Wednesday, March 3, 2010
The Cost of Opportunity, the Price of Achieving Your Life
"Choose your future. Choose life. I chose not to chose life. I chose something else."
Dan wrote today that choosing any particular choice simultaneously means choosing not to take an infinite number of other choices. Because I am typing now, I am not swimming, not running, not biking. And this is true. I wrote this and spoke this a number of times. We all have 24 hours in a day. No one has more. No one has less.
There are choices we make that, no matter how we juggle or how we strive, forbid other choices. In my life, I've chosen to explore widely. This precludes me in many ways from investing as deep as possible. I chose to study philosophy, feminism, post-modernism, other religions and mystery cults -- and more than that, I chose to take them more seriously, and in my opinion, honestly -- than a great number of Christians. When a radical French lesbian writes something, I pay attention and believe she has something worth listening to, worth considering as if it were true... something worth my sincere and deep effort. I do not, like nearly every Christian I have ever met, write her off as a faggot French who's just mad because she can't get a man with her hairy armpits and crazy hair. I myself feel a great deal of shame when I recognize that those who don't say that to her forebear out of cowardice and those that would say this to her, do it out of contempt. And I, together with them, are always assumed to be displays of Christian love. I am ashamed.
I've gained a lot from this stance. Because I've chosen to adopt this stance I've made some deep friendships and read some deep works. Second-wave feminism has subtly changed my views on the dignity and worth of women. I haven't been exposed to much third-wave feminism but I think there's a lot I can learn there too.
And at what price does this come? I think I've alienated a few friends along the way. Let's widen the scope beyond feminism and speak of any worldviews for a moment. I have a friend and one-time mentor who refuses to read the Koran because he believes that exposure to this ink and paper is a gateway to spiritual attack. Because of this he's never picked up Derrida, Lacan and the other writers that bore me greatly. Because of this he has no dialogue with others. Only monologues. Because of this, his evangelism is limited to lecturing others.
Another cost is companionship on this journey. I wanted to explore. And I did. And what exploration means is that you've left the safe world of the known, the agreed-upon and ventured into the world of the unknown and debated. A ship cannot be in both the open sea and the sheltered bay. Is there anyone else who does what I do, thinks what I think? I don't know of any. It's part of why I have this blog. In many ways, it's a distress call. Someone please let me know I'm not the only one here out in the unknown.
But you know what? The costs are small. The returns are great. We all must choose, but the wisest choice is to choose yourself. Or to be more theologically precise, choose to be who God made you to be. I used to read my Bible much, much more. There was a time, I read it 2.5 times in the same year while leading multiple bible studies and participating in 2 distinct fellowships and extracurriculars. This year I might only finish 1/8th of it and halve my "fellowship" time. But I truly believe I function better this way.
Scripture reading is often draws dietary metaphors. And as well it should because man doesn't live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. But just as a person would harm themself by eating nothing at all, a person would do cause themself injury by overeating. Look at America's waistline and try to contradict me. We all have 24 hours a day. How much of it would you devote to Scripture? If you slept 8, and spent another hour eating, would 15 hours of reading lead to a more spiritual life? A more vibrant life? A more God-honoring life?
What if it were 8 hours? 4 hours? 2 hours? 15 minutes? Less than daily?
May I humbly submit that we have to find that answer ourselves? I know how many of you read. I know that my blog doesn't have a lot of readers because most people who start at the top never make it this far down the page. I know that I don't keep you in suspense like Lost, have the drama of the Bachelor (who some of you didn't swim with me to watch) [oh hell, like they would read this] nor the competition of American Idol. So when you spend 15 minutes "with the Lord" every morning, what does that amount to? When you listen to the Bible in your car, do you really gain anything out of it or does it quickly become background noise to a life of Jesus fish bumper stickers, Christian t-shirts and praise nights?
The same goes with every other choice we make. It takes experimentation to understand the proportions which honor God the most, honor the lives he has given us the most.
I find the Christian community, and Christian culture as I've lived through it to be so disgustingly cowardly and afraid of experimentation. Why are pastors so afraid of liberating their congregations from the READ EVERY DAY mantra? What does an absent-minded 15 minutes get them? Triathletes don't train every day and they bring more zeal, determination and enthusiasm to their regimen than most Christians do and yet many of them live with more joy, passion and excitement. We're under spiritual attack, yes, but how do we know that we've not already succumbed to it? How can we be so sure that this slavish attachment to tradition isn't itself the attack?
Does that itself stimulate growth? I've seen a committed student learn more in a week than a church-goer who has mailed it in for decades. Worse, the church-goer never made the little he knew, his own. He only had the stale regurgitations of his teachers. Yet, they've read as close to every day as one could hope for! There has to be a better way.
I thought so. So I experimented. Went through some dark times, went through some good times. I found out certain things about myself, about God, how we relate and how I move through the world around me. I used to like the Puritans. They taught me a lot but I like them a lot less now. They're far too melodramatic and the emotions strike me as overwrought. I used to value ancient Christianity but I realized I did that because of its novelty value. It just made me cool (in a select crowd). It's not really for me. People in suits garner a lot less respect once I learned how to wear one right. They're just people to me now. And more than anything else, I learned never to compromise truth for harmony. Never ever betray the integrity of your life. If not being competitive makes you feel like you're suffocating in a soft world, then fight for your life. I learned this when I sold my soul for what I once thought was unattainable, and since then have discovered it be so easy to attain as to feel embarassed at the past. I tried to be soft. I tried to be a normal guy. I tried to blend in and adopt another face to be accepted. And paid for it by being wounded like I never thought I could be. So above all, never trade your integrity for anything. And to keep your integrity, you must choose in a way that propels you towards your telos.
When you make choices, choose in a way that gets you closer towards your goal. Don't choose in a way that gets people to stop bothering you about something. A half-hearted choice brings you closer to nothing but the end of your life.