More Like Falling In Love Part 2: The Limit Of Words

By

(In which I revisit the thinking behind my song “More Like Falling In Love”)

Give me words
I’ll misuse them
Obligations
I’ll misplace them
‘Cause all religion ever made of me
Was just a sinner with a stone tied to my feet…

Verse two of my song “More Like Falling In Love” begins with a statement about words.

I have a deep affection for words and language and the truth they reveal as well as the stories they conspire to create, which is one of the reasons why, I suppose, I enjoy my vocation as a writer/arranger of words.And yet the older I get the more I’m aware of their limits. Take for instance the exchange of words in any conversation: there are the words you speak and then there are the words that the other person hears, and they rarely carry the same meaning.

I get discouraged about this and try to compensate by painstakingly choosing my words with great care in hopes of avoiding misunderstanding and unnecessary conflict. I do this in my blogs, in my songs, and nearly all of my conversations. It’s a form of control, I suppose – trying to manage things that are ultimately unmanageable.

I also have a deep need to be understood that borders on obsession. That’s why my blogs are always so long – I try to anticipate misunderstandings and preemptively address them. But no matter how many words I pile on top of each other, few will read my words as carefully as I write them and I’m bound to get emails or comments from concerned readers who misunderstand my intent. And even if they do read them carefully, they can’t help but bring their own history and life experience to bear upon them in a way that will inevitably color them differently than I intended.

So, though I love words, they fail me every time.

While it may sound admirable the way I speak of taking such care with the meaning I intend to convey, It can get ugly when I try too hard to control how people will hear my words and even uglier when I try to manage the biases, baggage, and personal interpretations they might bring to them. In my marriage this can look like meaningful conversations degrading into fruitless battles over what was really said or even what certain words mean. “No, that may be what you heard, but that’s not what I said…” is the way that I might try to answer Taya when her feelings get hurt over a misunderstanding. It’s an answer that – even if it’s true – really only serves to clear my name while doing little to make her feel love. My solution has often been to use more and more words to try and clear up the misunderstanding – but more words only mean more opportunities to be misunderstood. A simple apology, willingly validating the other’s feelings and perhaps even absorbing the misunderstanding rather than compounding it, accomplishes so much more.

My mentor told me once that when there is misunderstanding, he has learned to say less in hopes of avoiding more of the same. But I believe in words too much! I keep hoping they can save the day!

I’ve been thinking about Jesus as he stood before Pilate and said… well… nearly nothing at all. Could it be that Jesus knew that words and well-constructed arguments would not save the day? “What is truth?” Pilate asks. Jesus’ answer couldn’t have been more potent when he wordlessly stands there as Truth himself.

Ah words… I love them, but I hate them too. While they are a powerful resource I have for sharing my heart with others, they distort as much as they reveal the truth – and this is the way of it even when my motives are pure! Because of course there are other times when my motives are less than pure. We’re all familiar with the regret of saying things we wish we could unsay. In my anger and hurt I’ve used precious words to wound people. I myself have been wounded by vicious or even merely careless words. Sometimes we wound with the words we do not say.

While we know all too well of the obvious abuse of the power of words, there are subtler and I would say even more insidious forms of this abuse, like when we use words to gain power or to hide.

The Pharisees were lovers of words, and the words they loved and became skilled in appropriating were the very words of God. They became experts at pressing these holy, precious, and true words into the service of stroking their own self-righteousness, silencing their detractors, and gaining power over the people they were supposed to serve. What’s even more impressive is the way they managed to take these holy words that are imbued with life giving power to lay bare the human heart and twist them in such a way as to hide the wickedness of their own hearts. White washed tombs is what Jesus called them.

Indeed, words are easily misused to wound others, distort the truth, and serve personal agendas. Sadder still is how even when we have the best of intentions, our words are still just as likely to distort, wound, and alienate – especially when it comes to conveying love.

