Whether you agree with her always or never I imagine Anne Lamott makes a great conversation partner for many of us. I have had many an insight from reflecting on her work. She is quoted in a book by someone else as saying, “it is just mortifying to be a Christian, except for the Jesus part.” Now, I am not aware of, nor do I want to be for the purposes of this blog, exactly what led her to that claim, though I can guess. What I am interested in is how true such a statement can be and how do we foster our relationship to “the Jesus part” because I think we can pretty well all agree that there are times it can be embarrassing to be a christian, regardless of if our embarrassments are exactly opposite of one another. Like some are embarrassed by a koran burning pastor and others by a church that would permit and imam to share in church one day.
It doesn’t matter exactly why and how Christianity can embarrass us, in fact, that likely changes from context to context for very good reasons. What matters is how we relate to Christ so that our embarrassment doesn’t overwhelm the life of faith he have embarked upon (I assume we are on board or else why would Christianity even have the potential to embarrass us? I am not embarrassed by golf clothing selections, I am not a golfer, you see).
For me, the relationship with Jesus that can withstand even my own scrutiny (never mind what others might think) takes time and intentionality. Like many I grew up in church, and like many that means one day I was a teenager and I left church, and like fewer and fewer one day I had a kid and came back to church. Still, the questions linger, the doubts and certainly the finely tuned radar for the “mortifying” elements of being a Christian in 2021 is always on. All of which is to say that as a pastor I am embarrassingly aware of this issue. Much of this has to do with theological debates that sound hollow and unhelpful and uninspired or unimportant, some of it is my judgmental character that sees certain christians as deserving all those adjectives and more.
And yet here I stand, a pastor, I can take no other route. So what am I to do? And what are any of us to do when our faith might make us uncomfortable?
I cannot speak for everyone but I can say that trying to look for Christ in others is a good practice for me. Listening for where the Divine is at work in a person’s life, whether said person recognizes it or not, if a fun and fruitful game for me. I also find God is surprisingly capable of speaking to me through others, like giving me just the right pick-me-up when someone says something they think nothing about and yet it strikes a chord within me that needed to resound, or when someone using a throw-away line convicts me far more deeply than they can realize. These are good moments I have to be on the lookout for or I miss them, I know this because if I am looking for them they pop up all over but when I do not watch for them they rarely appear. Like how when you are thinking of buying a particular car you see it everywhere all of a sudden.
Has God been using anyone to try to tell you something lately? Be open to the reality that the person may be near to you, or they may be someone you will never meet, as I assume I will never meet Anne Lamott and yet God has pushed me thought her work. Practice listening and you are likely to find faith building experiences all around you.