Friday, September 24, 2010

My Shameful Secret

I was sitting in the chapel parking lot the other day at Bacone, trying to get myself lined out for the next class. This meant that I was slurping down a caffeine packed Mountain Dew and singing loudly, probably off key and out of time to Audio Slave, when I noticed two of my students emerge from a nearby car.

At first they just glanced my way, wondering who the idiot with the blaring music was I am sure, but then you could see when the recognition hit their brains. One of them said something to the other and he spun around to confirm what was said. Yes, their Introduction to Christianity teacher was listening to (please read this in hushed and shocked tones) – heathen music.

The thoughts rolled through their heads and across their faces in rapid fire succession. Suspended in shocked disbelief, they simply stood and stared wondering if it was okay to mock the old woman who was rocking out in the privacy of her car. If I were them I don’t know that I could have resisted the temptation, but prudence prevailed and they gave a sheepish smile before disappearing to the bowels of the chapel. In class they could barely look me in the eye. I felt like I had been caught doing something scandalous, like I should have renounced all right and ability to teach such sacred subjects after indulging in such appalling behavior.

The thing was I wasn’t feeling my shame, I was feeling theirs. I have never hidden the fact that I like music of all sorts. It was just as likely that they would have caught me listening to George Strait, Gordon Lightfoot, Mozart, Shabbat Alive, or Air Supply (okay, I might suffer some humiliation over that one). What you probably aren’t going to catch me listening to is southern gospel, pop Christian music, or one of those teenage singers wailing about how a lost love has destroyed their life. (I find it a little hard to take when someone who can’t even drive is contemplating a life time of misery because the love of their life won’t share their Snacky packs at recess.)

I don’t think it was my choice in music that upset them so much. I think it was what it represented to them. Music is such a part of how we come to understand our emotions. It helps us articulate those feelings that demand to be put into words but seem to defy description. It can be soft and gentle soothing the hurt secret places of our hearts. It can make a good day better by allowing us to announce our joy. Or sometimes it is raw and visceral, giving voice to anger and angst – that was the sound I was going for that day.

And we all know that “holy” people, like preachers, Bible teachers, and the pope, never experienced an emotion that would call for an outlet like an Audio Slave song. I was threatening to destroy their whole paradigm of Christian existence, and it made them uncomfortable.
It got me to thinking about how we view people who are suppose to be some sort of spiritual leadership, and then it got me to thinking about how we view humanity and spirituality. And how we have somehow separated the two. There is almost no room in our understanding of faith for people to be human, to experience pain and loss without the placid acceptance of ancient martyrs. Passion is reserved for the next church crusade, or stomped out all together.

It is as if we have somehow come to this tacit understanding that once you become a Christian deny all aspects of your humanity. Emotion becomes taboo unless it is disdain for those who indulge in emotion, and passion is for those of weaker constitutions. But I have to ask how does this affect the way we look at God? At Jesus?

If we are His representatives here on earth, then are we showing the world a God who is as apathetic as we are? Are we sending the message that we have to put off all the things that make us human? That make us live with a purpose and passion?

Emotions aren’t bad. When I read through my Bible I find a God who is extremely emotional, and dare I say passionate? I see a God who sees our humanity, not a sinful, but as something that He chose first create, and then to take on in the person of Christ.

Maybe it is time that we who occupy a leadership position stop worrying about who hears our music from our cars. Perhaps it is time that we reaffirmed that people and all their messy emotions are part of that image of God that we were created in, and start showing that this life of faith is one that requires all of our emotions be faced honestly and expressed constructively if it is to be effective.

And maybe, just maybe, if we can make some room for our emotions, stopped living like we were above them, others could find a God who knows how they feel and values their emotions. Maybe if we stopped presenting our lives as an emotionally sterile zone they could understand that there is a place for them to honestly express their hearts and come to know the one whose heart is filled with a passion for them.

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