Thursday, November 8, 2012

Abi's Post-Election Ponderings....

For a wee purple abbess with neurological over stimulation problems, this election cycle has been a form of torture ... and, now that the pathetic display of deficient active listening and critical thinking skills is not front and center ... a "Third Way" -- you know, the alternative that is always available to polarized people, but is not visible when people have their eyes averted and their ears tuned out -- occurred to me.

Jesus said something about the problem of those who have eyes but cannot see and those who have ears but cannot hear ... that they cannot be healed because they do not realize they are sick.  Years ago I preached a sermon from the Gospel of Mark on this passage -- the one most bibles call the parable of the sower, but I think it is really the parable of the soil -- and I think it would be a very profitable word study for folks to see what the scriptures say about hearing and seeing ... and the consequences for the community when "everyone did what was right in their own eyes"....

The problem in this parable is not with the seed or the sower.  The seed is the Good News and the sower is God ... no, the problem is with the soil -- and whether it was properly prepared to receive the seed.  For our God is a prodigal Father -- extravagant and wasteful is his amazing love for us.  He casts the Seed broadly. He lets the sun and rain fall on the good and the evil doers alike.  He is especially fond of each of us -- even in the midst of our messes.  But he is also one to allow the full weight of the consequences for the decisions his precious Eikons to fall squarely and painfully on their shoulders. It is harsh to watch new plants choked out by weeds or whither in the heat of the sun. We have to learn to live by faith precisely because God does NOT swoop in and save us from our choices, the choices or others, and Mother Nature.  And we are not smart enough to understand what God is up to with his creation.  Truly, we're not.  Let God's strength be shown in the midst of our weaknesses.

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This looks like it's going to take a while -- maybe you might want to get a cup of coffee or tea.  I'll wait for you.  ;^)

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In the past I have called God the Ultimate Situational Leader -- because of his willingness to adapt his way of leading to our readiness to follow.  But now I am thinking of adding Ultimate Love & Logic Parent to his long list of attributes.

I wish I had learned the principles of Love & Logic before I had children, so that my sons could have had the benefit of this when they were small.  And my husband and I could have saved so much damage to our relationship over how to parent. But they say it is never too late, so we have begun to try to learn to be parents in this way ... and it is no small task to re-parent yourselves so that you can become better parents.  

Anyway...enough of that particular pity party...and on to the point of this post:  the people in our country have become petulant children -- not unlike the two sons described here -- and they are in need of Love & Logic parenting to keep them from self-destructing.

There are basically two types of problem parents:  
  • The Helicopters, who are always hovering around the children, ready to swoop in and rescue them from their poor choices.  (This has morphed into the Attack version -- you know the one who attacks anyone who tried to hold their children accountable for their behavior and choices.)  They are generally recognized by the smothering style of love -- a love that enslaves their children to them and stunts their growth toward maturity.  They are most often mothers, but there are some helicopter fathers out there, too.
  • The Drill Sergeants, who are always ordering their children around, telling them what to do in every circumstance -- trying to prevent them from making poor choices.  They are generally recognized by their "tough love" style and belief that their kids won't learn to make good choices without their "help" and because everything is about control and chaos allowed.  Logic reigns.  They are most often fathers, but there are some drill sergeant mothers out there, too.
But there is a healthy form of parenting out there, and it is called The Consultant.  These precious ones have what I call the right mix of order and chaos.  It is my CovenantClusters Rule of Life:
Enough organization for relationships to thrive. Enough chaos for creativity and communitas to emerge. Every need met.
Love allows for the chaos of learning from our mistakes -- and the earlier we make those mistakes, the less deadly they tend to be.  It provides a safe environment for the hard work of falling down and getting up.  Repeatedly.  Perhaps 70 times 7 times.   The Consultant Parent uses love to empathize with their children as they suffer the consequences for their choices.  Not a whiff of sarcasm allowed here -- true sorrow with them in their time of pain.  The Consultant knows the wisdom in realizing there is a good reason for having two ears and one mouth....

Logic recognizes the natural consequences that come as a result of all our choices.  Some are favorable ... others, not so much.  And it calls for helping the children to think clearly about what they have done, what their options are to fix their mistakes, and how to make right the relationships that have suffered.  The Consultant -- having listened well -- doesn't tell the child what to do, but asks helpful questions ... like "what are you going to do about that?" instead of the unhelpful questions ... like "why did you do that?"  or "what were you thinking?"

I have bits of each of these three styles.  I am a recovering helicopter and drill sergeant and a developing consultant -- my eyes and ears are open now...and the healing is beginning.

My, but this is painful work.  Parenting is all about the behavior of the parent, not the child.  It is hard work.  Lord, have mercy ... trusting God's cHesed for me is essential to my success, because I know that I cannot do this in my own strength or wisdom.   Hmmm...purple parenting....

