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(The last four entries focused on why I fear abandonment. It was kind of gloomy. Starting today I flip those over and look at how some good things came out of those reasons…so maybe these next few will leave you with a bit more hope)

 

“Why do you want to manage sin? I mean, they don’t have adultery management classes.”

My friend Charles spent most Monday afternoons post-gaming the weekend choices I made during my sophomore year of college. What’s weird is he seemed to enjoy his choice to—in the language of my Tribe—“disciple” me and our group of spiritual neophytes. He’d been at it for over a year.

Keep in mind most of the weekend choices I made my sophomore year were—in the language of my Tribe—unwise. The reality was that I wasn’t fuzzy on the good/bad thing. I’d read my Bible. I seemed to create an “undergraduate exemption” from those behaviors. In my way of thinking, the really fun sins didn’t work against you until you got your degree. This was the fine print I’m not sure Charles read when he signed up.

We met at the campus McDonald’s because getting coffee wasn’t a thing yet. Once a week. Charles would patiently wait until the smoke bomb I threw weekly to avoid talking about my—ahem—unwise decisions cleared. In this case, I mentioned that my mom suggested that I might want to look into some anger management classes. Surely there were some in a college town.

For some reason he didn’t wait for me to filibuster that particular smokescreen. He decided to ask a question that would change my entire perspective on the spiritual life. His filibuster had all sorts of phrases in it.

“Doesn’t affect how much God loves you

“It’s really ripping yourself off.”

“Fun and joy are different.”

“That life is not the abundant one you could live.”

“Behavior management won’t change your heart.”

“Aren’t you tired of living with anger yet? It’s been like five years, man.”

Whatever spiritual switch in my brain that moves philosophy to action flipped that afternoon. Right there over the #2 value meal. Super-sized. Maybe I just decided to grow up. Maybe that year investment Charles poured into me paid dividends at that moment. My Tribe would say that the Holy Spirit was at work in me. Maybe it’s all-the-above.

What I do know is that all our weekly meetings changed after that. We talked about grace. We talked about thanksgiving. We talked about fruit of the Spirit. We talked about living abundantly. We talked about the exchanged life with Christ. We talked about the resurrection in 33AD and what it meant in 1985AD.

It wasn’t overnight, to be sure. But the endless lifestyle cycle of wins and losses that behavioral management (which, if we’re honest, is what most members of our Tribe value and teach) leads to was broken.

And most of you know that I’m a firm believer in the Law of Competitive Balance. It’s a baseball term that means the teams that are losers work harder and the good teams stick to the status quo. One of the corollaries is that every form of strength has weaknesses, and vice versa, attached to them. Google Bill James and Law of Competitive Balance if you really care.

Anyway, the anger I lugged around dissipated over time. Sure. It still lurks. But it isn’t a characteristic of my life these days. I learned I could leverage Kingdom business because God wired my personality and gave me interests and talents that are the flip-side of the anger coin. In other words: my weakness had some strength attached.

You know what’ll be fun? I’ll use some of my favorite angry punk lyrics to highlight some of those.

Strength #1:

Frank Turner, “Love & Ire Song.”

Oh, but surely just for one day, we could fight and we could win

And if only for a little while, we could insist on the impossible

Well, we’ve been a good few hours drinking
So I’m going to say what everyone’s thinking
If we’re stuck on this ship and it’s sinking
Then we might as well have a parade
Cause if it’s still going to hurt in the morning
And a better plan’s yet to get forming
Then where’s the harm spending an evening
In manning the old barricades?

 Sometimes there are battles that need to be fought…even if you know you aren’t gonna win. And, manalive. The battles that I’ve fought behind the scenes in some church planning meetings or vision discussions were the right ones to fight, man. I knew I wouldn’t win. But I was right. The ship might be sinking, but I’m going to have a parade and manning the old barricade is honorable.

What’s peculiar to me is that God gives congregations people like this but they aren’t given much credence. That’s a shame because we all need the rabble to get roused.

 

Strength #2:

The Clash, “White Riot.”

And everybody’s doing
Just what they’re told to
And nobody wants
To go to jail. White riot, I want to riot

The status quo needs to be challenged. All the time. Granted, a riot is hardly the answer, but the spirit is there, man. Our tribe would do well to always be asking if what we’re doing matters…and this song from the band Rolling Stone called “the only band that matters” could certainly teach us a thing or two in that regard.

Oh, and you won’t be celebrated for pushing. You might go to any number of various jails but it’s okay to push.

 

Strength #3:

Black Flag, “Rise Above.”

Society’s arms of control
Rise above, we’re gonna rise above
Think they’re smart, can’t think for themselves
Rise above, we’re gonna rise above
Laugh at us behind our backs
Rise above, we’re gonna rise above
I find satisfaction in what they lack
Rise above, we’re gonna rise above
We are tired of your abuse
Try to stop us, but it’s no use

 Change is always initiated from the passionate fringe. When punk broke, the disdain from almost everybody was palpable. I mean, the songs on the hit lists of the late 70’s were highly polished and technical and written for stadiums full of people. Here were clubs full of angry kids stripping it down and cranking it up. Skill was irrelevant.

Things changed. Want proof? Take a look at any list of greatest albums of all time and then make note of how many punk bands are on it. Then look at how many are in the top 10.

But take a look at how major changes take place in society or churches…and those things that were once derided become celebrated…and if you stick around long enough you’ll notice that the celebrated things become derided and the process repeats. We need to pay attention to those on the outside and pressing in. They might be right.

 

Strength #4:

Sex Pistols, “God Save The Queen.”

God save the Queen
The fascist regime,
They made you a moron
A potential H-bomb. 
God save the Queen
She ain’t no human being
There is no future
And England’s dreaming

 The music of anger was about something. You might not have liked the fury of it. You might not have agreed with the points. You might not like their anti-authority stance. But you couldn’t deny that it wasn’t like the fluff of Peter Frampton or Jimmy Buffet or Abba. Substance mattered. And if you needed to shock to get attention, then you might want to use hyperbole to make that point.

As Wayne said in “Wayne’s World,” “Led Zeppelin didn’t make music that everyone liked. They left that to the Bee Gees.” You might not like it, but you’ll have to deal with it.

Whoever told you spirituality had to be polite lied to you.

 

And there are more and I could go on…

…but what I learned that the way God wired me is okay. My Scotch-Irish molotov cocktail heritage. My thick skin developed from being on the fringe. My understanding of the role He has given me to play. The beauty I see in fighting for principle even if you know you’ll lose. The constant questioning of the status quo. The passion of caring about stuff that matters. My tribe calls it “prophetic leanings” if that makes it more palatable for you.

 

That matters.

It matters to me.

It matters to the Church.

It matters to God.

To be less and straighten up and fly right would be to deny Him. I am needed. I am wanted. I am loved. I am a masterpiece even if others don’t get it.

So it goes. When you don’t try to manage sin but focus on letting him flip it over and on how He wired you and step into that…isn’t that beautiful?