On misperception and what’s saving my life

This post serves a dual purpose. I’m answering Sarah Bessey’s question, “What is saving your life right now?” and responding to my own action of deleting my “Don’t blog angry” post from earlier this week.

For those who might remember, I posted my disagreement with a fellow Christian who had written and spoken what I felt was some inappropriate “Christian-ese” in the wake of the violence in Aurora.

And yes, I was angry. I sat on that post for 24 hours and prayed and paced the apartment and vented to God and rehearsed all the appropriate scriptures about not letting the sun go down on one’s wrath and letting God be the judge and I was still angry.

This morning I went to God in prayer and I felt His gentle nudge, as if to say, You’ve made your point. Take down the post today.

So I did.

And—finally—I started thinking. Being the introspective type, I often wonder about the source of my strong emotions. So I found myself asking, What was it, exactly, that made me so angry?

What I’ve discovered over the years is that emotions can have a Houdini factor. Often what looks like a straightforward response (grief, love, etc.) will have some other emotion in there, riding shotgun. Or in some cases, one emotion is hiding but totally driving something else. The stampede of anger often is started with a lightning bolt of fear. When the dust settles, no one cleaning up the chaotic aftermath remembers that little cloud hanging low on the horizon.

So I went a-hunting. Why would that incident make me angry? What is the fear that drove this response?

What I discovered is that I am afraid of being pigeonholed into a stereotype. Because I already have been a victim of this type of thinking, I am particularly vulnerable to it. Somewhere deep inside I was thinking, Everyone who knows I am a Christian (which is just about everyone who knows me) will think I agree with this guy, and that I am that way. I’m not.

So I kicked back. Hard.

I stayed away from churches for years because of Jerry Falwell, before I realized that being a Christian didn’t mean I had to be like him, act like him or vote like him. (And given God’s sense of humor—or sense of justice—when it’s time to attend the wedding supper of the Lamb I suspect I’ll be seated right next to him. “Uh, hi Jerry… love your hair.”)

It is easy to be angry, especially when the anger feels justified. (And really, when does anger not feel justified?) And yet, thanks to the media’s propensity for popularizing the outrageous or frightening ‘fringe’ elements of our faith, mainstream Christians are increasingly being misperceived by our secular friends and neighbors. (Just a heads up to those who might be reading: no, not all Christians are Republicans. Not all Christians hate gays and love war. And not all Christians worship wealth.)

The flip side of all this is the Bible, which gives us clear guidelines about how to resolve disagreements. The drawback to this behind-the-scenes method is that rarely does such reconciliation lend itself to neat sound bites for the conflict-hungry media. It also promotes a view among non-Christians that we are “circling the wagons,” unwilling to be transparent. So most of us are left with the impression that the silent majority are just like the outrageous few, or that we all endorse their behavior. (The Muslims faced a similar conundrum after 9-11, a backlash fostered—somewhat ironically—by many western Christians, who happily forwarded inaccurate and condemning e-mails.)

So the silent ones are left with two options: stay silent and risk being misunderstood, or speak out and take hits from our fellow believers for being ‘unbiblical.’

I should take a moment and clarify that I have no desire to be some kind of radical. I have no need to create a schism in the church, nail my Ninety Five Theses to the church door, start a new denomination, or ride through the streets carrying a banner, rallying others to my cause.

I suppose I am just…curious. How does an individual Christian compete with a media-induced mountain of misperception? How do Christians disagree in the public sphere? DO Christians disagree in the public sphere? And how do I deal with the anger and frustration of it all without turning in to The Angry Blogger?

So I am asking you for your thoughts, ideas and responses. And—going back to Sarah’s question—I’m telling you that it is you who are saving my life right now. Thank you, thank you!