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Back to post-election pondering, with that context set...and please forgive the gross over-generalizations and the fact that I will be referring to America's citizens as "children" -- only in the sense that our elected officials have a duty to secure our environment in order for us to have the chance at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness ... and allow the natural and legal consequences of our choices to help us learn and make better choices and be better citizens.

It seems to me that the polarized political parties are like fighting parents.
  • The Helicopter Parents won't allow their children to fail. And if not allowed to fail, there is no learning from mistakes.  There is no chance for necessity to become the mother of invention.  There is no learning to persevere and overcome adversity on the road to independence and later interdependence because of achievement.  There is, in its place, dependency and a growing sense of entitlement.  Sometimes there is a disregard for the rule of law and taking matters into their own hands. These parents not only feel the pain of their children, it becomes their own pain. They are susceptible to the "if you love me, you will..." line.  They are most often what we call Liberals, but there are Conservatives Helicopter Parents out there.
  • The Drill Sergeant Parents are so focused on order and the rule of law that they attempt to control behavior -- even attempting to legislate morality -- so that the family image in the community is preserved and the "dirty laundry" reality is never acknowledged, much less cleaned up.  They may be successful in getting their kids to not break the rules, but the loopholes kill them ... and all too often the rebellion is simmering under the surface.  These parents often have compliant kids who check out from the family community in order to find community that accepts them as they are and allows them to assert their individuality.  Their children frequently accuse them of being "mean" and "you don't understand me".  They are most often what we call Conservatives, but there are Liberal Drill Sergeant Parents out there.
  • There is another minor sub-type:  The Laissez Faire Parent -- the ones who think that children can raise themselves without any interference or guidance. Live and let live. They are found in both Liberals and Conservatives, although they look very different in each.  There are probably a good deal of them in the Libertarian camp.
Perhaps you need a moment to stop and take a deep breath -- breathing out what I am NOT meaning and setting aside your sense that this is all too condescending.  I already said it would be gross over-generalizations.  We're just looking at patterns here....

Okay, feeling better?  Great!

What we need is a coalition of recovering Helicopter, Drill Sergeant and Laissez Fair types who see the problems they foster and work together to become Consultant types.  I think that Oprah has some of the skills to be the Consultant -- and please follow the links in this post I wrote on Oprah's last show.  I think there is more deep thinking to be done, but she is a good starting place.  One of the things I appreciate about her is that she owns her mistakes -- when she sees or hears them.  The challenge of power is always staying open to versions of the truth that differ from you own.  Speaking the truth in love to powerful people is a difficult row to hoe....

So, what would The Consultant look like in Politics?  If would have to get to work within each and every branch of politics, first of all.  This is the only way to get out of the current gridlock.  There is truth in each position.  We have to find the truth in each story in order to find the way through the challenges ahead of us as these United States of America!

The "children" of America have to do a lot of growing up.  Seriously.  And our leaders need to help us mature toward healthy independence/interdependence instead of continuing to foster immaturity and dependence.
  • Each person is loved by God -- regardless of their circumstances or choices.  They deserve our love and respect and compassion and clear thinking and logic in the midst of their story.
  • There is no excuse for employing the language of hate and destruction and fear and power and coersion and greed and envy.  We have to choose the difficult task of learning to think deeply and then speak the truth -- the whole truth and nothing but the truth. "Spin" and "straw men" have to stop. The ends do not justify the means.  "What you win them with is what you win them to" is every bit as true here as it is in spreading the Good News of the Kingdom of God!
  • There is no Free Lunch.  Somebody has to pay for it.  Remember not to kill the goose that lays the golden egg...and other pithy saying about teaching someone to fish, etc.
  • Learn the difference between a need and a want.  Seriously.  I learned this during my two years in Northern Thailand ... when I learned that hot water was a want.  Even running water was a want.  I challenge you to sit down and make a list of true needs and put it up against the what you have.
  • In order to ensure that our needs are met, we have to learn to live within our means.  Everyone, please get this. Budgets are challenging but they ARE necessary.  We need to learn how to say and hear "No, we can't affort that choice at this time."  Greed and envy come from confusing need and want.  They lead down a dark path.  Do not go there.  And acknowledge that debt is not our friend....
  • Cheerful generosity is the rule of the New Covenant instituted by Jesus Christ.  There is no "tithe tax" any more (lots of churches don't realize that yet) because we are to give according to our blessings.  Yet, there is also no "coerced generosity" either -- we are to give as we feel led, not taxed because we have something that can be taxed.  The whole idea of what is "fair" really needs to be worked over something good. 
Well ... feast or famine, eh?  I am sorry for the length, but this just came pouring out of my fingers today. 

Be blessed, friends -- Papa is especially fond of you, and his cHesed is faithful.


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