All Wounds and No Scars (Thoughts on A Culture of Grievance)

The title (all wounds/no scars) comes from Erwin McManus’s new book The Artisan Soul, and sums up perfectly some thoughts that have been brewing for a while. Also, what follows is, in many ways, a follow-up to my last post, so check that out if you haven’t seen it.

One of the great gifts of post-modernity has been the resurgence in the importance of story. I have found thinking about the elements of story, seeing my life as a story, and even reading scripture (and doing theology) from a narrative perspective to be immensely helpful.

But, there is a dark side to the elevation of story. That dark side manifests itself in all sorts of ways: from social media/selfie narcissism to an agenda based hybridization of the gospel (a tactic used by those on the left and the right both politically and theologically).

In other words, stories are important, and thinking narratively is helpful, but when your story becomes THE story, we are right back at the same old problem we’ve always had.

We are not the hero of The story.

When we are the hero of the story, life is all about us and what we have experienced, and we end up with a culture of grievance.

Let me give you an example. In liberation theology, much good work has been done to bring the stories of the oppressed to light. But when getting the story out is the ultimate goal, or if expressing my story and all the pain I’ve experienced is the end, we don’t leave a lot of room for Jesus to work. It might be a gnarly story, and it might make a great movie, but if there’s no resurrection there’s no life.

To use the parenting example from the previous post: both examples of parenting stances I cited end up making the child the Hero. So, let me say it again: we (nor our children) are the hero of The story.

What’s fascinating to me about all of this, is that when we make discipleship in the way of Jesus about causes or projects…when we reduce parenting (or governing, or leading, or anything) to an either/or paradigm of rules vs. total freedom…we commit the worst mistake of the Pharisees.

The Pharisees are these characters in the story of Jesus who get a bad reputation for rule-sticklers and judgmental (which they deserve, and which, as we have seen, both miss the point completely). But, if you read the stories of Jesus you will notice a phrase pop up from time to time: wanting to justify themselves (see Luke 16:15 for an example).

The real problem of the Pharisees wasn’t being judgmental, it was wanting to justify themselves.

And this is the danger of story. We end up creating stories that seek only to justify ourselves.

Which is the antithesis of the gospel, the good news that Jesus does the justifying for us.

McManus writes that there are two kinds of “uninteresting people”: those who have never suffered, and those who have suffered and that suffering is all they know.

He writes: “They are trapped in their pain; they wallow in their despair; they are all wounds and no scarsAll they can talk about is their pain.”

It is good to tell our stories. It is good to share our pain and experiences.

But may we move past our suffering and our stoires to something deeper and more beautiful.

“These are the most compelling people: the ones who have overcome tragedy and found beauty; the ones who have drowned in despair but found hope; the ones who should have forever remained trapped in this rubble of their failures and yet found courage and resolve to rise from the dead.

SojournBU Being Awesome

As college students recover and discover the good news of Jesus we hope that they begin to shape their whole lives in response. This looks like everything from inviting friends to events, to stepping into roles of servanthood and leadership, to investing in neighborhoods and causes that help increase shalom in the world.

One of our students at BU, Stefi, has been responding to good news in this very way this semester. I had the opportunity to brag on her a bit in my last teaching at REUNION. The short story is that she read the book Half the Sky (also hugely influential on Amy and her decision to practice to women’s health physical therapy), and wanted to get more involved in efforts to combat the trafficking of women (especially for sexual exploitation). She has become an ambassador for Amirah Boston (you can also hear more about this in my REUNION teaching).

Stefi invited the BU crew to Amirah’s celebration dinner and it was a privilege to be included in this night of hearing stories of how God is at work bringing rescue and restoration to women through Amirah’s work (and the work of volunteers like Stefi). Good stuff!


A Lousy Tool for a Good Story

I’ve been thinking a lot about this article this past week. Twitter is such a great source of information, but when we start to think of our life as a series of tweets the question really becomes: does twitter help me tell a good story? Ed Cyzewski says no!

“Twitter is great for quickly spreading a good idea. I use it every day. It’s the Big Bird of networking tools. However, Twitter is a lousy living tool. In fact, Twitter can become a distracting obstacle to deep thought, art, or relationships…

It would seem to me that the first step in living a good story is to stop telling everyone about the mundane details of life and to focus on real life.”

Resurrection (Thoughts on Teaching and 35 Weeks of Luke)

This past Sunday our church partner, [REUNION], wrapped up a 35 week series on the book of Luke. It was long, but fruitful journey. I had the privilege of teaching 5 or 6 of those weeks. Most recently, week 34 to be exact, I got to speak on the resurrection.

Now, in some ways this is a home run for preachers…who doesn’t get excited to teach the resurrection?! On the other hand, there is a good amount of fear and trembling that goes along with the subject matter. What if the skies don’t open up? What if people shrug their shoulders and say “that was nice”? What if no one is moved?

This is not meant to be a critique of sermons or preachers, but as I was preparing I knew we needed a story. As it turned out there was a great story in our community that couldn’t have dovetailed any more perfectly.

Nancy told her story and she told it well, and probably the most important thing I said all day, and the thing people likely remember the most, was “that’s the power of the resurrection” after she had finished.

We need good teaching and people who can sermonize well, but how powerful and effective is a story? Amazing. And humbling from a teaching perspective. But, so important to the life of a community. Thank you Nancy!

*you can listen to it all here.