I felt about every emotion as I read today’s section in Heart in the Right Place by Carolyn Jourdan.
But above all, alive.
Carolyn has rounded the corner and no longer seems shocked by her life (first section we read) or wrestling as much with competence (second section). Instead, she is now able to be present in her life and to those around her. And when she (we) are able to be present, watch out–the pain and joy come flooding in.
In Chapter 15 when Carolyn talked about people’s ideas about God and how it says as much about them as it does about God, it reminded me of the way theologian Scot McKnight starts his class on Jesus. He gives “a standardized psychological test divided into two parts. The results are nothing short of astounding.
“The first part is about Jesus. It asks students to imagine Jesus’ personality, with questions such as, “Does he prefer to go his own way rather than act by the rules?” and “Is he a worrier?” The second part asks the same questions of the students, but instead of “Is he a worrier?” it asks, “Are you a worrier?” The test is not about right or wrong answers, nor is it designed to help students understand Jesus. Instead, if given to enough people, the test will reveal that we all think Jesus is like us. Introverts think Jesus is introverted, for example, and, on the basis of the same questions, extroverts think Jesus is extroverted.
“Spiritual formation experts would love to hear that students in my Jesus class are becoming like Jesus, but the test actually reveals the reverse: Students are fashioning Jesus to be more like themselves.”
How do you see this to be true in yourself?
In that same chapter she touches on the idea of what is success, a family coat of arms, and Fletcher’s take on “Fear Not” in the Bible. So much going on. Let’s discuss.
“I hadn’t realized all this was going on in me, but I seemed to be on a roll.” I get that! “Well, in this place I feel sometimes like I really am helping people. Actual people. It’s not just an idea. I can’t help them much. I know it’s not glamorous, but sometimes I think maybe I’m doing more good swabbing up body fluids and being a friendly face here than I ever did working in the Senate.”
What draws me to this quote is the way it is so Jesus. So, go small to go significant. Instead of go big to go significant. We need to hear this message again and again, don’t we. Go small.
And then she got a jeep! This seems to be when Carolyn makes a public gesture that her “real life” is shifting (not sure she was ready to say it had shifted). When she picked the postal jeep, I found this phrase to be one to add to my permanent vocabulary: “high frequency beauty that’s beyond most people’s ability to perceive.” Isn’t that stunning? May God give us eyes to see the high frequency beauty he sees.
I loved her encounter with the “one eyed pirate”. When he talked about Jesus coming to him when he was in a coma and said, “I can’t remember what He said, but I remember Him very clearly and I knew who He was and He just sat there on that fence and kept me company till I woke up”. That has to be the most beautiful picture of hope I’ve read today. I thought of your local friends and as you doctor, teach, hang out in the park with kids, study language, and all the myriad of other ways we engage people; the picture of Jesus just keeping them company until they wake up spiritually gave me pause. I am so grateful for his infinite patience.
There is, of course, more to say, but I don’t want this too get too long, so I’ll end with a thought from Chapter 19. “I thought about how sometimes the only thing we can do for another person is simply pay attention to them. Then it occurred to me this might even be the best thing we could every do for anybody. Maybe the ability to confer attention on another person was not simply common courtesy, but was the fundamental act of humanity.”
The power of paying attention. Amen and amen. This may be another way of saying John 3:30. He must increase, I must decrease. The more I pay attention to you, the more I can be present. The most I focus on me, the less present, and therefore Image Bearing, I am.
(But I also know we need to focus on ourselves too. God calls us to the messy middle — focus on others and focus on ourselves.)
I’m so thankful we have another week on this book and can’t wait to continue our conversation in the comments. Until then,
P.S. Here’s the reading plan:
June 2 — Chapters 1-7
June 9 — Chapters 8-14
June 16 — Chapters 15-20
June 23 — Chapters 21-25
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