As I have been able to process last weekend’s trip to North Carolina over the past few days I am finally able to draw some conclusions and lessons from my trip. In no particular order, I wanted to write about those things today as a way of perhaps opening a discussion around the more important of them.
The first is that I don’t travel as well as I did when I was young. In fact, on Wednesday afternoon I felt just awful and was worried that I might be coming down with the flu. Unfortunately, in my at-home world there aren’t many opportunities to go to bed early because most evenings we watch our grandchildren while our daughter works. I tried, but failed, to get up early to go do some work on Thursday morning – but the extra sleep made me feel much better. The lesson is that I need to plan a down day or two to recover from trips if I want to take good care of myself. Of course, being male, getting myself to listen to my best advice is the real challenge!
The second is that I really miss good seafood! Of course, you can get good seafood in the Midwest, sort of, but it’s nothing like you can get on the Atlantic coast. It was all so very flavorful, all such a blessing – and a good reason to make as many trips to the coast as I can. When I lived in New England during the mid 1980s I didn’t really appreciate the beauty of being able to get high quality seafood inexpensively and sometimes yearned for the growth hormone infested beef of home. I suppose it’s true that we don’t know what we have until it’s gone.
More significantly, I was reminded of how much small mindedness restricts our use of language – and in this case I am speaking of liberal small mindedness. In my experience, my fellow liberals are the biggest language Nazis out there. To be in North Carolina and be able to use words like “God,” “Holy Spirit,” “Jesus,” yes even “the Devil,” in discussing issues of faith without having to worry about being misunderstood or coping with rolling eyes was such a profound blessing to me! Sitting with good, honest people who are asking the same questions of life and God that all of us ask without having to play linguistic gymnastics so that I am not misunderstood was a gift I didn’t know I needed but appreciate immensely. What’s more, the honesty in their pursuit of truth and answers to life’s questions was a profound breath of fresh air. I hadn’t really appreciated how much the language Nazis impact our ability to have free discussions with integrity – how much the dance distracts from the substance of the yearning of our hearts, and how so much nonsense is misinterpreted as a sign of intellect. What utter nonsense!
It would seem that we progressives have become so concerned about being mistaken for conservatives that we have settled for being mistaken for insubstantial – as if that was an acceptable trade! It’s not! As a result, I recognize that I have at times been reluctant to talk about God and the Spirit moving in my life in a powerful way, choosing instead to tone it down for fear of being misunderstood – and the result is that it might at times seem that I have dedicated my life’s work to something with which I have had only limited experience and contact! Perhaps most important of all, I found the experience of speaking freely of God without micro-managing my language choices to be profoundly liberating.
It may well be that one of the most damaging temptations of the progressive movement is the temptation to avoid taking a stand that seems in any way mainstream. The battle over language that has been corrupted is often frustrating because it takes so much energy and produces so few results, but the answer may not be surrendering language that expresses our heart’s longing and moving on without a fight. Rather, the answer may well be using the language that expresses the truth of our hearts and refusing to engage those who want to split hairs over our language choices. After all, even inclusive language can be idolatrous when gender imprecision becomes more important that the substance of what another is trying to tell us of their experience of God. I am convinced the proper course is to speak our truth, do the best we can to be understood, and then move on. Those who want to pick the bones of the language carcass are most likely not interested in real growth, anyway. They probably need to be listening to a cunning linguist more than they need to hear what I have to say!
The truth is that my life is shot through with experiences of the Holy in many different forms, and those ongoing experiences have led to a calling to work in the fields of spiritual endeavor. Any person setting out to be faithful to such a call will experience an evolving and unfolding of where they are to go next and how they are to get there. Thanks to the good folks of Father’s House in Newport, NC, I’ve achieved a lot more clarity than before I visited them. It seems we do often entertain angels unaware!