Friday, September 08, 2006

Lost Your Voice?


Family reunions can be interesting. I have concluded that many people have no idea how they come across to others. Having been fully involved in church life, I'm sure that I have been guilty also. I tried to maintain a low key, but when you are immersed in a culture, you don't always realize the "air" about yourself.

At our family reunion last weekend, I observed that I don't fit the churchianity mold very well. Of course, I never let on. I'm used to silencing myself, holding my cards close, maintaining a poker face. Of course that's not very authentic, but honestly, most people don't want more than that.

My charismatic cousins and aunt and uncle spent the weekend going on and on about how excited they were about what God was doing. Of course, what God was doing just happened to be what was happening at their church. They knew it was God because the Big Name Prophet told them so. Yada, yada, yada....

My evangelical brother-in-law and uncle spent the weekend discussing church government issues, comments like, "We don't want to have a vote of the people, even though the denomination says we should, because, you know, people, they are just too emotional, and they don't know what's best. We certainly don't want to work with the people who have volunteered, they are sure to have an agenda. Well, yes (deep religious voice) God appoints leaders (like us). Blah, blah, blah.....

Withholding my own thoughts and feelings (except from my blog!) is pretty much a life pattern. I learned in grade school that the kids tease you if you raise your hands too often in class. Life lesson: just because you know something doesn't mean you have to tell anyone.

Josh Brown just finished an excellent series at his blog called Exodus where guest bloggers described their experience of leaving traditional church. It is amazing that they have experienced so much disillusionment by 25 years of age. In his own post, Josh described well the process of learning to hide your thoughts in order to blend in:
"...I had this feeling like I no longer “fit in”...I always felt like that if I was totally honest and open about my thoughts on God, politics, relationships, theology, etc. that I would no longer be “esteemed” or respected like I was. Again, to be quite fair, I never really fully gave anyone a chance to hear my full thoughts on things. But anytime I stepped outside the box and stretched things out a little, I was quickly confronted with words and faces that reminded me of my place."

I think, to a degree, that all of us package ourselves in appropriate ways for the group we are with. Do you ever get the feeling that people couldn't handle a full dose of you, a straight-out-of-the-bottle, unrefined, undiluted 100% dose of the real you?

Sometimes I withhold my most fanatical thoughts from the blog. Partly because I don't want to be held to them and partly because I apparently care if you guys think I'm a heretic. Given enough time, maybe my heretical ideas will become proven. Consider this a confession - I have far-out ideas, wild imaginings, and dangerous dreams, much too scary to put in print.

16 comments:

Cindy said...

"Do you ever get the feeling that people couldn't handle a full dose of you, a straight-out-of-the-bottle, unrefined, undiluted 100% dose of the real you?"

Wow, Grace. I have never NOT had the feeling that people couldn't handle a full dose of me, straight out of the botte, unrefined, undiluted 100% real me. Every once in a while, I get tired of the facade, and I let it all hang out ever so briefly. I usually spend months cleaning up the mess. Not that I was mean or hurtful or thoughtless, just... honest. I gravitate towards people who are flat out honest- even when what they say offends me. It's just refreshing to be around someone who isn't afraid of what I'm afraid of but wish I weren't. The question I've been trying to answer as long as I can remember is, "How much of the real me does God think I should let show all the time?"

If anybody can answer this for me, I'll mail you money.

And Grace, I'll bet you'd have plenty of supporters of your wild ideas in blogland. Isn't that why we started blogs, to find folks who will accept us and with whom we could create community in a way we can't find in our non-blog lives?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Cindy that you might be surprised at the reception your "wild imaginings" would get. I for one would love to hear some of your more dangerous ideas! But you're the best judge of what you feel comfortable saying, go with whatever that is.

I completely understand what you're saying here about how we "package ourselves". I have decidedly moved away from that habit over the last year or so, maybe it's being dechurched and not having anyone to "put me in my place" that has encouraged my freedom. I still catch myself in a facade around some people, but I realize I don't like the person I pretend to be any more than they would like the *real* me.

There are a few people who I know can handle the 100% me. But these are tried and true relationships that have withstood the fallout of complicated messes, and I can trust that even when I go completely renegade with my ideas, I will still be loved.

Oh and the people who read my blog and don't know who the heck I am... interesting how anonymity affects your voice...

I have said many many crazy things on my blog, but that's just me. I have to process "out loud", and then I go back a week later and think "did I really say THAT? What the he** was I thinking?" But I don't worry too much about it and I move along, knowing there are a handful of strange people out there who keep coming back ;)
regardless of how nutty I get. Never ceases to amaze me...

Anyhow, that's the end of my book. Thanks again for what you say Grace. I look forward to your postings.

Lily

josh said...

thanks so much for mentioning our latest series on the site. i hope it was as encouraging to you as it was to us. it looks like you are on a similar journey. i'm always amazed how 2 strangers on a similar journey cross paths. kind of encouraging to know you're not the only one out there. grace and peace.

David Cho said...

From your family members, and heresy hunters on the Internet, and my experiences and observations, there is one striking commonality which has become more and more evident to me recently.

That commonality is the us-against-them mindset. The big name prophet, the church, the leaders "appointed by God," the theological camp are "us" and the rest of the world, "them." Of course anytime you speak out against that you are accused of promoting universalism and feel good theologies.

I am against universalism and feel good theologies, but is the us-against-them mentality the answer? And they will adminish you to seek the approval of God, not of man while drawing battle lines around "us." Approval of who again? Oh yeah, only "we" are in line with God's approval.

