Consider our universal greeting and response.
“Hi! How are you?”
Frankly, we don’t give a damn.
The proof is in our response. “Fine.” Or “Good.” When we know that we’re neither. And God help us if someone launches into a real response when we reply, “And how are you?”
“Well, I’ve actually been going through a hard time…” And our eyes glaze over as we maintain and appearance of listening while we internally search for the fire escape or pray for our cell phone to ring with “an emergency we’ve got to deal with.”
Most of us are o.k. with a mirror even. We can accept certain imperfections but we can work with what we’ve got. The X-ray, on the other hand, no one likes the shadowy look inside and what it might uncover about how they’re really doing. That occasional ache could be anything down there until I get it confirmed by someone who takes a look inside. So we skip like stones across the surface of life hoping for enough momentum to carry us to the distant shore. Truth is, most stones will sink.
Following requires sinking. We’re called on to drown in the reality we’ve worked so hard to avoid.
Back in Philosophy 101 we called it, “the unexamined life.”
There’s also the flip side, “the over examined life.” The over examined life keeps busy turning over stones and won’t rest long enough to look at what’s been exposed because there’s always another stone to get turned over.
Both keep us distracted or diverted from the inventory that that real life, a following life, a fully engaged life, requires.
Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
For me this step came up when I was accused of doing something I didn’t do. I was ‘righteously indignant’ about the accusation and was ready to slay some dragons. The short and uninteresting version is that my motives were being questioned on something that I was involved in – wasn’t I only doing this for financial gain and self-interest? I was on the third day of a fast and crying out bitterly to God to come down and smite my accuser – or at least drop some big hail stones or something – when I heard the whirrrr and click of the X-ray. “I would NEVER do something like that…” was what I was telling God. His response, as I recall, went something like, “Oh? Really?” And slowly the picture developed of what was really in my heart. I might not have made that one request for personal gain, “but what about this?” it seemed like God was saying, as he opened the door on that cupboard I hadn’t thought he’d noticed.
Most Christians talk in vague terms about our own personal sin. This helps us maintain an equally but misguided sense of superiority over un-believers. Of course we’ve sinned, but we aren’t pagans like you.
Jesus told a story once about forgiveness. He said those who have been forgiven of much will forgive much. Most Christians, in my experience – and I’m including myself here – don’t think there’s been all that much to forgive so we can be a little stingy with our own forgiveness. Truthfully, we aren’t encouraged to be specific about our stuff unless we’ve got a truly spectacular conversion story to share, consequently we are less inclined to forgive others freely.
Following, in my experience, requires us to ignore the generic cries of “I’ve sinned!” “I’m a sinner!” which are superficial and can mean so many different things to different people as to be meaningless declarations.
Tomorrow I’ll post some quotes from the Big Book that better describe what I believe a follower must do to lay hold of the fullness of this experience – to be a follower and not merely an enthusiast for Jesus.
…tomorrow, for the adventurous, the how to do its…