November 20, 2016 // The Gift of Disorientation // Sara Wolbrecht // Proverbs 10:25
Becoming We – this has been our journey now for the fall. Ten weeks. Ten weeks of reframing the Jesus story through this lens of love, wrestling with and exploring what it means to love well.
You may remember that this whole Becoming We series was birthed out of a kairos moment for our Salt House community. Kairos, is the Greek word for “time” – not tic-toc time (what time is it?) but time as an event (I had a great time at the party). Kairos moments are those significant moments in our lives which, if we let them, can draw us into a process that can lead to change and growth. As Jesus-followers we keep our eyes open for kairos, for opportunities for growth, expansion, because we believe that we are a work in progress and we let God draw us into that work.
And our community kairos was that of the New Bethlehem Day Center opening in our basement this fall – which has now been open for two weeks. And we started this journey of Becoming We, because we recognize that we could just say our YES to hosting the day center and be done. Stayed removed from it. But we realize that we want to have an experience of becoming we with the folks in the day center, and to have language and perspective that does not perpetuate language of “us” and “them” and letting that vision of loving them well (Jesus’ vision) be a posture that could be infused into our loving of all kinds of neighbors, too
And today, as we conclude this series, I want to draw this becoming we conversation into the kairos moment that our country finds itself in this week. Because, yes, we find ourselves really in a global kairos in the aftermath of the presidential election – and it absolutely has implications on becoming we, on this radical act of loving our neighbor. Because, honestly, I know for me: I would sure like to look to the Jesus story as I consider how to respond to folks whom I don’t agree with, and even to get some insight on understanding why I’m feeling the way I am, and how I can function and find hope in the landscape we find ourselves in. We’re going to look at how we open ourselves up now, instead of closing ourselves off – Does that sound compelling for you?
Let’s do it. And let’s begin with a phrase. There is a phrase that surfaces throughout scripture. It is this: stand firm.
One of the places ‘stand firm’ pops up is in Proverbs 12. The book of Proverbs in the Old Testament of the Bible, uses the method of comparison to hold two things alongside each other. The Proverbs paint these two ways of being – don’t be like this, be like this. Often using the language of comparing the wicked and righteous. And I know we may have knee-jerk reactions to the word ‘righteous’ – so let’s redefine it, because it means simply ‘good folks.’ Interestingly, there’s this dynamic that surfaces for ‘the good folks.’
In Proverbs 12 it says: “the righteous cannot be uprooted.” And a few verses later it says: “The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous stands firm.”
And again in Proverbs 10, which I want to use as our verse for today, it says this:
When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever. Proverbs 10:25
Or another translation reads this way: When the storm is over, there’s nothing left of the wicked; good people, firm on their rock foundation, aren’t even fazed. (Proverbs 10:25 The Message)
To stand firm. There is this ancient idea that there are people who are grounded and rooted, and whatever comes their way whatever happens around them, they stand firm. These are people who are grounded even when storms come, people rooted in something deeper than who the current president is of the United States. Right?
My friends, there’s a storm we’re in, and we need to remember what it means to stand firm and be rooted and grounded more than ever. I know I need to.
So for us, I want to paint a picture of where we find ourselves now, why we’re responding the way we are, and how standing firm has a place in all of it.
So let’s do that. There is this thing that happens in life, orientation. Feeling oriented. Times when we have reference points, our compass works, we have a sense of what’s up and what’s down. We are in orientation. Grounded. Cruising. And then there’s a disruption.
These disruptions can be deeply personal, we were taught a worldview that doesn’t work anymore. We’re going through a break-up, a betrayal of trust, an illness or diagnosis, a graduation. There can be disruptions on a family level. There can be disruptions on a community, or even national level. Including yes, political elections.
And after a disruption, we find ourselves in disorientation. That is what the disruption does, it disrupts our reference points. Up ain’t up anymore. The air feels different, the familiarity of things suddenly become foreign. Our usual habits and ways of functioning are not as given as they used to be. We are disoriented. And then gradually, over time, we will move from disorientation into reorientation. Throughout our lives we make these movements from orientation, to disorientation, to reorientation. Over and over.
Friends, since election night, we as individuals and as a country are in disorientation. We saw the transition happening – on election night, we watched political experts and commentators saying things like, “None of us saw this coming. None of the polls predicted this. None of the experts saw this.” And on national tv, in real time, very smart sophisticated people were saying: I am losing my reference points and the ways that I navigated things. And if we were watching, we could feel it in our own bodies – the disbelief, the disorientation. Many folks I know went to bed early because they didn’t want to face the discomfort of the disorientation, anger, fear.
But we all woke up on Wednesday morning. And we’ve all seen to varying degrees, the chatter, the news, the comments and posts on social media. And here’s the thing: as hard as this has been seeing all the kinds of responses, what’s interesting it that what we’re seeing, especially on social media, is classic, ancient disorientation. This is what people do in disorientation. What we’re seeing – this is absolutely how people respond.
