Blue Paint On Glass
Years ago, I went to a theological conference that was hosted by one of the more conservative branches of the Presbyterian tradition.
Not that far into the conference, I perceived a sense of smugness that pervaded the whole place, emanating from the speakers and hosts and echoed back by the participants.
And what I mean by smugness in this context is there was this sense of "Us" vs. "Them" where the "Them" happened to be all those other weak-kneed Christians who don't believe like "Us."
I happen to be recovering fundamentalist Baptist, so I've got some baggage that I carry around with me when it comes to such smugness. Especially, when I feel like I might be in the "Them" category.
And in moments like that conference, my baggage can feel heavier than usual. When that happens, I have a tendency to shut down, and begin to hear only what I want to hear.
So, I quickly began to characterize every person who rose to speak as a narrow-minded, holier-than-thou, overly-Christian so-and-so.
And I didn't listen to anything else.
There may have been truth and beauty spoken that weekend. There may have been deep spiritual insights that I could have gleaned. But instead, I only listened for the key words and phrases that I could then use to discredit, disregard and ignore everything else that was said.
I became what I despised, and I didn't even see it at the time.
In his excellent book The Wisdom of Insecurity, Alan Watts wrote:
"...you can only know God through an open mind just as you can only see the sky through a clear window. You will not see the sky if you have covered the glass with blue paint."On that day, there was blue paint all over whatever window I should have been looking through to see the sky.
Instead, I decided that delineating the lines of disagreement and the summoning of phony outrage that I could share on Twitter was more important than searching for common ground, shared vision and mutual mission with my sisters and brothers who disagreed with me.
I repent of that decision I made on that day, and all the others like it since. If we are going to see the sky, we need to be willing to scrape away our paint.
May you seek to learn from those who you disagree with today. May you engage in conversations where you listen more than speak. May you seek understanding, and find common ground. May you find the happiness that comes from being a peacemaker.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.