CHAPTER 37, IN WHICH WE SAY GOODBYE TO OUR FRIENDS
This is the last episode of unQuiet Life. Vince and Lightning shared how they began this podcast and some of the guidelines they have followed to make it less podcasty and more conversational.
When they began the podcast, Lightning was in the podcast production business. He had clients for whom he was producing three episodes per week…and thus starting and producing his own podcast was not a great burden. However, life is what happens while you are making other plans.
In the fall, Lightning lost one of those podcasting clients Through a series of conversations, Lightning and his wife decided that Lightning needed to get a full-time job to stabilize the family finances. In January, Lightning started a new position as Operations Manager for the Chicago office of a national audio-visual rental company. This is a role that seems uniquely suited to Lightning’s professional background, but it also requires about 50 hours per week.
Lightning is no longer able to squeeze the production of unQuiet Life into his working hours, and his free-time has become very limited and valuable. So, Vince and Lightning have made the sad decision to close the podcast. Their hope is that even though the podcast has ended, that the conversation will continue in your community.
The guys spent a few minutes talking about why it is important to say goodbye–and to do it well. It seems that we humans have difficulty with goodbyes and that we resist relational closure. Is it because it is less painful in the short term to just let a relationship fade away? Is it because having closure creates opportunities for reflection and we’re not sure what we’ll discover? Do we loose anything by just letting friendships slowly slide into the past? Vince and Lightning believe we do loose something when we don’t say goodbye well. The regret that is caused by things left unsaid is like when your ears ring. You don’t notice it during the busy moments of life, but every time you are quiet it is there. It does not go away and it nags you in the quiet moments. Regret prevents true quiet.
To close the final episode, Vince shared this quote from Meister Eckhart:
There is nothing so much like God in all the universe as silence.
Vince and Lightning would love to hear what unQuiet Life has meant to you, and how you are going to continue the conversation in your own life. Email them, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
CHAPTER 36, IN WHICH WE VISIT ALABAMA, THAILAND AND ZAMBIA
The guys welcomed Mary Trujillo to the conversation this week. Mary is a professor at North Park University in Chicago. She is a person of deep faith, a woman of wisdom, a lover of people, and she is an elder. She opens doors for the people around her as she lovingly challenges them to do things they don’t think they can. She has co-journeyed through the many ups and downs of life with so many people.
Last month, in conversation 33, we began a conversation about Eldership. That was a great talk with David Janzen, and you can join that conversation here. Today we’re continuing that conversation with Mary Trujillo.
When asked what it means to be an elder, Mary talked about having a sense of responsibility for what comes next. She referenced Elise Boulding‘s concept of the 200 year present, and how many native American tribes considered their actions on the 7th future generation. Elders are able to see a larger context of what has come before and what will come after. Understanding that all of us are in this together can breakdown animosity that is often present between young and old.
Our western society is an individualistic society in which age has no intrinsic value. Because ours is a capitalistic system, an older person who is no longer able to “produce” does not have a place in society. But this isn’t true of just the old; anyone with limited economic capacity struggles to find a place in our society. This includes the disabled, the handicapped, the uneducated, those previously incarcerated, the untrained, the disadvantaged, and sometimes women. Those individuals and groups who are not highly valued by our social or economic system seem to be the people that Jesus dignified and cared about.
Mary swapped the word eldership with the term grandparent. There is something wonderful that happens as you reach a certain age–you see the continuity of life and the gift that life is. The challenge as we age is to maintain a sense of freshness and a connection to life. Even as the body betrays us, we must maintain a wonder and fascination with life. This is the secret to becoming an elder and not just a grumpy old person.