So what are the characteristics of what we’re seeing, what do I mean by saying that this is classic, ancient disorientation? I want to distill down two qualities, those responses of disorientation to help us get a handle on and understanding about what is happening in us and around us, and I invite you to take stock of yourself and what you’ve heard and seen from others to see if this resonates, and hopefully even helps us each have a bit more grace and understanding towards ourselves and others.
First, when we find ourselves In Disorientation: 1. We feel all the things. Fear, anger, uncertainty, confusion, hopelessness. And so we vent, we rage, we express, we’re in shock, it’s surreal. For me, I have a low-grade crankiness that I’ve been walking around with constantly – totally rooted in feeling all the things of disorientation (and the crankiness is caused by my own fear and anger and disbelief). Anyone else cranky since the election?
Maybe you haven’t been cranky, but does this resonate for you? What about others you’ve talked to, seen social media posts from? That observation of a lot of emotion. Also, at times when we’re feeling all the things, we may not be able to express it well – maybe we don’t have safe relationships to do that in, or maybe we just don’t know how, we’re too numb, and we stuff it. We withdraw. We do the “hey guys, I’m quitting Facebook for a week.” I’ve had lots of friends do that. That could be happening, too. Because disorientation stirs up all kinds of feelings.
A second characteristic of how we respond in disorientation is what has been called 2. Defensive Splitting. As we find our reference points no longer working, our worldview wiped out, we break down the world into very simple terms. Especially in how we see others. In defense of our own worldview and perspective, we split the world into good folks and bad folks. We pull away from those on ‘the other side’ (whatever the other side is) and we stew around in how bad they are, and how good and right we are. It’s called defensive splitting. Our core sense of reference is shaken, and so we hunker down in our traditions, in what we know. People we disagree with become one-dimensional. And remember this is all true in whatever way we find ourselves in disorientation. Like when someone breaks up with us, when our trust is broken. Defensive splitting is all the ways in which we make snap judgments and say: they’re such a jerk!
And I wonder: does this resonate with how you have felt since election day? With what you have seen and heard? The name-calling, the blaming. I know for many of my friends their perspective is that if you voted for Trump – you must be racist, misogynist, homophobic. An anti-all kind of things, idiot. We’re totally in defensive splitting.
Again, this is classic ancient disorientation. We see it throughout scripture, especially in the Psalms, we watch people move through orientation, to disorientation, to reorientation.
There is much more to say about living in disorientation, but the final thing I’ll name is that 3. We stay there for a while. (add to the list of 1 and 2)
So as we finish this sermon series on Becoming We, my friends, do you see why it felt important that we name this disorientation that we’re in? Because, we see that number two is not “it is really natural to love your neighbor while in disorientation.” Nope. We are naturally wired to pull away, to cling to what we believe. And for me, I take a certain comfort in knowing that this cycle is lived out again and again in the pages of scripture – that this isn’t something new, that there is a timelessness to this reaction.
Because: we can look at the tools that the Jesus tradition gives us for how to live in the disorientation we find ourselves in now, and any other time. And that’s where we head next.
So: what moves us through times of disorientation? We named how a disruptions gets us in to these times, what moves us through? Well, these are three ways in which we can, you guessed it: stand firm. Standing firm is so wrapped up in who we are as Jesus-followers, and
To Stand Firm:
1. We Name It. Name what’s going on. Recognize it. When we notice how cranky we are, or whatever symptoms we pick up on, we find the words for it: Man I am furious, I am freaked, I am disappointed, I am sad, I am so let down. So the art of standing firm, or the practice of it is name it, and here’s the key: not to judge our disorientation but to just let it be what it is. To say: oh, I have all these feelings of anger towards “those people on the other side” not because I’m a total jerk, but because I am in disorientation and defensive splitting is part of that process.
Oh, right, I’m feeling all this fear and anxiety for myself and my friends who are minorities – that’s because there is a lot to feel when I am in disorientation. I think that is fear here, anger here. Let it be what it is. Recognize that this is normal – and if it is not given proper expression – it become destructives. Our anger, pain, fear will eat us up. Stand in non-judgmental observation of our disorientation. The Psalms follow this pattern if you want to see beautiful examples of folks talking their way through disorientation, and how God is a part of that process. To stand firm: we don’t pretend everything is good, but we name it as normative, we name it.
Second, we stand firm by 2. Embrace a Posture of Curiosity toward the other side. I have a friend who was devastated by the election, posted all kinds of angry posts, mud-slinging and blame to Trump supporters and non-voters. But who has just reached a place where she has said: I’m going to set out to understand why my fellow citizens would make this choice. And that is it, right. You cannot with a straight face say: well, you just got to love your neighbor, and not say: why would my neighbor do this? And that takes us back to a place of humility. Of opening up to the possibility that there is another perspective. It doesn’t mean we no longer have convictions or that we don’t call horrible things horrible things, but we do at a deep human level begin with curiosity – tell me more, what is it about that, how did that provoke you – how do you see that… And note: it takes time, and expressing all the thing, before some of us will ever get there. But we can, with time, embrace curiosity- because we have to figure that thee is deep pain, and a failure of the system for folks in our country to have voted for Trump – so what can we learn about how the system might be broken and people voting out of a place of legitimate pain? We find out. Curiosity.
