Sunday, August 3, 2014

Special as dirt

I can't seem to get away from this whole "special" thing that I've been writing about lately. Leadership and motherhood - my blog has had exactly two channels lately. I found an example today, though, that was too perfect for me to pass over without comment. A post from our local Uber-church (to be distinguished from your ordinary mega-church) popped up in my facebook feed that said "This life is not about you. It's about the One who bears his signature on your one-of-a-kind masterpiece of a life (attributed to Lou Giglio)." Then of course a woman commented underneath with:

If it is not bout us what would be the purpose of even bring born? I believe it is bout us. So we can find our father all over again thru Jesus Christ. It is he who died for our sins. And what a wonderful way to find the lord n to life our life for Jesus. Blessings to all!

Now naturally I can't lean too much on a single comment on a single post by a single church. There are people who attend my church who have very different views on things I think are not only important but obvious, and yet it segues so well with what I've been thinking and writing about leadership and the cult of "special." The "this life is not about you" part of that statement is obviously orthodox and beyond comment, it's what comes afterwards that sets my teeth on edge - "your one-of-a-kind masterpiece of a life." In plain speech it's saying that we're special. It follows that if we're special then this life really is about us and our journey. Going from a world that tells us we have a moral right to forge our own destiny to a church that reminds us repeated that God has a plan for our future it's easy to forget that these plans are about Christendom and not ourselves. To use the parable of the body - does the body exist for the sake of the eye? No. The eye and the body all exist so that we may may build up the Kingdom of Heaven. Even though the Bible often encourages us that God loves His people and wants them to flourish, I believe that the Church should be careful to counteract the world's sinful tendencies instead of Gospel-washing them. It's not enough for the Church to get all excited because we can talk about "special" too - we should be tempering that message particularly for the ears of congregants and new-comers who live in a world where "special" doctrine has become the air we breath. This is particularly true when we remember that there's a large portion of the church (see previous posts) that acts as if we can simply use the world's tools to change it because of our magical Christian specialness.

First, it does no good for the Church to flat out deny the idea that people are unique and wonderful individuals. A little reading in Psalms or the epistles is enough to knock that idea on it's head. Secondly, we are called to be a humble and contrite people. Again, a very little Scripture reading will suffice for evidence. It sounds like a bit of a conundrum, and this is where I find metaphors and analogies to be so helpful. The one image that consistently came to mind when thinking about this is dirt. We've heard the expression "common as dirt." Well, the human experience is in many ways common as dirt. We're born and we die. Along the way we have certain experiences which are common to many other people - jobs, school, relationships. One reason why we can have something like pop culture is because we're able to draw on that common human bond. In that sense pretty much everyone is as common as dirt. And yet if you talk to a farmer about dirt (or perhaps I should say "soil") you realize just how valuable it is. Good dirt produces a wealth of vegetation that feeds people far and wide and provides employment and profit to the farmer.

Good dirt is the stuff from which arises beauty and plenty. Bad dirt is barren and useful only for back filling. Dirt in the kitchen it out of place and needs to be banished. Dirt between my toes has always been rather refreshing and fulfilling. 

You see where I'm going with this. There's nothing special about dirt. Everyone has it. Everyone deals with it. In that sense we need to be humble and not think too highly of ourselves. Then again, if you've ever talked to a gardener about dirt you've probably heard about earthworms and manure and pine needles and all the things a devoted gardener will do to achieve valuable and productive soil. God does pour an immense amount of grace into our lives in order to build us up and strengthen us. However, if you look at what goes into good soil, namely manure, worms, and rotten stuff you'll realize that my analogy is nigh unto brilliant. When the Lord says "suffering produces character" that's just another way of saying "And now I'm going to spade a truck load of shit into your life." Of course not all growth is suffering. There are times when God pours down the warm sun of His mercy and the healing rains of His grace. Even then we need to remember that God's larger purpose in tending us is to grow something beautiful. Dirt doesn't exist for it's own sake. We don't exist for our own sake. Like the Jews of Jesus' time we can't say "Well, God needs us to accomplish His purposes." because God is already breaking up and cultivating other stony hearts. The whole point is that we are exactly as special as dirt. This should either be encouraging or convicting.

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