In my marriage, that Petri dish of sanctification, I can see how often I’m tempted to love my wife with the love of a Pharisee – hanging on her every word, cataloging them, cross-referencing them in an attempt to understand her, to be a good husband and get a handle on what’s expected of me. But just as the Pharisees knew the words of God inside and out but failed to recognize Jesus as the consummation of all those words, so too have I often heard my wife’s words but missed her heart.

Ah words… you fail me at every turn.

Lately I’ve taken comfort in the notion that maybe even God can relate to my predicament. In the Old Testament God gave us words to live by – ten holy commandments that were to help make us free and come alive.But down through the centuries these words have been misunderstood, maligned, and obscured as more and more words were added for “clarification,” only serving to confuse and leave us more fearful and guilt-ridden than ever.

Is this a failure on God’s part to convey his heart? Or merely one more example of the limits of words – the way the meaning of words (even the words of God) can get lost in translation when we hear them through the filters of our shame, guilt, and fear? Generations later Jesus would try to make it easier on us by telling us that really, there are only two laws to really worry about: Love God, and love others (including yourself), and still we’ve managed to misuse and misunderstand even these.

It’s comforting for me to think that maybe even God knows something of the frustration of the limits of words. But more than that, it’s inspiring to see His solution.

After centuries of words piled upon words, he came up with a new way of speaking, a new language that would speak louder and clearer than all the words that came before. He boiled it all down and spoke a single, living, incarnate Word: Jesus.

In the life of Jesus, the Word made flesh, the heart of God and the intent of the law is finally revealed. The Word of God now had hands to carry us.Love became less of a theory and more of a revolution.Or as I’d like to think our very own Ron Block might say, Love became less of a demand and more of a promise (what do you say Ron, would you have said that?).

Where written words had alienated us, a Living Word redeemed us. That’s not to say, of course, that we should disregard the written words that came before. On the contrary, Jesus said he didn’t come to abolish the law but to complete it. The Living Word – Jesus – helps us to better understand the written word. “Ah, that’s what God meant,” we say in wonder as we see the Mosaic law come alive in the life of Christ.

In other words (ha! Here I go again, hoping to mitigate misunderstanding by using more words!), I can use words to tell my wife I love her, but when I add to those the action of living out my love for her in a way that helps her understand what those spoken words mean (like cleaning up after myself :- ), she’s more likely to believe it when I say “I love you”. Love incarnated is more persuasive than love merely spoken.

I’ve used a lot of words to talk about the limit of words, but permit me a few more as I close with a parting story.

I have listened to the words of many prayers over my lifetime, but there is one that I remember above all the others, and it was prayed over me by my friend Andrew Peterson when I was going through a very difficult time in my life. He listened to my pain and shared some great encouragement from the story of his own life. At the end of several days of conversation, he asked if he could pray for me, and I said yes – grateful but expecting the usual kind of prayer that feels a bit like being preached at. But his prayer was like no other I’ve ever experienced.

We bowed our heads and closed our eyes as he put his hand on my shoulder. And then… silence. No words were spoken in his prayer, but I could feel him moving so I opened my eyes to sneak a peak and found Andrew earnestly praying words in his heart that I would never hear, with tears streaming down his face, his head shaking and bobbing emphatically with passion as he contended in prayer over my situation, in earnest conversation with God… It was not a prayer for the benefit of my hearing, but for the benefit of my soul and it reminded me that we serve a God who hears the deep unspoken groaning of our hearts. When he finished after several minutes, he finally said the one word he would speak of that prayer: “amen”. And I’ve never felt more confident of a prayer being heard as I did that one.


98 Comments

  1. Fellow Traveler

    People can have the best of intentions and sincerely believe they are doing good, yet do more harm than they know.

    I’ve had some painful experiences on the receiving end of that, so I can identify with what Jason is saying here.

  2. Debra Henderson

    I’ve been on both the receiving end and the giving end of verbal shrapnel that was flying. Yet I too so wish to be understood…to be known and to know others more fully. Communication remains a mystery to me many times and I often pray that I’ll do no harm and yet inevitably do…

    I think that perhaps my love language of “words of affirmation” comes into play here as I often feel loved or unloved based on others words and I so often seek to love others with kind words and yet too often fail.

