I have a recurring nightmare where Joyce Meyer is in a policeman’s uniform reading at me from the book of James while hitting me over the head with a flashlight! No more sleeping with the TV on for me!
Okay, I don’t really have that nightmare but that’s what I feel every time I flip channels and come across televangelists telling me how to be a better Christian, not succumb to my own stupidity, and what a loser I am for not living in a definition of “victory” that belies what even God himself means by the word. Just tie me to a chair and pelt me with scripture until I lick the boot of my own unworthiness, feel sufficiently pathetic, mistake my self-loathing for repentance, and agree to get up and give it another go albeit even more exhausted and defeated than I was before.
Not to pick on our sister, Joyce. She just happens to be an easy target. I do respect the fact that if these are her convictions she takes no prisoners in making her point. The issue for me is how the culture perceives the church in light of what those who like to speak for God serves up to them.
Are we a city on a hill, a beacon of hope in a very tumultuous and dark world? Or, are we like that hotel we see in the distance when we are on vacation – the one that after driving all day and most of the night we view glowing in the distance only to find that the closer we get, the less likely it is that we’ll be pulling in for a good night’s sleep. The lights in the distance from the dark and deserted highway were certainly attractive but upon closer examination it becomes obvious that if the clientele hanging out in the parking lot don’t kill us the vermin roaming about the rooms might.
Early in my adult life there was a point when I began to realize that I had embraced a faith that depended on me. One that was about me doing better, trying just a little harder, mistaking self-contempt for contrition and hiding behind the bible (or what I thought the bible meant) to justify it. I had embraced that “turn or burn” mentality to hide from the “stuff” in my own heart and life that I didn’t want to face about me. When I began, as Barbara Brown Taylor says, believing more in God’s goodness than my badness it gave me room to believe that for others as well. That eventually resulted in me finding myself in relationship with people who considered me a “safe” person with whom they felt comfortable sharing their secret truths and me being able to hear their stories without fixing them.
It is always more about God’s goodness than my, or anyone else’s badness. That is the illuminated city, the beacon that invites us to pull in from the desolate, shadowy roads of our life journeys. It is the difference between holding out hope to others and hitting them in the head with a flashlight!