Quotable: Richard Rohr

“You cannot grow in the integrative dance of action and contemplation without a strong tolerance for ambiguity, an ability to allow, forgive, and contain a certain degree of anxiety, and a willingness to not know—and not even need to know. This ever widens and deepens your perspective. This is how you allow and encounter Mystery and move into the contemplative zone.”     ~Richard Rohr

I think, in my own spiritual journey this sense of “a willingness to not know – and not even need to know,” has become a defining characteristic. And it’s one that is so freeing. I know some people think it scary to not have it all figured out, but having it “all figured out,” is a myth.

Does anyone else resonate with this quotation?

Why I’m (still) a Christian

I wasn’t actually born in a church, but I just as well might have been. From the time I was born, our family attended Sunday School, Sunday morning church, Sunday evening church, and Wednesday Prayer meeting in the small, white church in the small town that I grew up in. My parents were active congregants, teaching Sunday School classes, volunteering, really, we were the model “church family.” So, speaking sociologically, it was highly likely that I would identify myself as a Christian in my adult years.

But, beginning in my teen years I started having doubts about the faith of my youth. I couldn’t, for example, harmonize the loving Father of Jesus with the God who callously gambles with Job’s life. Or I couldn’t put together the witness of general revelation (aka, “science”) with a literal understanding of a 6-day creation or a worldwide flood. And I couldn’t understand where there was all these incontrovertible miracles in the 1st century, but nothing like blind people receiving sight in our own.

Of course, there were answers given, and some were satisfactory, some were only a temporary stop-gap to my doubts and some just didn’t land with me at all. But, late at night talking with friends, or in my daily “devotions” or even in the midst of a chapel service, doubts would still float to the surface.

At 40, I still have lots of doubts. Some are theological like the efficacy of prayer, the historicity of the Bible and nearly everything in the Book of Revelation. And some of my doubts are more contemporary like almost everything about the modern church and narcissistic, individualistic typically-American expressions of Christianity. And I even have deep epistemological doubts – how do we know what we know? what can we actually know about God?

But, despite all my doubts I’m still a Christian. My 20-year old self, working on a Comprehensive Bible Major at a fundamentalist Christian college, would have scoffed at the idea that one could have deep theological doubts and still remain a Christian. But, 20 years later, I like this spot I’m in.

In short, I’m a Christian because without my belief in God’s redemptive work in history; without believing that somehow, some way, God will eventually make things right, will return his creation to its intended order; without a belief that following Jesus is simply a better way to live; without believing in human beings as the image bearers of God, nothing else makes sense.

And despite my doubts, without my growing sense that I know very little of God, this is enough for me. And I think it’s enough for Jesus.

In the sixth chapter of John’s gospel, the author tells us that Jesus nearly stopped doing miracles and instead taught hard things about what it meant to follow this new way Jesus was teaching. And so, predictably, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” And then Jesus turns to those closest to him and asks, “You do not want to leave too, do you?,” to which Peter replies, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Some of you out there may be sure of what you believe with very little doubt. But, for the rest of you – those of you like me who don’t always have such confidence, maybe this – where else would I go? – seems to be enough for Jesus.

And these days, it’s enough for me.

6 Things You Should Know About Extroverts

It’s been a slow couple of weeks. When I’ve looked at my work calendar, it’s been big open stretches with nothing on the calendar. There’s goodness in this, for sure. I can always get ahead and give thought to future talks, retreats, do some reading/studying, writing, etc. But, at the same time, wired for extroversion like I am, being alone in a quiet office stirs up all kinds of crazy.

I get the suspicion that when people think of extroverts, they think of one continuous, ongoing party. But here are 6 things you should understand about extroverts:

  1. We don’t like hanging out with peoplewe need to hang out with other people. I regularly remind people in the course of pre-marital counseling that extro/introversion isn’t just about who’s the life of the party. There are quiet extroverts and introverts who perform in front of thousands. Rather, extro/introversion are about the ways we get filled up, where we get our energy when life has beat it out of us. Introverts, at the end of a long week interacting with peers, clients, & customers need to be alone. Extroverts need people.
  2. But just being with people doesn’t do the trick. It’s not as simple as hanging out at the local bar or coffee shop and chatting up strangers. Yes, I’m perfectly capable of doing so, but it’s only a quick fix. Strangers fit the bill when I’m desperate for interaction, but it’s not lasting or deeply fulfilling. What I need is meaningful, mutual, life-giving interactions. For me, this includes cooking with friends, having soul-bearing conversations, laughing, not being “pastor,” going to concerts, etc. with the people closest to me.
  3. This means extroverts often feel needy. Just like introverts sometimes feel like they can’t make enough space for time alone, extroverts feel like they can’t get enough interaction. And here’s where I’m envious of introverts: introverts can get what they need whenever they want – it doesn’t depend on anyone else. I wish that were so. For me to fill up, I need other people. I hate needing other people.
  4. Which means, even though I’m extroverted, I often feel lonely. Objectively speaking, I’m not alone. I have plenty of friends, plenty of people in my life who love me and want to hang out with me. I know this to be true. But it’s easy for me to feel lonely when life gets busy and I don’t get the interactions I need.
  5. Even extroverts have their limits. There are times and spaces where I do need a break from people. For example, early on Sunday afternoons all I want is my sweatpants, crossword puzzle and a blanket. No more conversations. But, I bounce back quickly. By Sunday evening, I’m usually good-to-go.
  6. Extroverts aren’t always the life of the party. There are times, where I don’t feel like talking, where I don’t feel like being the gregarious, center of the laughter. But, that doesn’t mean I’m not soaking up the energy of being with people. Truth is, when I’m in those places, I’m probably most needy. I have this mental picture of a time last fall, where I was in one of my people-deficits and we had cooking club, and I was just kind of keeping to myself, working on my food, not saying much. But, hanging in the kitchen with the guys, listening to good music, working on the food, I could feel myself perking up.

Anything else some of you extroverts would add to the list?