I went down a rabbit hole today. (The internet is full of them.) Now I’m not asking anyone to fall in after me. And I’m not going to describe Wonderland or what drew me in. But a hookah smoking caterpillar made a statement that sparked my interest and I want to talk it through.
The contention is that how a person lives is more important than what he or she believes. Many will immediately claim that we need both or that orthopraxy flows from orthodoxy. Most in the emerging movement agree we need both, but they contest the second claim: Experience does not prove that those who believe the right things live the right way. No matter how much sense the traditional connection makes, it does not necessarily work itself out in practice.
This is a really strong statement. And it has me thinking, especially in light of a Lenten fast of both an attitude and actions. Is what I do more important that what I believe? How are they connected? Straight off I’m going to admit I have a strong opinion. My own experience says that what I do comes out of what I believe. My actions don’t come out of nowhere. My mind formulates ideas; my heart gives me the permission to carry them out. Good or bad starts there. What I believe in my heart, my will, determines what thoughts I will allow to blossom into actions. For example, yesterday I stood on a bridge overlooking a torrential stream, brimming over with recent storms. The thought crossed my mind, what would it be like to fall in that water? My will spoke up and said, I could die in the fall or drown and I do not want to die. My belief about the likely consequences of that possible action, tied with my belief that I desire to live pair together to stop that thought from turning into reckless action.
I have spent the last four years partnering with God to recover from some habits I used to cope with early hurts. Examining not only those painful events but also the lessons I learned from them-truths and lies- led me to discover or admit behaviors that flowed out of those beliefs. Pain led to belief led to protective actions led to more problems. My behavior is changing only as God heals my wounded heart and changes what I believe about myself, the people around me and most importantly, Him.
I know that my natural inclination to sin is a factor in this discussion, too. I’m not a computer that can simply run the right equation to get the right action. Even Apostle Paul said, I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. Romans 7:19 But if I’m being honest when I choose sin, I usually think I'm justified or I can get away with it.
Next I consider acting as if; the practice of acting as I wish to, even if my feelings don't match up. Isn't this a perfect example of what I do being more more important than what I believe? I don’t think so. Acting as if contains a belief that some actions are healthier, nobler, more worthy, more desirable than others, even if they clash with my own instincts. So I can choose to pursue healthy actions rather than follow unhealthy (or sinful) instincts.
So how does this relate to Lent and my fast? God asked me to give up my anger at Him and all the actions and words it fuels. And to follow His Son. How can I lay down the anger without choosing to change how I look at the situation? When I let angry words fly, or sink into despair, my heart is crying out I do not believe You, God. You are not good to me. You are not fair. You are not truthful. You are not trustworthy. Your Word is not true. I’m not saying that is the root of all anger, or your anger (if you have any) but right now, it is the subtext of mine. And that is really painful to write. God knew what He was asking me to give up. He’s asking me to lay down my treacherous beliefs. And then what did His Son say about this? A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. Luke 6:45
Whichever way I look at it I just can’t get away from the notion that what I do stems from what I believe and not the other way around. So I can’t change my actions without first changing my beliefs. Now this isn’t to say my actions aren’t important. They’re vital. In fact they are the only reliable evidence of what I believe. But they have a source, my beliefs. Orthopraxy follows orthodoxy, to use caterpillar speak.
Yesterday was pretty head driven. So today I’m just going to offer you a picture of my heart. This is hard to write. It may be some of the most vulnerable sentences I have put into my blog, so much so that I’m closing the comments for this post. I spent my first 9 months as a blogger with a random comment here or there but mostly I published in silence. That began to change with joining Imperfect Prose. As I began to reach out numbers grew some, comments poured in and I love it. But then I started this Lent series and it has been just plain awkward. At first I journaled every day but only published once a week. The posts became so long that they were hard to absorb in a blog format. Kind of overwhelming, is what I was hearing. Then I tried posting daily. It only took two days to see that was overwhelming in a whole different way. I like some time in between my posts. To let them sit and breathe a little. Now, the comments on the Lent posts seem to be drying up. And with 40 days to write there will be a lot of them. So it stings a bit. I love that feedback. I miss it. But then I heard that small voice in the breeze.
Why did you start this journal?For Lent
Why are you observing Lent?To die to me, to draw close to You. To lay it down and surrender so that this Easter I can feel the resurrection I so desperately need, inside.
And isn’t this that moment? The laying it down. When I continue this practice, this fast and the journaling discipline I chose to accompany it even when it doesn’t feel good. When in fact I fear that I’m becoming so boring or dour that soon I may again publish to silence. Isn’t this when the rubber hits the road? And maybe the reason I chose to blog this experience was for this day; the day when I die to comments, to compliments, to encouragement and (again) to the vain pursuit of popularity. The day I choose (again) to surrender, to follow without stopping to double check the price.