I am, in many ways, a perfectionist. I obsess over little details, events that have transpired throughout the day, ways in which I could have done better, or how I can constantly be improving. Perfectionism is exhausting. Perfectionism is the enemy of the good. Which is why I believe perfectionists have a hard time receiving love. They aren’t quite good enough to receive love. Or, the love they are receiving isn’t perfect enough for them. Either way, perfectionism is a hard way to live out your humanity.
As Richard Rohr would say, “Perfection is perfectly accepting your imperfections.” In accepting— and— even learning to love the imperfections within yourself and around you, you really begin to learn to love things that might not seem lovable. You don’t idealize things or people. You find immense love for what is. And, you allow your cup to overflow, because life is overflowing with goodness.
What I love about this clip is that it exposes the sentimentality that we as Christians have been caught up in over our holidays. For us, these holidays have more to do with consumerism and consumption than actually reflecting and being transformed by the event itself. If we don’t learn what Easter is really about then we will fail to become what the Church was meant to be, a people set apart. It is the job of the Church to be aware of the world, and to remember who they are, so we can in fact celebrate what it really is. Not reduce it to a petty nothingness. Most people I meet these days, at least my age, do not know the implications of the cross or the resurrection. If we, like Stan, fail to question our social practices, and the implications of this event, we will lose a great personal and social transformation.
“The message of Easter is that God’s new world has been unveiled in Jesus Christ and that you’re now invited to belong to it.”-N.T Wright
“The risen Jesus is the final revelation of the heart of God-a God who teaches love rather than hate, forgiveness rather than blame, nonviolence rather than violence.”-Richard Rohr
“What happened on that day became , was, and remained the center around which everything else moves. For everything lasts its time, but the love of God- which was at work and was expressed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead- lasts forever. Because this event took place, there is no reason to despair, and even when we read the newspaper with all its confusing and frightening news, there is ever reason to hope.”-Karl Barth
“Yet his end became his true beginning. His public death was followed by Easter appearances…and with these appearances the new beginning was inaugurated…The disciples who had once fled then returned to Jerusalem and proclaimed publicly the raising of Christ from the dead and the open horizon of his sovereignty. This about-turn from disappointment to certainty and from deadly fear to a faith which is not afraid of death is the real proof of the reality of Christ’s resurrection…’The empty tomb’ itself is not a proof of Christ’s resurrection, for it could have been empty for a different reason, if the body had been removed by other people. It is the proclamation of the resurrection by the disciples in Jerusalem which is proof of the empty tomb…With Christ’s resurrection from the catastrophe of Golgotha the new beginning has already been made, a beginning which will never again pass away because it issues from the victory over transience.”-Jurgen Moltmann
Amazing thoughts by Miroslav Volf on the cross:
Great thoughts by James K.A Smith on the future of Religious and Atheistic discourse.
I have a running joke with some people in my life that I am actually going to start telling the truth of who I am on my social media sites. When asked what he left out of his memoir Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller jokingly said, “The truth.” Likewise, the same is true with social media. We only post the best parts of our lives, we post the parts of who we want to be with the world. Our social media selves are actual selves we wish to be true. What we project onto the screen is the person we desire to be. I don’t want to start posting Eminem lyrics on my Twitter account. But, I have my Eminem Pandora station on more often than I would admit to the world. Instead, the cool thing is to post lyrics from Bon Iver, because the cool kids all listen to Bon Iver. And, I would never dare share my anxieties, fears, paranoia‘s, and depressions with social media. The part of me is what Carl Jung would call, “The dark side.” The social media self is, to some extent, a lie. A lie to the world, and even a lie to ourselves.
And, so I believe the same is true for most people and their happiness. Most people have a belief that happiness comes through the pursuit of pleasure. I agree with the Christian philosopher J. Budziszewski when he writes this:
“The last time I asked my students, “What is happiness?” the first half-dozen all gave variations on the answer, “Freedom from pain and suffering.” The negative element so filled their eyes that they were completely unable to suggest anything positive that happiness might mean.
“My guess is that students have lived all their young lives in pursuit of pleasure — as the young generally do– but with less restraint from our crumbling conventions than the young have lived their lives in previous generations. Consequently, even at this tender age, they have begun to experience the hedonistic paradox, which usually kicks in much later. He who makes pleasure the object of his life eventually finds that it evaporates: he who fails to distinguish between good and bad pleasures ends in misery. Although my students don’t formulate the paradox explicitly, they feel it in their bones.”
I agree with Thomas Merton when he says, “Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” But the only person who knows balance, order, rhythm and harmony knows to create a flow of life. To let life come to them and through them. To accept anything and everything in life. We spend so much time resisting our pain, our anxiety, our fears, that it causes us even more pain. As Carl Jung says, “If you resist, it persists.”
