there is a great quote from Westley who said, "Life is pain, Highness.  Anyone who says differently is selling something."

All of these thoughts were spurred by an article in our denomination's magazine The Pentecostal Testimony.  It is an article about a young man who is in youth ministry who struggles with attractions and behaviours that are homosexual.  And he has come to the conclusion that there is nothing he can do about it.  It is how he was wired and he has to find a way to live with it.  And so his approach is this.  'I can resist temptation and be celibate and not practice a homosexual lifestyle because I want to serve and glorify God in my life.'

But that idea doesn't fit into our neat and tidy approach to homosexuality does it?  Though I'm not sure why.  People who are heterosexual struggle with temptation all the time. We are all prone to sin and failure.  And when heterosexual people are winning the battle with temptation and growing more mature in faith and practice, we celebrate their successes.

But someone who is homosexual we think needs to be healed.  Suddenly it's not a process or a journey anymore for them - it is a crisis that needs solving, or at the very least that needs to go away.

I'm no expert on this stuff - and believe it or not I still have mixed feelings.  I'm fairly sure I'm being stretched...and I want to be stretched some more so that I can work through some of my own issues.  When it comes to our views of some of this stuff, we really do have to almost die in order to look at it objectively.  Or at least become 'mostly dead'!

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