Many great elders have been people who endured great suffering…people like Nelson Mandela or Maya Angelou. Seasons of suffering cultivate in us new levels of honesty and vulnerability and rawness that can be powerful. Our culture has lost the concept of fruitful suffering, but all humans have suffered at some point. We can not avoid the experience of suffering in our lives. If our culture eschews our elders, the very people who can teach us how to suffer, how will we learn to suffer well? There is a unique way that God speaks to us during suffering because we hear differently and we see differently in these seasons. Staying conscious during suffering is what makes it transformative. The corollary to this is that as we become older we can also experience true joy. Mary made a distinction between happiness–which is a fleeting emotion–and deep abiding joy. Only when we know how to suffer can we know true joy. Pain and joy live next to each other in our hearts.
Mary told a wonderful story about her blind grandmother who built into her the value for serving others, while demonstrating the grace and nuance characteristic of an elder. Can you imagine the joy that God–the ultimate elder–receives when he invests and develops us? Mary told us that age is venerated in collectivistic cultures and shared how she experienced this on her recent trip to Thailand. Similarly, in Zambia, she was caught off-guard when she was greeted by a man many years her senior who said, “hello Mother.” In Zambia, motherhood is very venerated and this was a high compliment.
Lightning closed the conversation with this paraphrase of a quote he saw recently: Blessed are those people who plant trees, the shade of which they will never themselves enjoy.
Next week will be the last episode of unQuiet Life. The guys will share details then about why the podcast is coming to an end. We hope you will join us.
TO DO LIST
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STUFF THEY MENTIONED THAT IS WORTH CHECKING OUT
Elise Boulding’s writings on peace
The church that Vince co-leads: Brown Line Vineyard
CHAPTER 35, IN WHICH WE CONSIDER HOW REFLECTIONS ON DEATH CAN HELP US LIVE BETTER
This week Vince and Lightning tackle the light topic of death.
Lightning began by sharing that a friend of his recently passed away. He was in his late 40s and lived in community. He had a great support network and he was well-loved when he died. This is a striking contrast to a story Lightning heard from an old parish priest. The priest tells a story in which he is at the hospital with a family who is about to lose a parent. The dying parent doesn’t want to talk about death with the family; the family doesn’t want to talk about the death with the parent; the doctor doesn’t want anyone to get worked up. As a result, the priest gets bounced around this triangle without anyone being willing to engage in a difficult but important conversation.
The idea of our own death makes each of us reflective. Often, as a person nears death they become reflective. This is unsettling to others who often shut down the conversation by saying something like “Oh Grandpa, don’t talk that way…you’ve still got a lot of good years in you.”
And yet death is a natural experience, and we can learn a lot from the reflection that often accompanies its approach. Individuals who have a near death experience often change significant areas of their life once they recover. This seems valuable. Sometimes it takes the gravity of death (our own or that of someone close to us) to knock us off the American conveyor belt into a reflective place, even if just for a few moments.
Lightning knew a man who died well about 3 years ago. He recounted the story of Mark Hallen, who was a theatre professor at Eastern University in suburban Philadelphia. Lightning told the story of Mark’s illness and death. Mark wrote an open letter to his community a few months before he died, which Lightning read to us. You can read that letter here. The amazing part of this story is how Mark embraced his own death, and by doing so, allowed everyone around him to grieve and process and have meaningful experiences in the last few months of his life.
The idea of a generous death is to do death well and in community. If we believe that humans are meant to live in community, we must also believe that we are meant to die in community. How can we be as embracing of death as we are of birth? If I knew that my death was 3 months away, what would I change in my life? Why am I not living that way now?
Lighting closed the conversation with a quote from a friend of his: Old age is a luxury that is not afforded to all.
CHAPTER 34, IN WHICH VINCE ALMOST DOESN’T LEAD A RETREAT AND LIGHTNING BRINGS FLOWERS
Vince shared with us that he recently had a major realization about himself. As he was leading a church retreat, he realized that he was compulsively taking responsibility for every person’s experience—at the expense of his own experience and inner quiet. In this moment, it became clear to him how often he does this in every area of his life. This newly apparent truth is not the nice version of Vince’s why-I-became-a-pastor story. Lightning has had similar experiences throughout life of doing altruistic things for mixed motives. The danger when we realize how mixed our motives are, is to throw out the baby with the bathwater. For Vince, that would mean giving up his pastoral position because his motives are not fully pure. Vince was able to see, however, that both can be true: God has called him to this role…and…he (Vince) sometimes gets in the way of that calling.
