Yet, it is odd, that question is, "who are you," because it requires one to think positively, working from within one's self and providing answers to an exterior--it is a process of induction--in which we introduce ourselves to something new. "Who aren't you" is a much easier question to answer. It does the opposite, in which one looks at his or her immediate circumstance and then works inward, in a process of deduction. But, always one of the most difficult questions to answer, that is significant to us, and to this blog, is "so what?" What does looking into these questions matter? Erring away from the side of purely philosophical inquiry toward practicality (which I believe to be extremely important), in what way can we derive any substance in regards to who we are and who we aren't by thinking about it in this manner?
I bring up the fact that we are often told what we cannot do to help us understand this crisis of identity I and so many of my colleagues are experiencing. We respond to the inherently positive question "who are you" in the way it demands the best we can. The root of the issue is that we are attempting to answer this question that demands positively from a position that is consistently subjugated to negativity. How often are we told, for whatever reason, who we are not, what we cannot do, and who we cannot become? This digital, "post-information" age bombards us with images of who others are and who we will never become...fully equipping us to understand who we aren't. It must be mentioned that race, class, and gender play into this, too, often in covert ways. Who are we not? Check, we got it. Yet, the question that is required of us to become who we are, "who are you," forces an awkward, inward look within ourselves from a place of negativity to a place of positivity.
This is my struggle. This is our struggle. The beauty of creativity is that it is an exercise in this matter. Creativity, too, requires one to work positivity into a negative space. To "think outside the box," a phrase often attributed to creative thinkers, is to accept this tension as a premise and to train one's self to work from it as if it were a foundational principle. The best artists in my classes knew who they were and embraced it...and knew what they wanted. The artists we studied in class worked with confidence, and this was perhaps the most admirable characteristic of theirs--that and endurance/persistence. This is why quenching one's creative abilities is perhaps one of the worst things we can do, and is something all of us are guilty of. Learning to express creativity without quenching it is the solution to our crisis.
My goal in ministry is not antinomianistic (hello seminary) in nature, in which we are to completely disregard the law, for there is much need for the it, but it is to revive the hearts of Christians in whom I come into contact with and to learn together the ways that we can work creatively within the necessary systems and powers that be. Without grace, the church is just another place of business (hello Wesley). Just a place of business is not what I want to be a part of, nor is it what I believe Christ wanted for us. Instead of always jumping to the (often valid) reasons of why we cannot accomplish the next dream, what if the church became a place of dynamism in which amazing things were accomplished because its people let go of the negativity that surrounded it and turned towards new growth in its place? That is the church I want to be a part of...it is the church that will respond to the needs of a generation who struggle to trek the distance from no to yes.