Conversion and conversions will be themes of this blog for the next couple of weeks. This series on Chrysalis is about Alan Jamieson’s book Chrysalis: The Hidden Transformation in the Journey of Faith. Today’s comes from John Frye.
Having embraced Alan Jamieson?s transformational process creatively symbolized by the life-stages of the Monarch butterfly with its chrysalis, I pondered the comparisons between pre-chrysalis people and post-chrysalis people. Some folks express a pre-chrysalis (pre-critical) faith that is very tidy, with clear black and white categories, offering happy certainty to life and, sadly, generating rejecting judgments of others. The post-chrysalis, post-critical faith folks have moved past those things. Post-critical faith people are marked by a pervasive graciousness. ?To be gracious means to act mercifully or compassionately? (87). This graciousness comes from the other side of the chrysalis, from the other side of ?the dark night of the soul.?
?Having sat with their own suffering, their own pain, their own disappointment or disenchantment and, often, their own failure, post-chrysalis people are more profoundly aware of their own humanity. This heightened sense of their own humanity enables them to connect with the humanity of others? (91).
Jamieson?s book prompts many uncomfortable questions. As a 30 years plus pastor, I reluctantly concluded that American evangelicalism seems to be populated mostly by people with a pre-critical faith. Recent polls of non-believing Americans report that Christians are viewed as ?anti-gay,? ?judgmental,? and ?hypocritical? ?–the marks of an immature, pre-critical faith. Questions: How is it that followers of the God-made-human have become so inhumane? Is it because we, pastors and people, leaders and followers, teachers and students, grow up in a pain-avoiding, pleasure-seeking, extremely therapeutic culture? Is it because we foster a popular spiritual piety that judgmentally questions at least and deprecates at most serious doubts about the faith, questions searing depression, misunderstands paralyzing despair and avoids personal pain? Is it because we have lost the ability to hear John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila and the new widow in the pew? Have we lost the ability to honestly and safely say, ?I?ve lost God? or ?I don?t believe anymore? or ?My faith means nothing to me?? Has the American success ethic overwhelmed the Christian suffering ethic? Have we become a Church filled with ?Job?s counselors??
Alan Jamieson reframes the dark sides of life within the enduring spirituality of the Church, allowing us to embrace what we?ve been conditioned to avoid. Jamieson?s presentation of the organic nature of spiritual transformation helps us shed the lop-sided, often shame-producing, trappings of a painless spirituality. We are invited to relax with God, to rest in God?s unconditional love, to relax with ourselves and with others. We are free to wait with hope, to listen with love, to genuinely ?grace? others who believe and behave differently from us. We are liberated from defending God or ourselves or our faith. We can smile knowing that God and truth are their own defense. We are free to be fully human, with our doubts, weaknesses, questions, and failures. We are free to be truly human, to be like Jesus, the human being.