I had a Facebook conversation yesterday with an old contact from a church I was a pastor in over 15 years ago. In short the conversation went like this in response to a post I put up on SSMarriage; (this is a VERY abbreviated version with my interpretation)
Person – If you just obeyed Leviticus you would know what God want you to vote.
Me – Hahaha, if you obeyed Leviticus you would not wear clothes of mixed blend, we would be killing people for doing all sorts of things…Because “God says!”
Person – Look, DON’T ARGUE WITH ME – ITS GOD, HIS WORD, NOT ME YOU HAVE TO ARGUE WITH, YOU WILL STAND BEFORE HIM TO BE JUDGED. And by the way I don’t like the passive aggressive tone you took with me in the above comment.
Me – Tone? I’m not the one on caps lock shouting down the internet! I just was hoping for some interaction, some robust discussion, some push and pull.
Person – You had better take that up with God, it seems you have a problem with him, not me. All I am doing is speaking His truth.
What disturbed me more was that I was that person! And truth be told, too often, I AM that person. Give me a bone to chew I will go at it if I believe strongly enough in it!! “Person” had his kids in my Youth Ministry, I no doubt reacted to them the same way 20 years ago when they would come to me with doubts and questions, desire for discussion. “You had better stop thinking that way, it’s not how we think as Christians…just think proper…like me, as I am God’s voice…I read the bible!”
Today, I called past home to eat lunch as I was in the area and picked up a reflection book by one of my favorites, David Whyte. In it he writes on robustness, he reflects my desire for healthy conversation, healthy community, here it is;
To be robust is to be physically or imaginatively present in the very firm presence of something or someone else. Being robust means we acknowledge the living current in something other than our own story. Robustness is a measure of the live frontier in our lives, whether it is a wrestling match, a good exchange of ideas in the seminar room or a marital argument in the kitchen. Without robustness all relationships become defined by their fragility, whither and then die. To be robust is to attempt something beyond the perimeter of our own constituted identity; to get beyond our own thoughts or the edge of our own selfishness. Robustness is not the opposite of vulnerability: robustness and vulnerability belong together; to be robust is to show a willingness to take collateral damage, to put up with noise, chaos or our systems being temporarily undone. Robustness means we can veer off either side of the line while keeping a firm on-going intent. Robustness is the essence of parenting: both of children and ideas.
A lack of robustness denotes ill-health, psychological or physical, it can feed on itself; the less contact we have with anything other than our own body, our own rhythm or the way we have arranged our life, the more afraid we can become of the frontier where actual noise, meetings and changes occur, the temporary need to stop things happening eventually becoming a permanent identity based on siege, where life itself has been turned into the enemy…
We are never one thing, but always the meeting…Robustness is not an option in most human lives, to choose its opposite is to disappear.
May I always honour the divine in the ‘other’. I pray my desire to be ‘right’ never over takes my desire to engage in healthy community which includes disagreeing, debating and some robust conversations.
(Kind of appropriate on the 500th anniversary of one of the worlds most famous invitations to a robust conversation me thinx!)
One thought on “Robustness”
You’re the man, Scott. Even if you are apparently going to hell in a handcart. I love the ‘robustness’ thing. It takes a lot of security to move out to ‘meet’ others and engage robustly. Vulnerability and a willingness to take collateral damage don’t come easily and perhaps only from time to time, but there’s no denying the debilitating effects of huddling forever behind safe walls. I especially resonate with the example of the argument in the kitchen with a partner. Consistently avoiding conflict with a life partner is deadly. Go gently but robustly, my friend.