As I've said before, guys have tried to put the moves on me by telling me I think too much. But I gotta tell you, both clothed and in my right mind -- I do think too much. Sometimes.
Here's what I've been wrestling with today. Why can't we face the ugliness in our daily lives? Do we hope that, by turning away, somehow it will go away? And if we can't do that, what hope it can be redeemed?
Last week I interviewed Diana Garland, who heads the School of Social Work at Baylor. In dissecting sexual misconduct among clergy (with adults), the dean made a comment that really rang true to me.
When something bad occurs in churches, people don't tough it out, or fight it out, or deal with each other and move towards reconciliation. Instead, they simply leave the congregation.
Generally, this is true of relationships outside churches that don't have other, pressing reasons to be -- we seem woefully unequipped to handle conflict and move towards some kind of resolution.
I don't know that this was always true. In the past, one's survival as a member of a community might have been affected by having a good relationship with the teacher at the one-room schoolhouse, or the pastor of the Lutheran Church. Now we shop around for schools, and churches, and new relationships.
And the Internet has only exacerbated this tendency to withdraw at the first hint of a challenge -- or to hang around, waiting to see whether someone or something better comes along.
How many times have you invited children to a birthday party, and then had to wait until the day of the party to find out whether little Susie is coming or not? At some point, you have to play the hand you have been dealt.
When I see this lens applied to congregations, it feels even more serious to me. Many churches and synagogues are just horrible at handling and resolving conflict. And if the church or synagogue isn't a witness to reconciliation, then why bother to go?
Similarly with marriage and romance. We grow through struggling with our own pride, and past hurts, and desire for love. How can it be constructive to run in the other direction? That doesn't mean that we can always make a relationship work -- but we owe it to the other person to engage with as much of ourselves as we can find.
Even when it gets gritty, even when we rage and rail and want to surrender, we have to act in faith that there is something we can take from our conflicts -- gold in the ashes, the flame of wisdom, the ethereal song of love...and forgiveness ...and rebirth.