Thursday, June 08, 2017

Little contentments matter too

I am presently reading Tish Harrison Warren's fabulous little book 'Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life.' It's another from the Renovare book club that I've glommed onto. I'm glad I did.

I will likely post a review of the entire book eventually, but today I wanted to highlight some gleanings from chapter 4 entitled "Losing Keys: Confession and the Truth About Ourselves." She bases it on Paul's phrase in Philippians 4:11 about learning to be content in all circumstances. Of course when we think of Paul, we think about his shipwrecks and beatings and persecution. However, Warren points out that most of our days are not made up of such things. As she says on p. 55:
"When suffering is sharp and profound, I expect and believe that God will meet me in its midst. But in the struggles of my average day I somehow feel I have a right to be annoyed. The indignations and irritations of the modern world feel authentic and understandable... In a shipwreck, yes of course, "Be content." But the third day in a row of poor sleep and a backed-up sink? That's too much to ask. In 'Letters to Malcolm,' C.S. Lewis says that people are 'merely "amusing themselves" by asking for patience which a famine or a persecution would call for if, in the meantime, the weather and every other inconvenience sets them grumbling.'"

Ah, yes. Right between the eyes, that one. Allow me to further quander you with some more quotage from pp. 56-57:
"I need to cultivate the practice of meeting Christ in these small moments of grief, frustration, and anger, of encountering Christ's death and resurrection - this big story of brokenness and redemption - in a small, gray, stir-crazy Tuesday morning.

Otherwise, I'll spend my life imagining and hoping (and preaching and teaching about how) to share in the sufferings of Christ in persecution, momentous suffering, and death, while I spend my actual days in grumbling, discontentment, and low-grade despair."

"For some of us, the idea of repentance can bring to mind a particular emotional experience, or the minor-key songs of an altar call at a revival meeting. But repentance and faith are the constant, daily rhythms of the Christian life, our breathing out and breathing in.

In these small moments that reveal my lostness and brokenness, I need to develop the habit of admitting the truth of who I am -- not running to justify myself or minimize my sin. And yet, in my brokenness and lostness, I also need to form the habit of letting God love me, trusting again in his mercy, and receiving again his words of forgiveness and absolution over me. Rich Mullins, one of my favorite writers and musicians, said that when he was a kid he'd walk down the church aisle and be 'born again again' or 'rededicate' his life to Christ every year at camp. In college he'd do it about every six months, then quarterly; by the time he was in his forties it was 'about four times a day.' Repentance is not usually a moment wrought in high drama. It is the steady drumbeat of a life in Christ and, therefore, a day in Christ."

Whew! If you're reading this for the first time, I suggest taking a little break then coming back again to re-read... as many times as necessary.

There is so much more, and I'm not likely painting a very good resemblance of the chapter, but this seems a nice summation to end with (for me):
"Our failures or successes in the Christian life are not what define us or determine our worth before God or God's people. Instead, we are defined by Christ's life and work on our behalf. We kneel. We humble ourselves together. We admit the truth. We confess and repent. Together, we practice the posture that we embrace each day -- that of a broken and needy people who receive abundant mercy."

So what I'm thinking, as I/we head into this day, how will we react to small setbacks and inconveniences? Do they fit into our "theology of suffering," or are those just up to us? I like how the author here brings to light the need to learn to be content "in ALL things" - the little as well as the big. The importance of everyday repentance, confession of the small, and experiencing redemption even in the mundane. Yes, I like the idea of that. I need that.