As the guys talked, they realized that every person’s motives are mixed for everything s/he does. Having impure motives is a part of being human. The older we get, the more we realize that everything we’ve ever done has been for mixed motives. There are people who seem very aware of their mixed motives and as a result don’t serve or lead other people. There are also folks who are totally unaware of their motives. It seems like the middle road is the best one: to be attuned to my motives without obsessing over them or letting them prevent me from taking action. To ask “are my motives pure” seems like the wrong question.
In the bible, Paul writes this to the young church at Phillipi:
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. (Phillipians 1:15-18)
Paul here says emphatically that God uses the outcomes of our actions to further his plan, regardless of our motives.
If you ever find yourself becoming aware of your mixed motives, here are a few suggestions:
Have a trusted friend pray with/for you. This will open up a great conversation with God about what you are learning about yourself. Also, tell a few people you trust what you are learning about yourself. In the same way, this will open up a great conversation with your community. Finally…sleep on it. The despair of self-realization in the evening often looks quite a bit more positive in the morning.
Lightning ended this week’s conversation with this quote from noted psychologist Carl Jung:
The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.
CHAPTER 33, IN WHICH WE BEGIN TO EXPLORE THE CONCEPT OF WISDOM AND ELDERSHIP
This week, Vince and Lightning are joined by David Janzen, who is a long-time member of Reba Place Fellowship. The Fellowship is an intentional Christian community in a suburb of Chicago where people live together in households and share their lives and resources.
After reflecting on the current presidential race Lightning shared that none of the candidates have the intangible traits that he wants in a person who will be representing him to the rest of the world. He had a hard time describing these intangible traits, but it sounded like wisdom and peace-making and maturity. Lightning called this collection of traits eldership and this is why Lightning asked David Janzen to join us.
The guys are beginning a conversation today that they hope to pick up several more times over the coming weeks with different guests. The topic is difficult to squeeze into a single word, but we could call it eldership or wisdom or mentoring. This week David shared with us a brief history of Reba Place Fellowship, and some of his thoughts on Mentoring. One of the values of the Fellowship is giving and receiving council. This is a practice for every day and for the biggest decisions in life. When we learn to give and receive counsel, we learn to receive wisdom and share our wisdom. We learn to become open and generous toward others; giving and receiving counsel undercuts the authority of the ego.
David shared that a mentor is a model…not just a role model but a life model. An elder is someone that others want to be like and as a result elders attract people to themselves.
The second dimension of eldership is learning to listen deeply. But, one can’t listen deeply at the same time that one is trying to fix the other person. Elders know how to ask questions that open conversations and focus people’s thinking.
The third quality of a mentor is door-opening. People of wisdom are constantly giving away their roles and responsibilities and bringing people into situations that they couldn’t get into on their own. Elders open doors, but to be a door-opener you must have your personal identity and security fixed in something other than your own achievement.
David shared with us the four steps to gaining wisdom that he has noticed. The first level is knowledge. This is why kids are always asking questions. We begin by wanting to know things. The second level is applying that knowledge, which David called skill. If our knowledge (step 1) is put into practice (step 2), then we gain experience (step 3). Having a lot of life experiences is necessary to become wise. Learning to reflect on our experiences is the fourth step. This is the step that many people don’t take. Perhaps it is difficult because it requires that I slow down; perhaps it is difficult because in my reflection I might discover things about myself that I don’t like. Reflecting on our experiences is a crucial part of becoming people of wisdom.
To become an elder, practice listening deeply and take regular time for reflection. David suggested that we each could be mentoring someone, and also be in a relationship in which we are being mentored. He was quick to point out that mentoring happens in community and over long periods of time—years and decades, not minutes and hours.
