Sunday, November 8, 2015

On Accidental Saints and Made For Goodness - Week 2

On Perfection

I have to say, Nadia's chapter where she talked about the expectations of others really spoke to me. She said, "Maybe it's not only the leaders who think they should be perfect; maybe it's also their followers who expect them to have it all together."

I am totally guilty of this. Like, all-the-time guilty. I have high expectations of myself, and high expectations of others. I tend to know my friends well enough to love them and their imperfections. I love their snarky-ness, their sarcasm, their occasional falling-apart. I identify with all those things, and I do them myself. I know we're not perfect.

But I expect my leaders - in family, in church, at work - to be always forgiving, never snarky, never falling-apart. At least, not when I'm around. I have some amends to make, and I'll make them in person.
Desmond Tutu again echoes her: "As human beings, we hear in the command to be perfect a demand for flawlessness. But flawlessness is not the goal of God's invitation. ... Godly perfection is not flawlessness. Godly perfection is wholeness." I love him for saying this. I guess I have some work to do.
Desmond Tutu talks about practicing being good. He talks about how God gave us choice, but the choice really is ours, and it does take practice. I have to admit, this really confused me. Last week, he was saying that being good is something we are, not something we do, and now he's saying that we have to practice being good.

Not the Blessing

The other thing Nadia said that really struck me, was when she talked about how we are not the blessing that is bestowed upon others. I'm guilty of this one, too. Thinking that I will magnanimously step down from my ivory tower and bless people with my presence or my works. She points out that we are all both needy and needs-meeters. It was a difficult concept to wrap my head around. I think she's also saying that experiencing the need and the meeting of that need is to experience Jesus. It's not in the being needy or in the generosity - it's in the communion.

The Discussion Questions

  1. 1. What is your Nineveh? Has God ever moved you to confront that thing, person, or event that you would rather avoid? What happened, and how did it feel?

    Not so much, on this one. I would say that the closest it comes is at work. As a team-lead, I was a great coach, mentor, cheer-leader. But I wasn't good at giving negative feedback or conducting sessions where I had to counsel someone on poor performance. I had to do it, and it felt awful. I'm still much better at "A for effort!" than I am at "these are the expectations. Let's find a way for you to start meeting them."

  2. Have you ever felt like you were someone's "project" - as if they were trying to "minister" to you, yet somehow were serving themselves? How did it feel? Why is it so difficult for us to give to others without becoming self-important?

    Again, not so much. I've definitely been on the other side of that - believing that I could lead a youth group (I don't even like kids!) because I was young and energetic (I was) and I understood teenagers (nope. Not even when I was one). It was a gift I didn't and don't possess, and I failed miserably. I think we do better at ministration when it's in a way that comes more naturally.

  3. (Summarizing) When you were young, did you believe that Godliness meant following a list of prohibitions? ...Has that rules-based messaging affected how you live and feel as an adult? Is there such a thing as "Godly living"? Is the lifestyle and personality of the Christian the primary focus of faith?

    Oh, yes. Christians don't smoke, drink, smoke pot, swear, have pre-marital sex. I know now those things aren't true, but when I was a teenager, I vacillated between believing that we are saved by faith and that we are saved by works. When I thought we are saved by works, I was super-puritan. When I thought we are saved by faith, I took it as a free pass - I'm already saved, I can do whatever the hell I want. Now, I think it's both. I do still believe that we should aim for a lifestyle that treats ourselves and those around us well. I know that as sinners, we'll fall short. But I do believe we should be trying.


  1. I love reading about your exploration of these ideas - BIG ideas. I don't know that I ever particularly proselytized or discussed faith with you or your brother. Maybe I should have, but I didn't. I figured you'd either come to it or not. Now I wish we had time for long conversations about what being a person of faith means in this world. You bring the pop tarts, I'll make the hot chocolate.

    1. May I join you? I'll bring something... Potato chips! I'll bring potato chips!!

    2. You can bring the creme de minthe (or the Irish cream). ;)