The third things I’ll name for, tools for standing firm, we 3. Look for kairos. Here’s the other thing about disorientation – God does God’s best work there. When we’re in disorientation, that’s where we find kairos. Growth happens when we have to find a new way through. Think back on who you were, what you believed, what your worldview was 10 years ago or more – aren’t you glad for the shifts that happened? The change? Likely much of it came through disorientation. When we find ourselves here, we’ll find invitations to grow – to step beyond what we may have ever done, to encounter God moving in us and the world and it’ll inspire awe – as God pulls us into new ways of orienting ourselves in the world. God is in the business of reorientation. And so we stand firm, knowing that God meets us in the best possible ways in the midst of disorientation. We pay attention. Realizing that disorientation can be an incredible gift.
All of this – this reality of movement from orientation to disorientation to reorientation, and our invitation to stand firm and grow through these cycles, this is so central to who we are and why we do what we do here at Salt House. We keep naming that Jesus followers we believe that disorientation is going to keep happening. Right? Fairly often. And we may not like it. That this is life – disruptions are the norm. Which is what makes the bible so compelling, as we see it in the lives of God’s people. They were a disrupted people, and actually “stand firm” was a common phrase not only in Proverbs. It was spoken again and again because they knew storms always keep coming and there is something God does to help us remain grounded.
Stand firm – as central to who we are at Salt House. Our ID, our heartbeat.
And so for us here at Salt House, this is part of our heartbeat, our rhythm, recognizing that disruptions are normative. This past spring we had conversations as we celebrated our one-year birthday – conversations that gathered feedback and vision on who we are and who we want to become. And a word that kept bubbling up out of those conversations was the word transition. Transition. And because of that, this is where we landed with our sense of identity and mission:
Salt House is a ministry with a Christ-centered, casual, interactive, radically inclusive and experimental approach to worship + life together
Salt House reaches out to the fringes of our neighborhood – targeting young adults and all who find themselves in the liminal spaces of life
That’s why we eat together and why we make space to have conversation even in worship – because connection in the midst of disorientation is what we long for. This is why we always come back to asking just two questions: What is God saying to me? What am I going to do about it? Because when we’re in disorientation, you can bet God is going to speak to us about what’s happening, about who we are, about what our new compass will look like as God helps us to reorient in new territory. This is why we said yes to the New Bethlehem Day Center in our basement to serve families experiencing homelessness – because we, like them, also live through hard times of transition, so yes, we would absolutely make space for that kind of help, healing, and growth for those who are in that disorientation.
We are people who keep saying to one another: stand firm. Yeah, there’s been another disruption. Name it. Don’t judge it. Get curious. Pay attention – because God is leading you into reorientation. All of this is work we do, to yes, become we with one another and learn to love well, to love like Jesus loves.
We’re closing out this series on becoming we, but next week we’re beginning our Advent journey, four Sundays, where we will explore the landscape of WONDER. During this magical season of Christmas, we’ll unpack the challenges and questions and postures of how we live with deep wonder, especially in times of disruption. As we believe that God is always up to something.
And we as Salt House will keep facing disruptions as a community, too. …We have another kairos and opportunity that we together need to respond to – and it is facing the question and opportunity as to whether we will sell some of our land to the City of Kirkland to develop a 24 hour shelter for women and for families. At the end of our service Kim Saunders will set us up for that conversation, so we can do that over brunch today, but I name it now for it is so very much connected to the what it means to be people who stand firm through disruption.
As the band comes back up, I want to close our time with a word about hope. What does it mean to hope in the midst of disruption? When everything is turned upside down? Well, there are two types of hope. One type is: it will all be ok. The believing that it will all be ok in the end. In the sweet by and by. And you just sit back and you don’t do anything. That’s one kind of hope. And potentially if things had gone the way we thought in the election, that kind of hope would still be alive.
But a second kind of hope grows in disturbance. And its kind of like the hope that your kid will go to college, it’s the hope that demands you do something – you have to save up the money, pick schools. This is the hope that is birthed when the hope “that it is all going to be ok” dies, when we no longer feel like everything’s progressing and I can sit back and watch Netflix – when that dies, we have to galvanize that second kind of hope – the hope that says we can make a better world. It is a hope that says we have to put our shoulder to the wheel of history and push and push and push.
So my friends, even as we live in disorientation, there is hope. And God is inviting us into a living hope, where we get up and put our shoulders to it and do the active work of hope in the world – and we see people already rising up, have you heard some of the stories of love and justice? Because that’s what Jesus-people do. And that my friends, is the way we get to walk, together. Let’s pray…