David closed the conversation by sharing this paraphrase of Ghandi: Do the truth that you know, and it will guide you to more truth.
CHAPTER 32, IN WHICH WE ARE REMISS AND LIGHTNING GETS INTO THE RIVER.
Lightning began this week telling a story about attending a protest rally with his kids. On the drive home, he asked himself “how did I become a political activist?” The only answer he could give is that trying to live a quiet inner life has changed his heart. Daily contemplative prayer has shifted what he cares about, and that has shifted how he spends his time.
This week the guys talked about contemplative prayer, which is a core component of the quiet life. Contemplative prayer is a long-standing practice in the Christian faith tradition, the roots of which are hard to trace. At its most basic, contemplative prayer is a practice of considering all kinds of things with God. It is an exercise in slowing down and spending intimate time with God, while reflecting on a wide variety of things. Vince shared last week that for a season of his life, he spent two hours at a coffee shop every morning talking with God…sometimes about big things, and sometimes about the birds flying in formation. This is the beginning of contemplation.
Waiting is a big part of contemplative prayer, and just the practice of waiting seems to undercut the American expectation of cause and effect. When we consider our lives, with God in the conversation, we are contemplating. When we pray for and reflect on the state of the world around us, we are contemplating. Contemplation is a practice that draws us. We sometimes catch ourselves contemplating without meaning to. A quick walk to the post office can become a 10 minute consideration of the clouds.
Contemplation is something we do, and yet it is something that we are drawn into. People who have lives of contemplation will take credit for making the time and space, but they never take credit for the outcome. Contemplation is to the soul what research is to the intellect.
Thomas Merton was perhaps the most well-known contemplative of the 20th century. In his book, New Seeds of Contemplation, he takes the reader on a journey of self-discovery and knowing God more intimately. Lightning observed that true contemplatives take credit for making the space and time to meet with God, but that they rarely take credit for the results of that time. For instance, In the author’s preface to this book Mr Merton says “This is the kind of book that writes itself almost automatically in a monastery.” He spends the entire preface unselling the book because he believed anyone in his context could have written it. Lightning urged us to read Thomas Merton’s writings of the early 60s about the Cold War, and then later around the Vietnam War.
Because of our wealth and privilege in the west, we can build our lives in a way that insulates us from pain and suffering—both our own and that of others. Contemplation is a tool to that helps me regularly face and consider the pain and suffering in my life and in the world around me. If I have a regular practice of contemplation, it will help me through the difficult seasons of life. Contemplation is a practice of getting in touch with the heart of God. The more time I spend listening to God and considering the world he has made, the more I can know myself and him and what he thinks of what is happening in my life.
Contemplative prayer is like walking into a river. No one walks into a river to try to change its course. Lightning stands in a river to feel the flow, to be part of something bigger, and to satisfy a part of himself that longs for the freedom that he feels when he’s part of something bigger than himself. Contemplative prayer is not a vending machine that I operate…it’s not about pushing the right buttons or saying the right words in order to get what I want to come out at the bottom. Contemplative prayer is not a process that I learn. It is not like learning to dance with the painted footprints on the floor. Contemplation may be sitting with God without saying anything. Sharing space with him the way I would with an intimate friend, without needing to say anything…but I could if I wanted to.
Vince closed the conversation this week with a quote from Maya Angelou:
Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us. We need hours of aimless wandering or spates of time sitting on park benches, observing the mysterious world of ants and the canopy of treetops.
STUFF THEY MENTIONED THAT IS WORTH CHECKING OUT
Thomas Merton’s book, New Seeds of Contemplation
The church that Vince co-leads: Brown Line Vineyard
CHAPTER 31, IN WHICH WE LEARN ABOUT THE SIMILARITIES BETWEEN COFFEESHOPS AND CANOEING
Vince began this week’s conversation by telling a story about sitting at the same coffeeshop every morning for two hours. He’d sit in the same seat at the same table and look out the window at the same tree every day. On these mornings he began to experience inner calm in the midst of a very difficult season of life. From this inner calm, he began to converse with God…about all kinds of things. They talked about large things and small things, important things and insignificant things. This was once of Vince’s onramps to the quiet life. From this story, Vince and Lightning talked about when and where we find quiet.
