Saturday, June 19, 2010

Change

Richard Rohr explores numerous concepts that are new to me in his book The Naked Now. A chapter that I read last night was about changing your mind.

Admit it, when you think about conversion, you imagine an altar call at a old-fashioned tent revival. The preacher is sweating up a storm while waving his Bible and preaching with passion. He calls the sinners forward and the aisles are suddenly clogged with soon-to-be new believers. In this version of conversion, sinners get right with God and make a vow to change their sorry ways, or something like that. It's focused more on changing your behavior than changing your mind.

Rohr begins by looking at Matthew 4:17 and Mark 1:15, which most modern versions render as, "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand." Rohr says the Greek word used her -- metanoia -- quite literally means "change your mind," whereas we have come to understand it as "convert," "repent" or "reform."

"What we have translated as 'repent' is not a moralistic or even church word at all; it is a clear strategy for enlightenment for the world. Once you accept ongoing change as a central program for yourself, you tend to continue growing throughout all of your life," Rohr writes.

(I should mention here that in the previous chapter on conversion, Rohr comments that only people who have been transformed have the power to transform others.)

This idea of changing your mind and having the power to transform others really resonated with me because of the way I have found myself "changing" in my understanding of what God is like in the five years that I have been working with women in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Rohr says rather matter-of-factly that God does not exist to be understood by us. Shazam, that one landed right between the eyes.

I've been on this quest to grow in my understanding of what God is like because the way I thought he operated just wasn't showing itself to be true in the lives of the thousands of women I have come in contact with. First, I thought, well, I guess I just had it "wrong" all these years. How did I do that? How could I have been so off-base? But Rohr seems to suggest that it's not about being right or wrong, it is about having your mind changed, over and over and over again.

Changing your mind. That's Rohr-speak for accepting that what you thought you knew, you don't know; and what you don't know, you need to know; and what you need to know, you can know. But it requires prying open your mind.

"Most people have not been offered a different mind, only different behaviors, beliefs and belong systems. They (behaviors, beliefs and belong systems) do not necessarily nourish us, much less transform us. But they invariably secure us and validate us where we already are," Rohr writes. He goes on to say that required behaviors and beliefs are good and necessary to get us started, but if we invest in them too heavily, they soon become places to hide.

Bingo. Bingo, bingo, bingo.

Apparently our human nature fights this idea of our minds going through a constant state of change because such change threatens our fragile egos. Yeah, that's right -- growing in your faith is more about ego transformation than understanding any particular concept.

I confess, at times my knee-jerk reaction to ideas I have never heard before is to dismiss them; to relegate them to the Apostle Paul's prediction that in the latter days, men will cling to teachings their itching ears long to hear. However, that verse is really more about justifying yourself by embracing teaching and "truth" that says what you want to hear than about opening yourself up to new ideas.

Rohr drives the point home when he reminds his readers that people who upset the religious status quo belief system -- people like the prophets and Jesus himself -- usually find themselves dead; killed by their own. Jesus challenged hundreds of rules and teachings and ideas of the religious elite, the supposed experts, and told them to stop focusing on nonsense like whether you could carry a needle in your robe on the sabbath and how much dill and thyme to tithe to God and get serious about Kingdom concepts like love, justice, mercy and meekness.

So ... go ahead. Change your mind about God. Make your ego uncomfortable. Wonder out loud, is that all there is?? Challenge yourself to explore ideas that are new and foreign. Ask yourself, what am I so afraid of? Don't pitch your tent and announce, "I have arrived." Keep going. Keep searching for what Jesus terms the ultimate reality (Kingdom of God).

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