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About lisa@diggingformyrrh

I'm Lisa: Christ-worshiper, writer, kitty-mama and wannabe saint (with a long way to go). Trying to stay on the path and appreciate the beauty...with daily thanksgiving. Trying to listen for His song and sing along...and loving every note.
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7 Responses to On misperception and what’s saving my life

  1. Bob Stafford says:

    Lisa, wonderful, thoughtful post. While my opinions are, in some ways, different than yours about a variety of things, I listen to, and respect yours, and I know they are arrived at with sensitivity and careful consideration.

    That said, I think the answer to your main question is simple: Be led of the Spirit. And, trust me, that is not a trite answer. I mean it. We aren’t necessarily called to get out our megaphone and shout down anyone. We also are not necessarily called to changed ANYONE’S mind about anything. Additionally, we are NOT called to care what anyone out in the world thinks about us. (2Ti 1:5-9)

    We are called to obey God in our own walk. Each person that has a walk with God has that exact same responsibility. It’s like giving…if the Lord, by His Spirit, prompts a person to give something, that person needs to give it, even if it is everything. Likewise, if the Lord prompts that person to NOT do something, and they do it anyway, they are in sin.

    Be led of the Spirit. Trust that God knows what He is about, and that He can make it known to you.

    Joh 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me

    And be at peace about the whole thing, knowing that God has already accounted for all of it.

  2. Thank you so much, Bob. I love your thoughtful responses. You are always kind and you always make me THINK. : )

  3. Great post, insightful questions. I know for me, I was saved over and over by the regular, ordinary people doing the real Gospel loving, in the edges.

    • I think that is what will make the difference for me, too, Sarah. That and Jesus, who always meets me in my place of need. I thank you for your kindness, and for your wonderful posts that always make me think…and sometimes cry just a little. : )

  4. Rod Myers says:

    Lisa, to introduce myself, your mother Mary gave me your blog info yesterday. I am the chaplain for the Sarasota Co. Fire Department and will be meeting with you and your mom when you get into town. Thank you for being open and honest in your blogs. I like that.
    I do have a couple of observations that I think are applicable to your thoughts. As humans in general and Christians in particular we all are responding or reacting, as the case might be, to God, as we understand him or “not so much.” But God is God. He is the I Am That I Am, the unchangable one with many traits and characteristics. All of his traits are perfectly balanced. His love does not trump his justice or vice versa. He is perfectly integrated. Of course, we are not. We are fragmented by sin, ours and others, and the cursed world we live in. So how do fragmented Christians reflect the perfect God in word, deed, thought? We do so imperfectly. My struggle through the years is to admit that in myself knowing it is true about everyone else, and to seek to know more deeply the one who has fully integrated God in the flesh, the one who is the exact representation of God, Jesus. As I sit in his class each day fully attentive to his every word I am often surprised how he presents to me his perfectly balanced Father. As he moves in and out of one situation in life to another he nails the application of perfect God to imperfect life. My job is to first check myself to make sure I get it, and then to seek ways to apply this same truth to my life. This is the best I can do. But, it is not mine to question it or seek to alter it or to rationalize it. Obedient faith in humility is required. Those with whom we disagree have the same task as do we, to know and understand this perfectly balanced God we serve and to represent him as accurately as possible so people looking on do not misuderstand our God (not us) and get a mere characture of him. It is a humbling thing to speak IN HIS NAME.

    I look forward to meeting you. Rod Myers

    • Rod, thank you for this lovely response! I’m so looking forward to meeting you when I come visit!

      There’s so much in this note I don’t even know where to start (thank you!!). : D I think what really hits me hardest is your comment, “As he moves in and out of one situation in life to another he nails the application of perfect God to imperfect life.” It might simply be your choice of phrasing but what I see when I read this is Christ nailed to the cross–“the application of perfect God to imperfect life.” Jesus calls us to the cross and I freely admit that I am not always good at dying. In fact, I tend to resist it, kicking and screaming. I’m right there with Keith Green: “Hey, man, I want a comfortable cross! A Sealy Posture-Pedic cross!” Does dying to myself mean risking misunderstanding? Even risking driving people AWAY from the love of Christ because of that misunderstanding?

      Wow…we have a lot to talk about. Thank you, Rod! : )

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