Lightning finds inner quiet most easily in his canoe. One of the best ways for him to get in touch with himself and God is paddling on a river. One of Lightning’s favorite summer activities is canoeing on a Friday afternoon. In a larger sense, Lightning seeks out quiet when he needs to process his emotions. He is a slow processor and often spends much of his time with God working to understand what he is feeling.
These are ways that the guys seek out inner quiet, but there are also external factors that can send us to inner quiet and contemplation. When Lightning is faced with some of the tragedy in the world today, he is caught off-guard with grief and mourning. This sadness is also a form of contemplation. He doesn’t enjoy it, and yet it feels like a privilege to share in the pain of the world.In these moments where Lightning is drawn into quiet grief by current events, he finds comfort in knowing that suffering is the one thing that all humans have in common. It is an openness to this non-specific grief that also allows Lightning to experience the joy of the quiet life. He is often caught off-guard also by small moments of joy and appreciation for the world around him.
The quiet inner life is something that we make space for, but we don’t make it happen. We invite God’s presence, and then the inner quiet is something that happens to us. I don’t create connection with God or myself, but it happens in these moments where I take time to dial down and listen and wait. Inner quiet is something that happens to us as we make space for it in our lives.
Next week, Vince and Lightning will talk more about contemplation and inner quiet. Until then, Lightning shared this quote:
“Be at least as interested in what goes on inside you as what happens outside. If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place. Primary reality is within, secondary reality is without.”
Eckhard Tolle, The Power of Now
CHAPTER 30, IN WHICH WE HEAR ABOUT FRIGMUND SEUD, AND DISCUSS LIGHTNING’S ATTEMPT AT PLAYING FOOTBALL.
Today, Lightning and Vince are talking about the Ego…not in the clinical sense, but in the way we use the term in our everyday language. The ego is simply how we understand ourselves. The ego is our self perception. Vince and Lightning each shared some elements of their identity.
Often in life, each of us finds ourself in a situation where it becomes clear that someone else’s perception of me doesn’t align with my perception of me. This creates a crisis moment. I believe I am a hard worker, but my co-worker is criticizing my lack of preparation for a meeting. That co-worker doesn’t believe that I am a hard worker, and my ego is threatened. In these crisis moments, a person may do several things to save the ego:defend himself, dismiss the criticizer, blame someone or something else, disengage from the situation or ask for an apology.
We do this because it is so difficult to change our self-perception. Many of us can only like ourselves when others like us. When our identity is threatened, we lash out because we want to be valued by other people. We have a great fear of being without identity.
Sometimes, when we realize that our self-perception doesn’t line up with someone else’s perception of us, we say that our feelings have been hurt. When this happens, instead of considering how these words may be true, we ask the other person the apologize.
Living in a way in which I have to uphold and protect my ego is not a quiet inner life. It is a loud and nagging existence. A sign of increasing maturity, and a quieter way to live, is disempowering your ego. Learn to let go of your high view of yourself. Welcome critique and feedback. Work to get to a state where your perception is so aligned with reality that no one’s words are“hurtful” to you any longer. Lightning wants to get to a place where he doesn’t need to defend, dismiss, blame or disengage, but that requires the death of his ego.
Lightning suggested a number of ways to undercut the ego in order to live a more quiet inner life.
First, establish regular practices of telling on yourself. Live in community so that you can tell the truth about your motives, your performance and your needs… and still be loved.
Second, Lightning recommends therapy as a great way to understand your motives better.
Third, travel to places where you are not a member of the dominant culture. Missions trips often have a profoundly humbling effect on those who go to serve.
Fourth, take up a hobby that you are not good at. Struggling without succeeding is a spiritual practice.
