Sunday, May 19, 2013

Attempting to answer a positive question from negative space.

There has been so much going on in my life since I began this blog...the issue is that I don't know that much of what has happened deserves to public, which has caused me to more conservative in my blogging and, ultimately, been reason enough to convince me to stop.  But it is summer now, and my first year of seminary is behind me, so I figure I can catch up a little.  I saw this picture today on Facebook and liked it...the Chinese got this right:

So often we are told what we cannot do, by parents, authorities, professors, etc., and we forget to think about what we can do.  Isn't that true?  My generation is presently caught in the largest identity crisis I have ever seen.  Ask anyone who is graduating college who they are and you will understand what I mean, or, for that matter, anyone in their early-mid twenties.  Think about it...that question: who are you?  What makes you you?  The proper format to the question generally begins with fairly easy responses:  favorite color and music, where we're from, who our parents are--but doesn't it get a little more challenging after the life facts run out?  Who ARE you?  If you think what you believe constitutes who you are, then what do you BELIEVE?

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 is the church that will respond to the needs of a generation who struggle to trek the distance from no to yes.

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