I like to think I’m the most insecure person ever. You may disagree because you know for a fact that you’re actually way more insecure. Whether or not I own the title as the most insecure person ever, I’ll bet we can all relate to the desire to prove ourselves in order to alleviate our fears about ourselves.
What if I don’t fit in?
What if people mock me?
What if someone secretly resents me?
I want to prove that I’m OK and that I belong, and that can especially hold true with my faith and beliefs. I’ve spent a good deal of time demonstrating definitively that anyone who would ever question my beliefs or my place within a particular tribe is misguided, stupid, or just plain mean. I’ve devoted plenty of time devising ways to support arguments for either my place or the place of friends who hold to beliefs similar to my own.
It’s disconcerting when you spend the majority of your life considering yourself a Christian, and then someone comes along shouting, “Not so fast! I have definitive proof that you’re not only in error, you’re an enemy of your faith!”
Even if the claims are baseless, they’re still really jarring. We all want to prove that we’re OK and that we belong. No one wants to be left out of the group. We all have such a strong desire to belong that we’d rather fight back than lose an argument that could insert even the slightest bit of doubt.
This is why forms of black and white thinking or fundamentalism become so appealing. If you’re a true believer with flawless beliefs and practices, no one can call you out. Better yet, if you take the offensive against anyone who pushes against the boundaries, you become a hero and defender of the insiders. The defenders of the insiders are the least likely to be called out because they become indispensible.
If you’ve seen any of my Rohr for Writers posts and you’re familiar with Rohr, you may know that Rohr encourages more of a centered set approach to theology and life in general. We define and orient ourselves by what we’re pursuing rather than maintaining particular boundaries of beliefs. Centered set thinking believes that, in the case of Christianity, life transformation happens in the pursuit of Christ rather than in keeping a list of rules. You could say that the epistle to the Galatians directs us toward centered set thinking:
“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” Galatians 3:1-3, NIV
We are changed by what we pursue, not by what we defend.
IN order to adopt a more centered set approach to Christ that leaves the boundary making to others, it’s inevitable that we’ll have to step back and let them win. We’ll have to accept that in the eyes of some people we’ll have lost and become outsiders.
Along this line of thinking, Rohr writes about the lives of St. Francis and St. Clare in his book Eager to Love in order to make a case for preemptive losing. As you may guess by the title, Rohr argues that Francis and Clare weren’t eager for a debate. They were eager to love, and the most perfect way they found to love was from a non-competitive position. They chose to lose right from the start rather than minister out of influence, power, or control.
Rohr notes that Francis and his friars were mocked and abused in the early days of their ministry. People didn’t honor Francis and his friars because they looked like fools and losers. They had left money behind in order to beg for their daily bread. They left secure work behind to rebuild crumbling, abandoned churches.
Who would give these men money or food?
Who would go to their crumbling churches?
People beat them up, spat on them, and insulted them.
If Francis and his friars wanted to win, to be influential, and to belong to the class and power systems of their day, these insults would have been devastating. It’s a wonder that they didn’t give up.
However, they chose to begin by losing. Without wanting to win, they were free to love others. They didn’t fight for a place at the table. They set up their own tables where anyone was welcome.
There’s a really big challenge in looking back on the saints from so long ago: everyone wants to be on the same side as the saint in question. In fact, Rohr’s misgivings about his own Franciscan order are clearly evident throughout Eager to Love. Even the Franciscans aren’t sure how to live like St. Francis! It’s certainly tricky when an order established as an outsider receives a certain amount of insider status. All the same, Rohr’s portrait of Francis sticks with me and challenges me to think and live quite differently than what is natural.
My default in life is to fight for my place. I want to belong. I want to be liked.
Who would choose to let people mock him and laugh at him?
Who in his right mind would choose to be left out?
Who would choose to lose?
Perhaps a madman of sorts would choose to lose because he no longer wants to fight. He sees how empty that fight has left him. And when you’re tired of fighting, you may as well try something else.
I’ve grown weary of fighting for my place, even if I struggle daily with my desire to belong and to be respected. I don’t know what this will continue to look like each day, but I’ve been trying to stop fighting against my theological opponents as much as possible. I’ve long since tried to stop defending the boundaries of my faith in order to work on a more Christ-centered, centered set approach.
Nevertheless, I’m still tempted to defend the wisdom of a centered set approach. I would far prefer for my approach to become the majority position that is respected and honored—preferably with a book deal or two tossed in for good measure. I have a feeling that the people who establish themselves as the defenders and boundary keepers will generally work to solidify their positions.
I’m not sure how I’ll know if I’ve “succeeded” at losing, but I’m still giving losing a shot.
I’m eager to love, even if I’m still not eager to lose.
I suspect that my eagerness to love will be determined by how much I’m willing to lose.
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