Tuesday nights during lent, I have been going to a book study. One of my reasons for being there, among my busy life-goings-on, is to accompany dad. Driving a few miles over one small hill, my dad and I arrive minutes later after leaving the house.
The study is based on the book, “We Make the Road by Walking”, by Brian McLaren. Now, we drive. Brian would prefer we walk, I guess. His book is a weekly dig-into new ways forward based on Christian ideology. Change us, change the world – in a broad sense. Granted, a Christian life to change the world is far different than a two minute jaunt over a small bump in a tiny town. Our hill is tiny. The hill to change the world? Immense.
Chapter 29 is the third week. We’ve been to two thus far. In 48 hours, dad and I will head back for a group discussion and insight into this chapter.
There will be twenty+ opinions about what the author intended. In all, four to eight spoken, and close to twelve remaining silent souls will sit in traditional church metal chairs. Three arcs of varied thinking sit-systems is what has drawn me into this array of lenten devotional insight. I am interested in conclusions drawn – with individual pencils – on the idea-canvas that is this book:
Chapter 29 is titled, ” Your Secret Life”. When I first turned over to page 136, Groucho Marx and a silly duck dropped into my brain … You bet your LIFE it did! My second thought was, “This could get a bit spicy … ” Then again, remembering THAT secret life most likely isn’t to what the author is referring, so I didn’t need to revisit those particular evenings in my past.
“We all wish the world would change.” Agreed … and so begins Chapter 29. I stopped there twice. Both times I read this 4-page reflection, those seven words, linked with personal challenges, the tail-end of a pandemic, and a Russian-Ukrainian disaster, created an emotional, locked chain on reason and logic. The world makes no sense. None.
How does Brian address this concern? Using biblical principles, withdrawing inward to become the change we want to see in the world.
I would argue the tenants of self-reflection and inward examination aren’t solely handed over to the biblically minded among us. Orienting toward a higher power, aligning hopes with a higher energy, vocalizing needs and concerns to the universe, and asking for guidance away from that which can harm is standard practice for many belief systems apart from Christianity. The maypole around which all these religions dance – and one I wholeheartily agree brings about the most colorful of change in the world – is silence and secrecy.
This is where Brian and I begin to walk the road together. As he writes, “… if we make our lives a show staged for others to avoid their criticism or gain their praise, we won’t experience the reward of true aliveness. It’s only in secret … that we begin the journey to aliveness.”
He advocates giving, meditating, and fasting in secret to pull away from the pressures of the world … thus becoming that “change” we want to see.
In my talk-abouts with the few surrounding my hot tea moments, I rarely discuss larger conflicts beyond my control. It’s difficult to balance a restaurant table with untold numbers of sugar packets – let alone try to figure out how I can change the mess at the eastern border of Ukraine right now. Should I continue to mask, or decide to argue about Hunter Biden’s laptop?
All of this, I am understanding, is best handled quietly. Brian, kinda, has the right idea; however, the transformation may not change the world as much as it changes the individual.
In the end, isn’t this what these book studies in church buildings are all about, anyway? Perhaps most attend wondering, “Why am I here? What is there to gain? What’s in it for me to learn?”
My take-away, first of all, is a paid-for supper as compensation for taking dad in the first place 😉😁 …. Second, apart from the Christianity angle, I do find value in the humanity of the lessons. My extended family members who sit in those three arcs have opinions I value and humor I appreciate. In turn, my contribution is to remain “partially” silent and enjoy the time together.
The recognized lenten season should change those who are open to it. Whether this alters the will of a higher power is up for debate. The world is a tough place. I do believe if we take time, in silence, to think over things in private and give our time and resources under the radar, the “larger than life” problems – both known and unknown – will work out, … or not.
At the end, Brian says, “… a seed will take root”. Ok. I’ll take a more pragmatic approach. You’ll feel better through giving. This may not directly change the direction of a bad thing in the world, but that small act of secret, outward generosity will simply be a nice, warm, vibe.
Groucho and I will bet on it.