Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

Fellowship of Saints and Sinners


Existential Schizophrenia

Maybe the universal human dilemma can be summed up in the following question: how do I live between the two poles of, on the one hand, my own insignificance and the transitory nature of my finest achievements, and, on the other, my potential for greatness and capacity for eternity?

If you’ve been able to answer this question for yourself, I’m all ears. Seriously. Because being a Christian has only complicated this question for me to the degree that it seems to widen the distance between these two poles.

What do we do with stories like those of David and Goliath, for example?  A pimply, scrappy adolescent manages to take down an enemy that a whole army of testosterone-filled men could not.  And he does so all with a pebble and a sling and the faith that God is on his side.

Or, a carpenter and his twelve disciples overturn the world, leaving it never the same again.  Not by wielding force.  Not by introducing some new Utopian ideology and lobbying for adherents.  Not by developing a network on Facebook and going viral.  Just by believing in God’s power to make all things new and really living like it, to the point that they even give up their lives for it.

But if truth be told, some days I feel about as small as a cog in a great, big, unfriendly machine, with little power to help the world around me- not to mention just keep it together.   Other days, I feel big enough to live as if the world really revolves around me and my self-perceived greatness.  On those days, I try to remind myself that I’m only a few short steps away from embracing a kind of triumphalist, self-aggrandizing “Manifest Destiny” that we Christians are often guilty of: thinking that we are so great and so special that we, the church, really will change the world in some grandiose way, with the implication that even God depends on us.  Just spend a little time at a Catalyst conference and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Here’s the thing that I’m trying to wrap my mind around:  when God enters the picture, we are, as my Quaker friend Lily likes to say, “challenged to believe in things that we thought would never be possible.”  Like true love and resurrection and forgiveness and community that lasts.  And, the paradox of the Gospel is that we are simultaneously utterly helpless to save ourselves from our condition of being turned in on ourselves and missing the mark, even as we are clothed with the splendor of God’s love and purpose and are in this sense “royalty” as “children of God.”

And while this can be, at times, a recipe for existential schizophrenia, I’ve not been able to find a better distillation of reality and the human condition anywhere else.  The question is, how then shall we live “in the middle”?  What does it look like to live between these two poles?  And is it possible to stay there?

 



Previous Posts

Writing Sabbatical—and "The Departure of the Prodigal Son"
I'm sorry: my absenteeism at this intersection can be attributed to a number of things lately, the most pressing of which is my forthcoming book with author and Christian addiction specialist Jonathan Benz. The book (Prodigal Church or a version of it) is now officially under deadline and by April 1

posted 10:55:10am Jan. 26, 2015 | read full post »

Restless Soul Hall of Fame: Sister Corita Kent
Since NPR's recent segment, Sister Corita Kent has come to mind a few times this week as someone who d

posted 10:23:30am Jan. 16, 2015 | read full post »

"I Am Charlie Hebdo"
I struggle to know how to greet you after such a long hiatus from posting here—and in light of how much has happened in the world since Christmas

posted 4:42:48pm Jan. 12, 2015 | read full post »

A Christmas Homily
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. —Luke 2:6,7 The sheer physicality of this picture strikes me this Christmas. The ba

posted 1:54:50pm Dec. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Mental Health Break—Sprawl II
My favorite band these days is Arcade Fire, and I've featured the Canadian indie rock group before at this intersection between God and life. The lead singer studied Kirkegaard in college and their songs, like this one, are often subtle but brilliant critiques of the least aesthetically pleasing thi

posted 12:58:15pm Dec. 18, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.