Over at Slant 33, Seattle-r Michelle Lang, Kiwi Tash McGill, and lil’ old Baltimoron me all take on the challenge of How do you get out of your own traditions, theology, and mindsets and remain open?
In my family, I have become the keeper of tradition. Even with adult children now, our home is blessed since I am still able to share a portion of Christmas day with my kids. We have the same special ingredient in the turkey stuffing. Our tree bears the ornaments that come with childhood stories. Each holiday season, we make a point of dining out and seeing a theater production together.
Two years ago, my Army son was serving in Iraq. We SKYPEd a great conversation with him as we all lounged around in our pajama pants and sweatshirts. The next year, his sisters claimed that pajama pants had become the new traditional wardrobe for gift opening and our meal together—a concept he rejected. I remained neutral as the family gently teased their way through this holiday debate. The girls tipped off his girlfriend, and she showed up at our door in pajama pants as well.
We started with the opening of presents. My defiantly jean-clad son received the very first gift, and it was clearly marked from me. He opened it and rolled his eyes; he now had his own pair of pajama pants. He excused himself and went to change.
Pajama pants on Christmas is not my tradition. Yet my family is now clearly coming into the age of making their own traditions. The challenge for those of us who are keepers of tradition is to remain open to the full community’s experience, to allow all members of the family of God to find themselves represented.
Nearly thirty years ago John Naisbitt, author and futurist, claimed in the book Megatrends that “leadership involves finding a parade and getting in front of it.” In these postmodern times, that line seems so relativistic. Yet, in Paul’s letter to the Philippians (4:8), he encourages us to assume this attitude: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
When we limit God only to our own limited experience of God, we are denying the omnipresence and the omnipotence. When we lead and cannot get beyond our own traditions, theology, and mindsets, when we fail to remain open to God’s ongoing revelation in our own lives, we find ourselves teaching about a limitless Lord from a nearsighted perspective.
To best avoid this, we need to think outside ourselves. Therefore we need make choices that get us:
Out of our box. When having God in our lives can be a source of comfort for our days, discipleship and being comfortable were not necessarily meant to be identified as complementary terms found in the thesaurus of faith. Our ministries are meant for “awe and wonder” and not boredom. We need to be mindful to challenge ourselves spiritually and continue to grow anew in faith.
Out of our molds. If the only adult volunteers or core team members we recruit are those cut out of our own molds, then we have only drafted an army of clones. We have a responsibility to recognize those who are different from us but are true, honorable, and just.
Out of our minds. Author Mike Carotta often wonders why we seemingly forgo the opportunity of preparation for the sacrament of confirmation to actually collaborate with the Holy Spirit and work toward driving kids out of their minds…and into the mind of Jesus. To do so demands that we are a little bit out of our own minds as well and working toward developing a spiritual whatever attitude about that which is excellent and worthy of praise.
Our openness is a matter of hospitality. The vitality of our programming as well as our own personal faith should be considered in light of a farsighted sense of vision of acceptance to be able to get in front of the parade of all that is pure, lovely, and gracious, even if it originates from outside our own experience. Paul reminds the Hebrews (13:2), “Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.”