Who Is Your Covering?

Friday 28 December 2007

I've been giving a bit of thought this morning, in my morning pages, to the different ways that we can live in relation to other people. I was thinking that the thing about living to please other people is that you put aside things of yourself that are probably not the things you should put aside, and the more wise parts of you know this, but it feels like you're denying yourself like Jesus says. And the end result is getting resentful because you feel like you're denying yourself but you're actually just being passive and thinking it's a service to others. Meanwhile, your soul screams that you're making yourself unsafe. I need to elaborate on this but the click ticketh over.

So maybe it's about living for other people? But that doesn't sit right either. Living for other people is rather like the first one. Putting all of your power eggs in other people's baskets. Maybe the best way is living to other people. Like a blogging friend of mine who has got this God thing going on pretty good. Him and Papa have spent quite a bit of time staring at each other over the past couple of years (fun journey to watch; seeing people unfurl will never lose its lustre). And so now he has been able to let go of a whole stack of stuff that means he is living free in the now, and in the provision of God, and it means he can do things like go into work for a couple of hours on his week off so that he can shampoo and style the hair of a couple of his older clients. How cool is that? Smells like God spirit. I live in that sometimes but have a big ways to go.

Living to other people means that you're focussed on them with the same care and concern that you hold for yourself. But it doesn't mean you ignore or deny your own necessary stuff, the stuff you do as a human being to keep yourself psychically safe and have a grounded personality distinct from other people. I think this is what Jesus meant when he said to deny ourselves (I'd love to hear what you think). There is plenty about myself that I could and can and should and shall do more of denying - the clamouring ego-driven stuff that results in powerplays and ego boasts and comparisons with others, all of that stuff. That can go. But the necessary stuff? He also said to love others as we love ourselves, did he not? And how can you love others if you don't first love yourself, give life to yourself, allow life to give life to you?

I think the key ultimately is where we get our identity from - God or human. Getting it from God ends up being a much more delightful proposition than many performance-oriented low-God-view pulpits have led us to believe, far less efficient and far more grounded, organic, mysterious and exciting than previously thought, a developing of an identity of beauty, which we desire to have, that makes our mouth water. This is the only covering we need. To presume you could get a covering like that from another human being (as so many have propounded in the past; as if another human being with the title of pastor slapped on could be another person's covering! There's only one Pastor I know of who is able to be my covering without stuffing it up, and I'm not about to give that power over to any other human being).

Getting my identity from God means I'm not beholden to other people to give me a sense of my own identity and power - not that I don't try! I have been bleating around my friends recently, asking for my reflection in their eyes, wanting to know who I am, wanting them to show me. Grabbing greedily at every morsel. This friend agrees with me that I am self-absorbed. Hmm. This friend says that I have never been more myself than how I am becoming. Hmmm. This friend of a friend says that I am a strong personality (does she see the weak, I wonder?) This friend says I am not given to paranoia; why am I thinking so paranoically? All of these morsels, I gobble them up with gusto. I take them and add them to my collection of Who The Hell This Sue Person Is (a profile which is becoming much more apparent to me these days. Must have something to do with God smashing it all into the dust and rebuilding).

It's good to get feedback from others on this same journey. It's vital. Imperative. But ultimately, getting my glimpses of my identity from others is only a small part of God giving me my identity. It is a shaky proposition at the best of times to try to get it from anyone else but him/her. People are too flaky to rely on for that :)

What I get from God allows me to more fully be myself in all of my weaknesses - an amazing thing though painful. And, beautiful sidenote, I become more free than ever before to love people right where they are, in all of their weaknesses. It's a beautiful thang, a dance to be learnt.

1 comment

  1. Frank Viola's new book, "Reimagining Church," discusses the covering/shepherding/discipleship teaching in great detail.

    It's the sequel to "Pagan Christianity" which was authored by George Barna and Frank. Endorsements by Leonard Sweet, Shane Claiborne, Alan Hirsch, Tony Dale, Felicity Dale, Jon Zens, John White, Rad Zdero, and others. You can read a sample chapter at http://www.ReimaginingChurch.org

    The book is also available on Amazon.com



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