September 6, 2010

Part of the Conversation

Posted in spirituality, writing at 4:24 pm by jimazing

mastersvoiceThere’s a conversation going on that is beginning to get interesting.  It is always stirring, sometimes uplifting, frequently frustrating, commonly heated. The conversation is about religion, faith, belief, destiny, doctrine and tolerance to name a few topics.  Sometimes it gets some politics mixed in too.  I have strong thoughts and feelings about the topic and I want to join into the conversation, but I haven’t jumped in yet.  Why?

Even though I don’t believe it is true, intellectually, I have an emotional belief that I don’t have anything to bring to the conversation, so I should just keep my mouth shut, my keyboard quiet and listen.  So I listen and I read and I gradually I feel stirred to the point I feel like I will burst.  Then I don’t usually make the time to write. When I do start to write something, I don’t publish it.  I have a bit of a narcissistic belief that tells me that if I am ok, everything is ok, so I focus my thoughts inward.  These inward thoughts are a necessary part of being engaged with life and with the conversation, but they are not the end I really want.  I want to be part of the larger conversation.  I do want to share my thoughts with others.

One of the reasons I don’t publish is that my thoughts are too big.  I have 10 volumes of material in my head and organizing it then squeezing it out one word at a time is excruciatingly slow.  The slowness makes me lose momentum, which fuels distractions that keep me from writing.  The truth is that writing is just one of my desires.  There are other things that are just as important, frequently more important; like going to work and loving my family and friends.  Over time, I lose my train of thought and focus and I stop trying.  Not so much discouragement, but forgetfulness.  Next thing I know I get some margin back in my life and I find myself back where I am now; longing to be part of the conversation.

I do not like conflict.  Some people who I am close to may not believe that because they frequently see me in conflict and attempting working through it.  While I am usually willing to step into the discomfort of conflict, sometimes I do a poor job of working through it and it always drains me emotionally.  The anticipation of the emotional energy I will have to expend to stay in the conversation is daunting.  It is easier to just shrink back into my cave and leave the conflict alone.  But then I watch from inside the cave, wishing I was part of the conversation.

I do not want to impose my beliefs on others.  In my early years, I believed that as a “good Christian”, I should be in people’s face about what I believe.  I was pretty arrogant.  As a Christian, my beliefs about what is “required” now center more on loving God and loving people.  The words that keep coming back to me are grace, gifts and humility. I want to treat people graciously, give them gifts of listening and honoring even when I do not agree with them. And I want to hold my beliefs with open hands in a spirit of humility.  I don’t believe what I believed 10 or 20 years ago, and in 10 or 20  years I won’t likely believe what I do now.  I don’t have to win the argument, I just want to be in the conversation.  A friend of mine tells me that he loves competition, but it doesn’t matter in the end who won.  He just loves being in the game whole-heartedly.  That parallels my desire with the conversation.

Lastly (for now), I am afraid of rejection. This conversation seems to be dominated by strong voices of theologians and others who hold strong feelings about their beliefs.  There are many teachers and leaders and fellow Christians that I have studied under and followed over the years.  I do not want to disappoint them, so rather than express disagreement or doubt about what they taught, I usually stay quiet.  Ultimately, it is my own fear of being abandoned, deserted, ignored and/or shunned, which is both rational and irrational at the same time.  It is unfair and irrational because some of these people I am afraid of losing love me no matter what I believe or disbelieve and that’s that.  At the same time, it is a perfectly rational fear. Some would break ties with me if they knew what I really thought.  My cousin recently posted a controversial quote about faith on Facebook and was de-friended by someone who disagreed.  I don’t want that to happen, but I realize that 20-30 years ago that could well have been me that de-friended.  There’s a  thought; my 20 year old self de-friending my 52 year old self.  It helps me give grace to those who will not listen.

The price of keeping my thoughts to myself is too high.  I am ready to become part of the conversation.


  1. Curtis said,

    Jim–You do have great things to say! Although that may be a difficult process for you at times, I admire your desire to face your fears of rejection, conflict, and coming across as dogmatic in order to listen and act on your heart’s cry to be a part of the conversation. I say–bring it!

  2. John Teeling said,

    I think it is vital to be able to wrestle with beliefs with ourselves, with others and with God (if we believe God exists). The greatest freedom we have is the freedom of our hearts – something no man can own and not man can take.

    I would rather live out loud than a quiet life of desperation. Live free and out loud and you decide how you want to make your freedom count. Let freedom reign fearlessly in your heart, Jim.

  3. Oh, Jim, it does not appear that you have any problem whatsoever expressing yourself, so consider that conundrum solved. The struggle you have described is a perfect explanation of what happens as we grow older and wiser. Yes, you are wiser! and of course we know you are older.
    As for the fear of rejection, fuhgedaboudit. When you go to set down those thoughts, forget about the high and mighty ones out there who are chomping at the bit to beat you down with superior scholarship and wet noodles. They need to hear what you have to say. When you write, write to me, the guy who has known you since 1980, the guy who would have been stuck in Boone without a shoeshine if you hadn’t offered us an abode, the guy who needs to hear what you’re thinking. I want to hear ya, bro.
    And here is, IMHO, how the process happens. Keep reading and listening to the conversation wherever it is found. When some idea, event, or statement jumps out at you like a hare on a frosty morning, then you know that’s your starting point for the next rabbit trail. Go with it; don’t fret over what you’re going to say. Just start writing; as the wheels in the old cerebrum start turning, you’ll figure out what you’re really trying to say. When you get around to a stopping point, read and revise it. But (and this is important, I believe) if you run out of time before its done, and you think its half-baked, post it anyway!
    It is still part of the conversation, because the exchange is not about finely crafted finished products of rhetorical excellence, its about all of us together trying to comprehend this thing we call lfe.

  4. NB,
    God is not afraid of your questions and, although there may be disagreement at times, there is never a shortage of love, acceptance and forgiveness on mine and many of our parts. There is a difference between standing firm in one’s beliefs and being Pharisaically rigid. As one discovers God, he may pass through a number of changes. Sometimes he finds himself embracing again some of those things he thought he had left behind. Alternately, some of the ‘junk’ he leaves behind forever. I am thrilled with the uniqueness of Jesus as a historical figure and as Eternal Lord. I am utterly convinced that it is He who is the ‘Express Image’ of God. I am dogmatic about that and some other foundational issues, but also tolerant of others rights to believe the way they wish. I love you and welcome you as a part of my heart and life.

  5. Amen. Jesus is Lord, and he was not afraid to say what he had to say. Neither should you be, if you are walking with him. The revelation of Him is inconvenient, but it is true as set forth in the core of our belief–Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Beyond that all else is open for discussion.

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