Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Werewolves and other people that go to your church.

Many years ago my mother mentioned that my then girlfriend's father would go a bit psycho when there was a full moon. I could not deny the apparent correlation in behaviour. She mentioned that this was in her opinion where the legend of the werewolf originated. Interesting thought.

Fast forward some years and in ministry I certainly verify that there are times and seasons and even particular months when people seem to mutate and explode into crisis. It is also more peculiar for this to happen to singular individuals at a time than for it to happen in clumps.

My theory has a little less mythos than that of my mother's. I think that no one is actually okay. No on is alright, no one is coping, no one is doing well. We are all continually managing crises. For those who have less effective coping mechanisms or are less able to distinguish their own crises from that of others - they are more prone to explode. It simply takes less to push them beyond breaking.

So how are our mechanisms? If we run to substances, sex, relationships, food, adrenaline, escapism, shopping or other things in such a way as they themselves accentuate and multiply the chaos or crisis, then our coping mechanisms become our downfall. Additionally, when we see werewolves (or ourselves) mutating in the middle of a crisis and we seem to be able to identify the unhealthy coping mechanism which is multiplying  the problem, removing the coping mechanism does not remove the crisis.

This is where the 1950's flavour of behaviour modification in Christian theory and practice is most clearly insufficient. When someone is dealing with grief and starts smoking pot, smoking pot is a symptom not a cause. Smoking pot may progress from being a coping mechanism to being a crisis-multiplier to being a cause of its own crisis, but it is not originally the cause itself - it is a symptom. Removing the pot does not solve the grief which is crying out to be addressed.

Let's add some more complications from the western Christian model. Historically it has not been culturally easy to admit that you're not coping. Some flavours of Christianity severely (very severely) emphasize the victorious facets of the work of Christ such that for a person to not cope with a crisis or situation or dilemma or decision etc is for that person to 'deny Christ' or 'lack faith' or be exercising 'non-faith'.

People are created limited not limitless. Some people are strong swimmers some people can barely swim. Every person has a point at which they are utterly, utterly overwhelmed and that's okay. If you are not coping that's okay. If someone you know is not coping that's okay. If someone you love is not coping it's alright. They are human. If they have turned to a substance or behaviour to try and medicate the feeling of not coping, to try to sleep or forget or feel good, do not forget that there is a difference between symptom and cause. Healing, conviction of sin, transformation, freedom are not just about behaviour modification. They are about the person who is hurting in the middle of a hurting world.

They are not just werewolves who are howling because of a full moon. Even if it looks that way. Even if they have a crisis every week. Even if brain chemistry is affected by tidal changes and the gravity of the moon - a person not coping with life is still a person.

If you are not coping that's okay. The temptation to medicate what you are feeling is very, very powerful. If you are not coping it means that something is wrong. It's not about modifying behaviour, it's about being released and healed and transformed to become who Jesus has created you to be. It's about being honest with yourself about what's going on inside.

If you don't find a way to speak about it sensibly then be aware that to others you may simply look like a weirdo howling at the moon.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Pastor's note on funerals.

I like funerals as much as the next guy. Probably. I think Solomon was right when he said that attending funerals is better than parties - and it's not just for the free food. It's about perspective.

The local church used to be the place of life and death. You would literally walk past your dead relatives to go worship God. There's a now-foreign shunting that happens when you have the uncomfortable truth of death in your face. We like to ignore mortality. Moreover we think that it's undeserved. 

I deserve to live forever. At least that's what half of me thinks. The other half is so, so looking forward to being present with Christ and out of this busted and broken sphere. As to which half is the dominant... it depends on if it's before or after morning coffee.

All that aside.

Funerals are great because there's a room full of people who have to be fundamentally honest. There's no ruse of materialism present, though it has often turned back up again at the wake. It is like a moment of pure unadulterated reality. We. Are. Broken. And there's nothing in all of our power to do anything about it. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot undo the curse of mortality. We can't run. We can't hide. We are all already dying. And it is just beautiful.

The raw simplicity of death is a sharp facet of the revelation of God's sovereignty. He is the God of death. It is our 'just' reward for being what we naturally are. And this foul, painful, horrifying thing called death is His doing because ultimately it's what most adequately shows us the extent of our own brokenness. Death is revelatory. And that this 'last enemy' will ultimately be put under Christ's feet is therefore even more-so.

Yes I have a funeral on tomorrow and this is all in my head right now. Yes this is kind of scratching the surface of a bunch of other things. Yes I need sleep right now.