Simple things confound me with their beauty. A flower. A muskrat in a pond. An abandoned soccer cleat. Earnest things please me because of their purity. Children spending time in a cemetery, or my friend Sienna with hands like no other who comes to my door trick or treating in her grad gown.
But when an earnest grown woman comes to my church to teach us about blessing, I feel like suffocating. I can't stay in the room. I can tell right away that she is earnestly challenging us to give in a visible way that makes her feel valid, acceptable, and powerful. She wants to impart a word to us with authority and she wants us to believe it is with God's authority. She is very well dressed and coifed. She spent time in Texas and speaks with a Southern drawl. Everything about her smacks of American values in appearance, and feminine grace and beauty. She is very earnest. So why is my stomach curling? She is trying to convince me of a kind of grace that does not require my effort, and I feel like I'm being brainwashed? She is earnestly encouraging me to bless others because this is my spiritual duty, and before we leave we will lay hands on each other. --I am already hearing this outside the partition in the fireside room, coloring quietly side by side with my seven year old on his fifth comic book in 24 hours. I love being near him. I can not stay in the sanctuary, but I continue to hear her earnest pleas. Her need for the audience to affirm what she's saying. This kind of pressure drives me crazy. If it weren't for Soup Sunday following, our family would already have gone home. I feel trapped. I know to be courteous. I know many of my fellow church members are quietly listening inside. But what she's doing makes me angry. It takes away the dignity that I have come to find in a God who is real and logical. One who, yes values love above all, but He values genuine love through tough times and tough honesty. Why do we need to listen to this earnest woman say things all the predictable things every self help Christian book is saying? There seemed to be nothing relevant to her and her struggle. There seemed to be nothing new about handling life with the particular revelation God has given her out of her struggle. I felt like I was a student who needed to be taught. That she knew more about blessing than I. She doesn't know that I can't appreciate what she has to say when she doesn't first acknowledge the struggle. I try to give her the benefit of the doubt from her first impression, but her whole talk did not allow me to rid the sense that she was selling something. Truth does not need a marketing plan. God does not need propaganda to turn hearts. I loved coloring with Donovan and then I went and played quietly with Weston in a classroom. We built a wall out of Duplo. I kept checking my thoughts, asking God. Am I out of line? Why can't I just let it go? She's obviously a nice lady.. . she can't be fully accountable for how dangerous her preaching is to someone who's looking for easy answers; a gospel of comfort without strife. This is not the gospel that rings true to me. I search my heart and stay in the room with Weston. I know a few others have sensed the oncoming obligation of participation and have clustered in the kitchen under the guise of "preparing" for soup Sunday. Dave, too, has pulled out shortly after I and now he is coloring silently beside Donovan. They are making art under the earnest tones emitting from the speaker overhead. She is comforting in tone. So very earnest. But each elongated vowel cements my take on the impetus behind her being here. To change us. To make the world a better place. She is doing her part, and I see a scared woman smoothing the path with earnest phrase after earnest phrase. I don't like feeling alone. I don't like having a problem. My time in counselling and in truthful questioning and Biblical exegesis work at the McKenzie Study Center has spoiled me from anything set up that smacks of a Christian woman's conference speaker. At least give us some humor and self deprecating stories -- something. Not just motherly earnestness about peace and Blessing. Blessing can not be devoid of grit! It can not. And it must be reiterated as such. I know this is a rant, and it isn't the half of it. I am troubled. But I am clear in what I want. Give me the truth. The truth of the whole of the Bible, the whole of Reality, don't soften it for me. If I can't handle it, I am not yet ready for Blessing. Lady, please, tell me about that truly earnest looking young man you brought with you, yes, the one sitting between your two blond friends, the one with Down's Syndrome... Now there's a story I'd love to hear. Or at least one that this struggling sinner is willing to trust.