I’m eating Lisa’s homemade granola and listening to the “Deep Dark Indie” playlist on Shopify. I’m rejoicing that all my kids are going to be home this Christmas starting late tonight… the first time in years. We’ve also bought some wine and other concoctions that I’m looking forward to imbibing. When I hit a block in writing this letter, I sneak a peak at our TLS Facebook group to see what’s happening! Even though we sometimes share some hard stuff there, I find it very life-giving. It reminds me that I am not alone in my struggles and joys, but that I’m traveling this road with formidable comrades.
(NOTE: If you aren’t a member of our exclusive and confidential Facebook group, please respond to this letter and we’ll get you in. You’ll not regret it! It’s probably the most important and dynamic aspect of TLS. If you’re not a part of that group you’ll have difficulty feeling like you’re a part of a likeminded group of comrades on a similar journey.)
Recently I sent out a letter to as many people as I could think of who may have been affected, alerting them to my closing comment on the now infamous Tony Jones post. It was my attempt to offer a conciliatory gesture to those who were voicing concern over it.
The variety of responses I received astounded me. Some loved it and others hated it. Some saw it as I intended: as my attempt to reach out with care to those who were concerned about that post and its comments. Some saw it as completely other than what I intended: as my attempt to protect my reputation or to repair it and excuse myself from all responsibility, even believing I closed the comments, not to prevent a flood of more opinions, but to display my own power and control over the conversation. On the one hand, there were some who appreciated it and expressed their appreciation for me. On the other hand, there were others for whom it only stoked their fires of disdain for me and what I do.
I don’t know why this continues to surprise me. Nakedpastor has always had a polarizing affect on people. I always get both encouraging and discouraging emails and messages every day. This is nothing new. Approval on one hand. Disapproval on the other.
It’s the same with that Tony Jones post. There are a large number of people who see that post as a historic and rare and beautiful event where silenced victims were able to share their stories without censure or censor. There are a smaller number of people who see that post as a shameful display of damaging meanness towards respected Christian leaders.
What do I do?
You know the feeling! There are some people in your life who have a low opinion of you, while there are others who have a high one. Who are you to believe? What do you do?
Many members, before they joined TLS, suffered under the conviction that they were completely crazy, backslidden and hopelessly lost. However, once they joined TLS, they suddenly realized that they weren’t crazy but wise, not backslidden but free, not hopelessly lost but confidently searching.
But this is the problem: Who do you believe?
My world is full of people who either hate me, don’t understand me, are confused by me, are angered by me, and then there are others who love me, who get me, who identify with me and cheer me on.
Here’s what I do. It’s very simple.
- My wife: This can also be a very close friend or a loving relative. Someone who does love you but is also honest with you. Lisa loves me and is honest with me. I can ask her what she honestly thinks about me or something I’m involved in and I know she will give me her truth. If I’m making a mistake she’ll let me know. If I’m doing right in her eyes she’ll encourage me to continue. I listen to her.
- My counselor: I have a counselor/ spiritual director that I can call who doesn’t dice words. This person doesn’t take my bullshit and cuts through my defenses and blind spots and tells it like it is to me. This person is once removed from my wife and is not as enmeshed with me and Lisa is with me, so this person may feel even more free and released to tell me as it is.
- Friends: I have a few friends I can talk with things about who don’t blow sunshine up my ass all the time. They’re genuine friends. I know when they are suggesting I might be wrong or whatever, that they’re doing it in love. They’re not trying to hurt me, rein me in, or control me. They genuinely are concerned for me. They’ll tell me if I’m being stupid or smart, self-destructive or heroic, mean or kind.
- Enemies: I do listen to my enemies. I try to listen between their vindictive or hateful lines to hear what they’re really concerned about. Sometimes I have heard in the voice of my enemies the voice of wisdom. Sure, there’s a lot of weeding that has to happen to get to the wheat, but sometimes there is wheat there. This can be hard to do, but if you’re mature enough and confident enough in yourself, you can do it.
- Finally, ME!: That’s right. This is the most important one. Of course, this can’t happen without the support of the other four. But we have to get to a place where we are finally confident in ourselves. No matter what we do, it is going to be interpreted and misinterpreted. We can’t count on any one group for our identity… a defining of it or an endorsement of it. These other voices assist my own journey of self-discovery. They don’t steer it.
I remember when Jesus asked, “Who do people say that I am?” Everyone got it wrong. Even his closest friends had no idea who he was or what he was about. But it gave him an idea of what opinions of him were out there. He necessarily had to discover who he was and what his mission was in this world. I think he learned about himself through others. But these could only confirm and augment what he already knew and was learning about himself with himself.
I think this is one of the greatest benefits of The Lasting Supper. It can be a place where you can expose yourself and get opinions. We’re not yes-people. We will be honest. But we will also, hopefully, be kind and supportive to one another as we find our way to being who we are and doing what we feel we would like to do.
Each one of you is amazing. You really are. I’m not flattering. You are all unique individuals that make up the community called The Lasting Supper. Together we will discover more about ourselves and more about how we then live in this world.
I know you do that for me.
Peace on your path!