Vince closed the conversation with this quote from Richard Rohr: What the ego (the False Self) hates and fears more than anything else is change. It will think up a thousand other things to be concerned about or be moralistic about—anything rather than giving up who I think I am and who I need to be to look good.
CHAPTER 29, IN WHICH WE LEARN ABOUT A CIRCLE AND A DOT, AND AVOID ZAPS.
It seems that many of us live our lives trying to avoid zaps. We want to know what is expected of us, and, if we do not fulfill those expectations… zap. For instance, at work, most people’s jobs are defined by outputs. If you can’t output what is required, or can’t output fast enough, or can’t output with sufficient quality, you will get zapped. The zaps might be a verbal warning, a written warning, a probationary status or termination. If your performance lags, or your behavior is unacceptable you will get zapped.
Once we get zapped we have important data about where the boundaries are. We learn not to get too close to the forcefield so we don’t get zapped again. Our culture trains us to avoid consequences and punishment.
In the business world, many companies have a cover-your-ass culture(CYA). This culture is overly focused on getting approvals and permissions from others, so that if projects or initiatives fail those other people can be blamed. This fear of getting zapped leads us to avoid taking initiative and to pass on decision making.
Even in relationships, we fear zaps. Many of us discover the topics and words that trigger an emotional response from our closest friends and then we spend years avoiding those phrases and concepts. We dance around each others emotional wounds to maintain a stable relationship and avoid being zapped. Lightning shared a story of how he and his wife had made an unspoken implicit agreement to not discuss certain “hot button” issues in her life. This practice prevented Lightning from being zapped, and it seemed to foster peace in their relationship. However, over time, Lightning was being trained not to talk—for fear of being zapped— and Sara was not being challenged to grow. This unspoken agreement was avoiding zaps, but at the expense of intimacy and growth. Lightning spent his energy focused on avoiding certain issues rather focusing on knowing his wife better.
We do this with God as well. It is easy to imagine God as having lists of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors (because that dichotomy is what I experience in almost every other area of my life). If we get too close to the unacceptable behaviors, which some call sin, we will get zapped. If we get out of line, we will get zapped. If we have a moral infraction, we will get zapped. Many churches spend an inordinate amount of resources helping people to know the rules so they can be in relationship with a God of zaps.
But, if I spend my life focused on tracking the boundaries of what is acceptable and mitigating my risk of zaps, I am living in a defensive and responsive way. I am focused on avoiding something rather than creating something. Living to avoid zaps is an anxiety-filled loud inner life. We can’t focus on going anywhere when we are obsessed with zap mitigation.
But when we find God in moments of inner quiet, he seems nothing like a god of zaps. The mystics throughout the ages have described God as a lover, a mother, and a friend. Even Jesus compares God to a mother hen. What if our fear of God’s zaps is not the best way to think about relationship?
Vince shared with us two paradigms, which have been borrowed from the world of math and science, to describe different ways to think about our relationship with God: the circle and the dot.
Imagine a sheet of paper, with a big circle on it. That circle is the forcefield that zaps people. That circle defines who is in and who is out. People that touch the circle get zapped. Those that cross the circle receive a zap and are now outside of the group. In math, this is called a bounded set. The in group has a boundary that is clear and everyone can be classified as in the group or out of the group. When we apply this to God, the circle becomes the rules of acceptable behavior to stay in relationship with God. When you break a rule or commit a sin you get zapped. If that zap sends you back into the circle, you can continue to be in relationship with with God.
Now, imagine a blank sheet of paper with a big dot in the middle. This is the second paradigm. The dot represents God. There is a second dot on the page which represents me. Am I moving closer or further from God?
That is the entire paradigm. There is no boundary, there are no rules, there are no zaps. The only consideration is my trajectory toward or away from God. The math folks call this a centered-set.
In the bounded set, the zap circle, my only goal is to avoid zaps. There is no larger goal than to stay in bounds. Once one learns where the boundaries are, there isn’t much to live for. We can float around in the circle without any true intimacy or satisfaction.
