Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Eyes of Others

We need other eyes to help us see.

Any woman who has ever asked her friend, "Do these pants make my tushie look fat?" knows this truth.

Our perspective is only so helpful, whether it's the clothes we wear or the sermon we preach or the way we are simply being, we need others to give us perspective and feedback.

I suspect that's one reason why we human beings live in community, so we can help each other grow and form in our lives. That's one reason why I simply do not trust those who refuse to hear feedback from others about their actions and behaviors from those with whom they claim to be friends.

Which is why I'm constantly amazed by those organizations that decide, to see if the pants they are wearing are flattering or not, they can do their own observations. This particular practice is akin to, as my grandparents used to say, letting the fox watch the henhouse.

Don't waste the time. Just admit that we really aren't interested in changing instead of going to the trouble to self-appoint an internal committee to meet a few times and come up with technical fixes like wearing blue pants instead of red and switching to a poly-cotton blend instead of a wool blend to make the pants fit better. So we wear polyester blue pants for a few years and wonder why people are still rolling their eyes as we stroll down the promenade, and then we appoint another committee made up of ourselves and decide to go back to red. Yes, red pants were really the answer.

When all along there are some people who love us, who deeply want to see us in a better place, saying, "You know, losing ten pounds will make all the difference."

Because deep down, we know that losing ten pounds is the hard way. Elastic waist bands are just so much easier. Except that the more we ignore the ten pounds we need to lose, the more it becomes twenty and thirty.

You all get the idea.

We can all see the discord, even the tragic situations that occur, when we constantly ignore the hard work and when we systemically refuse to look outside ourselves for perspective and help. From congregations in turmoil to personal lives in ruins, the end results of our fear of having the hard conversations and opening ourselves and our systems to others for their loving help will almost always be worse than the holy healing God can offer, if we only trust.

Maybe that's the deep truth: that we don't want to trust others. Perhaps we have been hurt by others who assaulted us with so-called helpful advice that just cut us even more deeply. Perhaps we have decided our own egos are to be trusted...alone. Perhaps we are just afraid that the vulnerability to holy conversation is more than we can bear.

Opening ourselves and our systems for the vulnerable conversations is scary. We might be hurt. We might see that the changes that need to happen will cost us some of ourselves we've become quite attached to, like those pesky personas that we're just sure we need to exist. We might be called to trust that as Christians, the whole life-death-resurrection cycle isn't just about a long weekend in the spring.

We also might find that the new thing God is calling us toward through these conversations is simply awe-inspiring. Waking up to the beauty of resurrection is not a myth. My own life has shown this to be true.

Now, fair warning, I'm going to talk about the tribe here. The Episcopal Church has been presented an opportunity to wonder if its current mode of dress makes it tushie look fat. Several people have presented a way to have the conversation about how well our political structures are working, especially in the emergent church world of today. The key element here is to invite those who are in love with the church, but not intimately intertwined with the current way of doing things, to have some honest conversation. Basically, to give those with some differentiated distance permission to see if it is the pants that aren't working, or if there are some deeper lumps and bumps that need to be exposed and given a good work out to tone them up.

Dioceses are being asked to pass a resolution that encourages this holy conversation by a group other than the ones currently invested in the system. Several dioceses in our church have taken this trusting, loving, and courageous step. Others are in conversation. The resolution's shorthand title is the Sauls Resolution, and if you're interested in it, let us know. The Resolution does not delineate the changes; it simply provides a healthy method for beginning the conversation.

Hard work? Yes. Scary work? Of course. Will some people be invited to give up some trappings of power and authority? Absolutely. Will others be called to new ways of mission and ministry? I'm betting on it.

I pray the Church (and our society and individuals) will trust God enough to let the eyes of another let us see ourselves more clearly so we may follow God more nearly.

1 comment:

Fireflower said...

This post really resonates with me today. I wrote a letter to my church yesterday, pointing out things that it seems they didn't want to hear. It disappeared from their website within a few hours. I prayed about it and still felt strongly enough that I sent it out as an email to the handful of people I had addresses for. The response I received to that was a blanket "This person is obviously misinformed and misguided and we don't want anyone to read this or discuss it". Honestly, I don't want to discuss it either. It took me three years to write what I did, and all I did was offer my view of some very concrete things. Now I may leave the church over it and my heart is sick. Thank you for reminding me that it is okay to stand up and voice the hard and scary stuff.