Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Abi and the Fabric of Accommodation

Inspired by Kate’s post at The Junia Project and a brilliant spin off post on how racism and patriarchy are cut from the same cloth….

* * * * * * *

Back in the spring of 1997, I watched a riveting speaker rebuke the folks at TBN – from TBN’s stage.  I don’t remember his name or the response, but I’ll never forget what he said.  The bottom line of his rebuke that spring afternoon was:  Do not confuse the apparent blessing of God with a stamp of approval on your methods.  Wow.  So much of what is wrong with the world can be attributed to this issue….

I think that this rebuke rightly joins with another important concept I learned while a student at PCC (now HIU)frozen accommodations.  The late Dr. Mont Smith coined this wonderful phrase in his important book, What the Bible Says About Covenant (College Press, 1981, pp. 370-371; unfortunately out of print), as part of a larger discussion on the Doctrine of Implied Power. He begins this section with:  “Inherent in the doctrine of implied power was the danger of holding a group at a point of accommodation after the social situation changed.” Then he gets to this:  “What the Apostles would have insisted upon was a return to the standard of full Christlike service for all and to all, as soon as possible.”

The problem has always come when that which was meant as a temporary accommodation becomes frozen in time and custom and culture.  Then it is no longer seen as an accommodation to human weakness; it becomes “the will of God,” complete with out-of-context proof-texting.

God always stoops to accommodate our immaturity, because They love us and are always looking out for our best interest.  They are not willing that we should perish.  When there is an issue we have problems with, rather than just blowing us away, God woos us bit by bit…beginning right where we are and slowly nudging us in the proper direction.

The Apostles, as they helped the young churches live out the mind-blowing freedom Jesus brought, had to continue God’s use of temporary accommodations to the weakness and hard-heartedness of men during the process of growing up in the kingdom family of God.

In their writings we see more of the same problems with the fluid nature of growth being frozen into structures of power and domination, rather than freedom in Christ by the Spirit.

So how do things become frozen?  I think it stems from what M. Scott Peck, M.D., thought about original sin.  Peck came to see original sin as laziness:  “attempting to avoid necessary suffering, or taking the easy way out.”  Laziness is the anti-cHesed.  

(Terminology break:  cHesed is a Hebrew concept usually translated something like gracious loving-kindness -- I believe it is the concept used to describe the primary nature of God as Love -- it describes the activity of faithful covenant keeping. I join it with the Greek concept of perichoresis, which describes the Life of the Trinity: mutual interpenetration without loss of distinctiveness.  The result:  Perichoretic cHesed.)

And so the Fabric of Accommodation is woven with threads of laziness … because growth is hard work.  Life is difficult, and learning to think clearly – not simplistically – is the weak link in all humans. Paul tells us that this can only be done by the continual renewing of our minds by the Spirit. We must learn to think with the Mind of Christ!

The drive for independence actually leads to a worse kind of dependence.  Rejecting dependence on God as faithful covenant partner, the human drive for independence (at the Fall and since) was a rejection of the necessary suffering required for growth and interdependence and cHesed: mutually seeking the best interest of the covenant partners.

The cross Christ has asked us to take up daily is the dance of Perichoretic cHesed:  to both receive and give love that submits, grace that serves, and mercy that initiates and leads. To allow ourselves to be drawn into the Eternal Perichoretic cHesed in order to share it. This is a profound paradox -- his yoke is easy and his burden is light....

  • Patriarchy as a system of social order was allowed as an accommodation by God to the social order of humanity in its infancy. There are many examples of how God rejected patriarchy when new lessons were being taught.  (Think about what Jesus meant when he said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.)
  • The subjugation of women (and children and slaves and other members of the family/tribe) is a foundational principle of patriarchy. As a consequence of the Fall, God foresaw that women would desire their men (even with increased pain in childbirth) as protectors and providers (a mere shadow of their originally intended dynamic partnership), and that their men would use their power to rule over them. To state that this has always been the intention of God in the creation of humanity is a bizarre kind of blindness.
  • Polygamy, as a sub-system of patriarchy, was also accommodated and used by God to educate humanity and provide justice for those involved – as a part of experiencing kingdom life that was already, but not yet fully, being realized. From creation God intended that marriage would be a permanent bonding between one man and one woman for the purpose of experiencing a foreshadowing of the blessing of the Perichoretic cHesed of the Eternal Triune God – including being sub-creators under God (HT J.R.R. Tolkien) and procreators.
  • Divorce, then, is abhorred by God – but is yet another accommodation to the hard-heartedness of men. It was provided as a protection of the wives (and children) from abuse and abandonment. It shows the immaturity of those who are not willing or ready to do the hard work required for intimate relationship and community to flourish as Perichoretic cHesed.
  • Slavery was a reality in every ancient human society. God tolerated slavery as an accommodation to human social and economic circumstances. However, he fostered maturity in humanity when he gave slaves a frequent place in Their kingdom work – offering protection, respect, and ultimately hope for freedom as well as adoption in the redemptive work of Jesus!
  • Racism is a subset of slavery in that those races that were victorious in battle took slaves both as a way to humiliate the defeated (put them in their place, as it were) as well as to provide laborers. The history of slavery in America is full of talk about slaves not being fully human. Makes me ill to even think about it, especially having recently read the original manuscript of 12 Years A Slave….
  • Monarchy in Israel was an accommodation by God to the weakness of humanity, who wanted a human king – even knowing that a king would tax and dominate them – rather than accept God as king.  "Lording it over" others is NOT the plan of God, as Jesus clearly taught.