Budziszewski says about his students again, “Consequently, their first cheerful idea, that happiness is pleasure, suffers a dark transmutation into the equally naïve, but morbid idea, that happiness is just absence of pain. And that is what they say in my classroom. Not many of them look happy. Each year they have less sense of humor. They show all the signs of exhaustion.”
This idea that happiness is pleasure ruins us. It eliminates the biblical idea that we can find joy in suffering. We believe a lie to us that is ultimately destroys the very thing we seek. And, just like our social media self, we’re living in a narrative that is a lie to our selves.
I recently had a conversation with someone who was concerned about my church attendance and the churches that I had been a part of. Their told me, “Mike, it doesn’t matter what church you go to, as long as it is a Bible-believing church.” I didn’t want to get in it with this person, so I let the conversation end there. But, what I really was thinking was this:
“What is biblical?”
“Are you biblical?”
“Am I biblical?”
“If you think you are biblical and I think I am biblical and we have different answers, then which one of us unbiblical?”
“And, even if I am the one who is unbiblical in knowledge, but my existential structures and systemic living are transformed by the God who is in the Bible, then what is more important: being biblical in thinking, or being biblical in living?”
“Can someone separate biblical living from biblical thinking? Because if we believe in the truth, and that truth sets us free, then how can this person be biblical if they’re an angry, narcissistic tool?”
I didn’t used to think like this. I began thinking like this in my early 20s, when I started reading philosophy. Whereas psychology allowed me to experience God in a way that created experiences that seem beyond logic, philosophy allows me to construct, deconstruct, and reconstruct something in a way that is logical. And, unless we as Christians are able to formulate our thoughts and beliefs properly, it is hard to take Jesus seriously when he tells us to love him with all of our mind.
The first part of our lives are spent receiving the worldview, the knowledge, the beliefs, of those around us. Until we learn to break away, to deconstruct, then we can never have a personal faith, our own thoughts, and a unique worldview. I think philosophy exposes problems, and that could serve a great purpose in our modern context of Christianity. If we don’t learn to think, then we should learn to stay silent.
“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.” -Soren Kierkegaard
Thomas Merton once wrote, “Our idea of God tells us more about ourselves than about Him.” Deeply embedded within the human psyche are images that we hold of God. Images that are objective and subjective. Images that we hold consciously and unconsciously. Images that we find in the churches and homes that we are raised in. And, in images that we hold because of our personal experiences. This is the power of the human brain. Psychologist Carl Jung talked about the unconscious self, or, as he called it, “the dark side”, as the places we don’t see (or don’t want to see). So, to be a faithful servant to God, to find wholeness, is to dare to enter the dark side, to have revealed to us that which we don’t want to see. This is part of God’s work in reconciling all things. He is bridging together all of the gaps in the individual psyche and in the social constructs. Ann Ulanov, professor of psychiatry at Union Theological Seminary, writes, “The psyche wants to be whole, which does not mean perfect, but that all parts are brought in. God wants all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, not just the parts that we choose.”
I know that psychology, or at least the God who is working in the human psyche, has saved my faith. My first memory of church was my Sunday school teacher telling me how disappointed God was in human beings because of their sin. This God was pissed off and was going to take it out on his creation (as if our own sin doesn’t create an unconscious self-destruction). God was ashamed of the people he created and could only love them if they changed. While they taught that God was a God who was loving, compassionate, and kind, these teachings were unconsciously rooted in my head and have needed years of prayer (and still am working through it) and spiritual direction to alleviate this tension.
With all of my heart, I believe that I could not worship the God I was taught in my Sunday school (as well as some other painful experiences that embedded an image of God). Worshipping and appeasing that God would feel immoral and unattainable. I believe that God is at work in the Self. As Ulanov explains in her book, The Living God and Our Living Psyche: What Christians Can Learn From Carl Jung, “The Self demands conversation between the conscious and the unconscious. In working through contradictions and personal failures psychological healing and transformation can occur. This activity of the Self is what Jung called its transcendent function. By acting as a bridge between the conscious and the unconscious, the Self allows the individual to move beyond the one-sidedness of the dominant character traits expressed by the ego. In the agony of living, in suffering the contradictions of life, in this de-centering of the ego, a new attitude, a novel way of being emerges, which has become more psychologically integrated.”
The God of psychology is interested in permeating the whole being–that which we are and are not aware of. The God of psychology is mysterious because he is at work in the unconscious mind. He is trying to reveal things to us that we do not see. He is trying to make known the truth that sets us free. He is trying to reveal to us who he is, beyond our experiences, beyond the image that we have received from our family and friends, and beyond the religious institutions that we have been a part of.