Developing Spiritual Lifestyle Practices - Day Twelve: Changing Sides
Today we are going to conclude the exploration of the twelve spiritual lifestyle disciplines that Fr. Richard Rohr outlines in his book Just This.
This morning we're focusing on what Fr. Richard refers to as "Changing Sides."
Let me illustrate this with a story. Several years ago, I was taking a cross country trip from Florida to California, and I decided to do a little experiment. I wore my clergy collar the entire day to see how people responded.
It was pretty crazy how the people around me changed the way they interacted with me when I was dressed like a priest as opposed to being in my regular clothes.
The young Latina women who worked at Starbucks in the airport gave me free coffee. As I walked through the terminals, I got either smiles and frowns, but not many people ignored me, that was for sure.
When I got on the airplane for the long flight, a businessman in the First Class section sized me up, and then let out a loud "Whew!" "Now I know we're safe," he said loudly, "There's no way we're going to crash with you on the plane."
I wanted to tell him, "Dude, you have no idea. If I was you, I'd be scared."
By the time I got to Laguna Beach for the conference I was attending, I wanted nothing more than to tear off the clergy shirt and collar and replace it with a Metallica t-shirt, ripped up jeans and flip flops, which was much more comfortable for me.
I learned something that day that has stuck with me ever since. What struck me about traveling as someone else was not so much the way other people treated me, but how I felt.
Sometimes you have to put yourself into different clothes in order to change your view. You have to be exposed to other points of view, other ways of seeing the world. And when you do, it changes you.
This is what Fr. Richard means when he says that we should practice Changing Sides as one of our lifestyle spiritual practices.
Fr. Richard writes that if you want to grow in faith, and discover abundant ways of living, it's important for you to find ways:
"To shift your consciousness about the way you look at life, practice looking at it--and being looked at--from a different perspective..."In a world that is often so hopelessly divided, this is a vital part of living out our Christian faith in ways that are life-giving, peace-making and authentically human. To do anything else would be to deny the image of God within us... and others.
Right now, there are so many people who are anxious and angry about the situation we are in with this Corona Crisis.
Some people have grown weary of being quarantined, and I can't blame them for feeling that way. There are thousands of people losing their livelihood, losing their life savings, their businesses... it's tragic and terrible.
But here's the news. We are all weary of this. Every one of us. And while it is easy in the midst of all of this to think of ourselves and our needs, especially if we are among the less vulnerable, we need to do better.
And to coin a phrase, when you know better, you do better. So it's time for us to be reminded of some things that we know as Christians. First, Jesus stepped into need, not away from it. Jesus went to the margins and reached out to the vulnerable, he didn't tell them to fend for themselves.
The people he had the most criticism for?
Religious leaders who used their position to exploit people, rich people who didn't have a social conscious, politicians who cared only about their power... the list goes on and on... but it doesn't include the vulnerable and marginalized.
Second, we need to be willing to not only listen, but to listen for understanding to those who disagree with us, or who are different. We need to be open to the fact that we probably need to know more of their story before criticizing them, or demonizing them.
This is what it means to live out our Christian faith in real, authentic and loving ways. We have to be willing to wear different clothes.
May you find ways to make this a reality in your life today and every day. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.