All these are forms of accommodation God made to the hardness of men’s hearts.  Each of them represents a rejection of the will of God that They were willing to accommodate in order to lead humanity home.
But in the fullness of time, God came in the flesh as Jesus – God With Us – and set the record straight for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.

In the section on Increasing Interpersonal Competence, Chris Argyris developed and articulated his Immaturity-Maturity continuum as a way to show how institutions always tend to foster immaturity because they value order, efficiency and conformity over creativity, effectiveness and diversity.  (Management of Organizational Behavior, Sixth Edition, Paul Hersey and Kenneth H. Blanchard, Prentice Hall, 1993, pp. 64-69)

I believe the theory known as Situational Leadership, developed by Hersey and Blanchard (Management of Organizational Behavior, Sixth Edition, Paul Hersey and Kenneth H. Blanchard, Prentice Hall, 1993, pp. 183-219), is so powerful and true because it is a representation of God’s leadership style as They exist as Three who mutually submit, serve and lead together as they live out their Oneness as Perichoretic cHesed.

As They work to help humanity see the reality of our inclusion via adoption in the New Covenant in Jesus, They submit and serve and lead us for our best interest.  Their actions are always about growth and freedom and participation in the Great Dance of Perichoretic cHesed (which I call the perfect relational pH).
Leaders with the proper pH lead according to the readiness level of the follower, not according to their preferred leadership style.  Hersey and Blanchard identify four paired styles of leading and following, and humans need to recognize themselves in each style. The challenge is that our leader or follower style will be different depending on the situation.  We can’t just turn on auto pilot – we have to think clearly in order to discern the proper style. Here is a quick summary and a handy chart.

Pen Wilcock’s fabulous Lent book calls the name of God – I AM THAT I AM – Present Presence. I think that’s just right. Our Eternal Triune God lives in Kairos time…it is always NOW. Their presence is always present – we are never alone! Perichoretic cHesed is a dance of expectant responsiveness.
Jesus said that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.  Jesus shares the cross/yoke that is the perfect pH for us to bear: he stoops in cHesed to bind himself to us, so that we may walk out that cHesed together as we do God’s will.

* * * * * * *

Well...my firstborn is on his way home from college for spring break.  Woo hoo! 

May you be swept up into the Great Dance, beloved....


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Abi's Graphic Wound...be forewarned!

Update!  On April 11th, I was back at the "scene" with my youngest son -- and had him take pictures of the log (which is about 4' long) with a close up of the infamous "stump" that did the damage...that's his hand (which is the same size as mine) there to show you just how big that sucker is!  I am in the midst of Week 10...and the healing sure seems slow!  Months more to go....

* * * * * * *

This picture, taken on Day 5, seems to show me taking this purple martyrdom a bit too far...and the extent of this bruise grew for two more days, until it covered the entire back of my right thigh.

...but this is week six since the sledding accident that saw me impaled on the broken-off branch of a hidden log.  Lesson:  trailblazers can get hurt!

And yet, there is a deeper lesson...

...one that is learned after the bruising is gone, and the sutures are removed, and all the scabs have fallen away:  the wound that cannot be seen, yet was the deepest and most dangerous, is far from healed.

But it looks so much better!  Yeah, looks can be deceiving....

I still cannot sit down or put any pressure on the back of my right thigh.

Really...after six weeks?

The doctor says it may take three month for the internal wound to just stabilize...and six months to finish reconstruction...and nine months for full range of motion...and a year or more for strength and the lessening of the scar tissue and any accompanying adhesions. Ugh!

I have never had a wound like this...it's exhausting.  But I am going to be well in time. And I am going to remember these lessons. The sharp stabs and the aching and the shocks as nerves reconnect.  And I will marvel at the brilliance of God's creative masterpiece with humility and gratitude....

So that when I see the wounds of others, I will remember the deep pain. I will listen to their pain and frustration. I will remember how long it takes to heal.

And I will shed tears of seeing over them. So they will know they are not invisible. Their pain is seen with gentle eyes that know woundedness.

And I will not make them have to ask for my help. To see if they can do things for themselves. There will be hours and days when they have no one to pamper them...when they will have to spend so much energy just shifting to be comfortable in bed that they break out into a sweat.

No, no...love that submits to their needs with deliberate affection, and grace that serves with unmerited favor, and mercy that initiates kindness mutually owed...this is what perichoretic cHesed does when one's beloved is in need.

But more than what small comfort I can give, I hope to remind them that our amazing God -- Father, Son and Spirit -- are I AM THAT I AM. They are the Present Presence...always there with us in our pain and suffering. Not to save us from our suffering, but to walk through it with us.

* * * * * * *

You still have time, during this season of Lent, to pick up Penelope Wilcock's lovely and insightful book, The Wilderness Within You. I finished it yesterday and am going back to make notes of the many profound insights she shares. I picked up Present Presence from this book...and it has been such a bit of comfort to me! This is a woman who gets it -- and I am grateful to have her friendship.

Be blessed!