That is why your post on "survival tips" are just excellent. Commiting " to relationships BOTH within your church and outside of your church" for example nurtures true community, not the us-against them mindset.

Consider this a confession - I have far-out ideas, wild imaginings, and dangerous dreams, much too scary to put in print.

Let's see them :).

Robbymac said...

OOOoooo...

Dang, but you've got me curious about your wild and crazy ideas.

Hey, you have my email address, if nothing else! :)

Good to see you posting again.

John Frye said...

Grace,
John Eldredge encourages us "to be our authentic selves and let others adjust to us, not us to them." That's a rough paraphrase from his *Wild At Heart.*

We're in the age when many USAmerican believers are comatose to the adventure and wildness of God. Grace, we need your "imaginings" and "ideas" more than ever. Aspirins won't do it; shock therapy might.

fr'nklin said...

I love reading your posts. It's more than I think you're a good writer...it's that you write what I feel / think but am unable to express. Thanks for being the voice of so many!

Now you have me wondering about your blog...is it about 70% proof?;)

Bob said...

Grace, I was participating an a Christian-atheist discussion board and one of the atheist women (a former prominent and active member of an international women's Bible study) coined a great term - ROAA - the Range Of Acceptable Answers.

IMO, there's a level of honesty that cannot be breached in Christian circles. Those statements are outside the ROAA. I can say I struggle with God not answering prayers--I'll be encouraged. But if I say I don't believe in prayer at all--I'll be chastized. The more prominent you are in the body, the narrower your ROAA. Heaven forbid the Preacher express doubt in faith.

It takes a long time before you build up enough confidence in yourself and enough of an identity with others to truly express yourself. I've only recently acheived this with a very small group of people. Even then, it is firghtening territory.

Bruce said...

I love this discussion Grace. It seems, from what I'm reading, that a lot of people are in the same boat you are. So I'm not sure your far-out ideas, wild imaginings, and dangerous dreams are all that radical, other than the fact no one else will express them either and you are the only one who mentions them.

B~

Pam Hogeweide said...

bring it on, grace... if you can't blog under a psuedonym about your wild ideas than what else is there to do? send it in to ?


Pam Hogeweide said...

damn html code.........send it to Post Secret?

Trailady said...

Well, I say "Bring it on"! You have no idea how much I enjoy reading your thoughts. I am in a similar groove and believe me- it's no picnic to think for yourself. In fact, it can be quite tiring!

One of my readers accused me of being a legalist this week! Have NO idea where that came from- interesting anyway. I was kind in my response, and we'll see what happens.

Once you catch a glimpse of freedom in Christ, you can never go back to dogmatic religion.

Check out: Plain Truth Ministries
"Christianity without the Religion"
www.ptm.org They have some really good things to say AND a free 1 year magazine subscription and online church services with a Gospel focus. :o)

ron said...

Grace...bring it on sister, no holds barred...remember your among other outrageously wild and crazy people.

grace said...

Yikes! I was overrun in a deluge of remodeling and homeschooling.

Now what were we talking about....

I have one person who gets the 100% version, for better or worse.
Everyone else gets the portion I determine is approriate for them.

Cindy,
My husband laughed at your comment about spending months cleaning up the mess of being real. I know that he could relate.

I think I've taken something complex and reduced it to black and white, which it really can't be. We probably aren't supposed to be 100 percent all the time with everyone we see.

My attempt at answering your question, "How much of the real me does God think I should let show all the time?":

I think we should give as much of ourselves as would be loving to the person we are with, given their circumstances.

Lily,
Blogging anonymously definitely does give one some freedom to express. I think I need to explore the outer edges of that freedom a little more, when I have the time. The most dangerous thing I've thought of lately was electrical wires.

josh,
Your series was very encouraging to me, and I mean to get back to your site to read more about what you guys are doing. I was amazed when I read your story in particular. There were so many things that were identical to what we had experienced. I might be quoting you again. :)
Nice meeting you.

David,
I know that it is especially common in charismatic circles to promote the idea that "among us" is where God really is.

Thanks alot for the challenge.
I also have ridiculous ideas, meandering thoughts, and boring diatribes. Now I'm feeling all insecure. ;)

robby,
I look forward to exchanging some of those ideas, hopefully soon.

fr'nklin,
Thanks for your comment. You made me smile. I often feel that way when reading about your journey also.
The blog might be 70%, but it is just a window. I'm hoping to learn to use that window in a way that is more transparent and gives a bigger view.

bob,
ROAA is very interesting. I think discerning what that is in different situations is what gives us the appearance of having social skills. I think there is wisdom needed to discern when the boundaries of the ROAA can be breached and to discern whether you are in a safe place to risk that vulnerability.

bruce,
I loved it when you posted about how you dreamed things could be. That is a great direction to go, both with imagining and with expressing the wild things in our hearts.

Pam,
you're right, it can't get much safer than blogging anonymously.

trailady,
Thanks for the links. I look forward to checking them out. I struggle the most with knowing that my ideas don't fit with most of the people I know and care about.

ron,
Thanks for the encouragement! I really do appreciate the freedom to explore that I've found among the emerging bloggers and treasure the many deep-thinking friends I've discovered here.

Lorna said...

wow! loved the thoughts here.

grace said...

Hi Lorna,
Nice to see you again. It sounds like you've been busy!