If we live in a centered-set way, the quiet we’re longing for is always readily accessible. We never have to be something we’re not or fulfill a prerequisite first in order to be “considered for the offer”. Additionally, when we live focused on the center, we’re focused on the very thing that we’re pursuing (quiet and connection with God) rather than being focused on what prevents us from having it (the zapping circle). Growth and movement never stops in a centered-set; in a bounded-set we’re tempted to coast and fall into boundary maintenance (for fear of those zaps).
Vince left us with these questions:
Do you ever believe or assume that zaps are the way that God or spirituality exist in your life?
What if you didn’t believe that?
What if there are not zaps with God?
If you believed in a zap-free God, how would your life change?
CHAPTER 28, IN WHICH TWO WHITE GUYS SHARE THEIR MILD EXPERIENCE OF POVERTY
Last week, Vince and Lightning began a conversation about money. You can join that conversation here. They discussed how rich we are. Even if we are living below the poverty line in America, we are in the top 2.1% of wealth in the world. The end of the conversation last week was realizing that we are all rich, and that we all have a skewed perspective on our personal finances. This skewed view, fueled by the panic-inducing marketing messages of our culture, allows us to ignore Jesus’s warnings to the wealthy and to take no responsibility for the poor.
There is some teaching within the church today that God wants to bless us in every way. Though this is an appealing teaching–because I want to be blessed in every way–it seems to ignore the larger narrative of the bible, and even specific parables of Jesus. As a father, Lightning’s desire for his kids is not that they would have every new toy they want. Even if he had the money to buy them everything they wanted, he wouldn’t. What he wants for them is to receive healthy love and intimacy, and to grow and mature as is appropriate for people of their age and situation.
People who get everything they want, don’t often turn into loving people who are full of wisdom, character, or depth. A child who is spoiled becomes an adult that feels entitled. Being spoiled is not a phase that someone grows out of. Getting everything we want does not help us mature or become people who act, think or respond like Jesus. To become people who are like Jesus, maybe it would be helpful to be in a context like his. Jesus was not on the American conveyor belt; Jesus hung out with the poor and the socially marginalized. Jesus was a homeless vagrant street-preacher.
This week, the guys talk about money again…but from a different perspective. Both Vince and Lightning have lived below the poverty line in recent years, and this week they tell some stories and offer reflections from those difficult seasons. They share their experiences of state-sponsored health coverage, living without heat for 10 days, having wealthy house guests, and asking God for whatever “those” people have. We hear about Lightning’s friends who are living in foreclosure and enjoying the world’s finest wines.
By the end of the conversation, Lightning came to the conclusion that there are ways we can be transformed to be more like Jesus that can only occur below the poverty line. There are experiences that make us more like God that can only occur in poverty. When we don’t have enough money to meet our basic living expenses, there are ways that we become more quiet inside, and more compassionate in our lives. The guys shared some positive effects of their experiences of financial hardship. Lightning is much more grateful for the wonderful things in his life that cost nothing, like sunsets, night time stars, deep intimate conversations with friends, and great stories. Lightning feels thankful for work…even when he grumbles about having to go to work. Vince and Lightning agreed that living in community has been a wonderful gift. The appreciation and compassion they have gained for the poor has changed their hearts. They now have an appreciation for how the deck is stacked against the poor, and how the systems and structures of our society make it difficult to move out of poverty.
Vince and Lightning share several times during the conversation that their experience of poverty was very mild and controlled. They have not experienced systemic oppression or true poverty. They hope that their conversation is productive and not offensive on this topic.
Lightning closed the conversation by mentioning that he started a new full-time job last week. This is a big change for someone who has been a freelancer almost his entire adult life. He is now the operations manager for a national audio-visual rental company. In a few weeks he’ll let us know how it is going.
Vince shared this quote from our current Pope, Pope Francis: These days there is a lot of poverty in the world, and that’s a scandal when we have so many riches and resources to give to everyone. We all have to think about how we can become a little poorer.