Wednesday, July 11, 2012

An S for Super Christian

I push to fill my mind up with positive stuff.  I have to do it on purpose.  It is in no way effortless.  I listen to soaring a cappella hymns while I scrub the kitchen floor.  I choose books of theology, history, science, and even occasionally inspirational self-help books.  I pray while I walk through the market shopping or on my way to class.  Sometimes to be honest I have little taste for it.  I'd rather lose myself in a novel or an "ancient" Jon Bon Jovi album that reminds me of a college roommate.  Still I put myself through the paces, a little everyday, and am generally better for it.  They remain disciplines not habits. I do them purposefully, consciously, not because I have already developed a taste for it.

Recently I have been reading a couple of chapters a day of The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg.  The book is written popularly and is particularly individualistic, not my favorite combination.  Yet, as I was reading I was struck by a real gem.  Chapter 6 discusses the relationship between competence and consciousness.  In other words, how well can we do some task and how much of our attention does it require? He lists four possible combinations of these factors: 

1) Incompetent and unaware-not only can't you do it, you don't even know your supposed to be able to.
2) Incompetent and self-conscious-you know that you should do it but can't.
3) Competent and aware-you know that you can and should.
4) Competent and unself-conscious- you can do it and do it naturally no "should" involved.  

When it comes to my daily disciplines I am competent and aware, which is not as flattering as it might sound.  "This is the person who has just received her license to drive, but must monitor where the car is in the lane and plan through every turn," Ortberg says. (p 70) The last quadrant, competent and unself-conscious has a much more positive feel.  He describes it this way, "competence no longer looks heroic-just sane." (p 71)  

That sentence immediately brought a pair of Christians to mind.  They are people I have long admired and in the last year or so they've been doing something a bit radical, something the people around them aren't too sure how to take. It's the kind of action that earns you a sweater with a big S for Super Christian.  It's all the more astonishing for how effortless it is.

About a year ago, they were contacted by the leaders in a rural church.  A recently homeless man who had long been a member there was moving to the slightly bigger city where the couple lives.  The leaders wanted to arrange a ride to church and someone to look out for him and they agreed.  Empty-nesters of his generation, they began driving every Sunday to the "mission" and picking him up.  Then they started bringing him home for Sunday dinner sometimes.  The holidays were coming and so were their grandkids, so they invited him to join them for Christmas dinner.   Trouble struck as winter deepened.  The man became ill, spending several days in the hospital.  The couple came to visit him, and when a week after discharge he was struck ill again, they picked him up and brought him back to their house.  A couple of weeks later they set him free again, back in good health.  He's not a charity case, he's their friend who happens to be homeless.

I was astonished by the way they are embodying Jesus. Jesus touched the world one leper, one child, one sinful woman at a time. When I asked them about it, they just shrugged. I want to have their effortless faith.  Not just a "thought-life" ruled by joy rather than discipline, but in every aspect of my faith.  I don't want to earn my "S" for my sweater, I want to be so self-forgetting, so filled up with the Spirit of Christ that I just shrug as if to say, "What else would I do?" 

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