    The fact that in Christ we are fully known amazes me. Thanks Jason for being so open – so vulnerable and putting yourself out there again and again – what courage it takes to offer yourself that way – beautiful!

  3. David

    “The Living Word – Jesus – helps us to better understand the written word. ‘Ah, that’s what God meant,’ we say in wonder as we see the Mosaic law come alive in the life of Christ.”

    Fantastic. The new commandment — “a new commandment I give you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” — is new not because Jesus added to Moses, but because he fulfilled what Moses wrote.

  4. Profile photo of Jason Gray

    Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Hey Fellow Traveler, I like it that we’ve found some common ground! ;- ) Thanks. And sorry to hear that, too. I remember a preacher I heard many many years ago talking about how when we pray to be like Jesus, we should prepare to have enemies and people who misunderstand us. The only way to learn how to love our enemies is if we have enemies that we need to love. I’ve been grateful for that perspective over the years and the way they’ve helped me gain access to grace for those who’ve hurt me. (though admittedly, I have less of that grace sometimes than I do others… but I see fruit in my life that leads me to believe the Lord is growing this in me.)

    Thanks again for reading and commenting.

  5. Fellow Traveler

    You’re welcome Jason. I’ve given you a bit of a hard time, but no hard feelings. 🙂

    I think we should stand on Scripture and earnestly desire to be in accord with it. If other people are not, we should consider whether those battles are worth fighting. Sometimes they definitely are. Other times they definitely aren’t.

    I think too that we often act/speak out of a desire to fix something that really can’t be fixed. I’ve got this one friend with whom I corresponded a LOT over the past year. I found out that he had some exceedingly strange and over-the-top ideas about life and the Bible, and that he just took himself way too seriously. But I really liked him a lot, and I wanted to understand him, so I asked him all kinds of questions about what he believed and went back and forth debating him. I really wanted to reach out and help him get a more balanced view of things, because he was my friend and I hated to see him so misguided. He could be very frustrating and unfair sometimes, and I sometimes teased him and gave him a hard time, but always and only in friendly love.

    However, in the process I said things that I didn’t need to say, and I barreled through in places where it would have been much more prudent to leave well enough alone. See, when I make friends with someone, I go head over heels and give them everything I’ve got. I love on them, I rib them, I argue with them, but whatever I do I don’t do by halves.

    That ended up costing me a lot, because eventually this friend lashed out and said and did some truly hurtful things, completely misunderstanding me and seemingly forgetting all the ways in which I’d shown him my friendship before. Because in amongst my teasings had been many more times when I’d do him a favor and encourage him. Yet it seems that those sorts of things aren’t as easily remembered. So ultimately, my imprudently cheerful bumblings had caused me a lot of unnecessary hurt. I chose to take it as a lesson to pick my battles and not be so insistent on trying to help someone who really doesn’t want my help, even if he really is wrong.

    Hopefully someone else can learn from my mistake there!

  6. Sharon

    This reminds me of “The Final Word” by Michael Card:

    You and me we use so very many clumsy words
    The noise of what we often say is not worth being heard
    When the Father’s wisdom wanted to communicate His love
    He spoke it in one final perfect Word

    He spoke the Incarnation and then so was born the Son
    His final word was Jesus; He needed no other one
    Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way Divine
    And so was born the baby Who would die to make it mine

  7. SecondJon

    (Quick preface: I’m trying to engage in conversation initiated by Jason’s blog post and take it a step further without strictly disagreeing with Jason. I’m not accusing Jason, but pointing out one incorrect direction to go from here.

    On part 1, about those who disagreed with the song, I was told to stop leaving comments if I was one of those who disagreed. I don’t want to overstay my welcome. I’ll try to engage in conversation again, though I’m not sure I’m welcome here since I feel free to disagree with even those I respect.)

    I totally agree that it’s easy to misunderstand and be misunderstood.

    I don’t think the problem is with words themselves.

    The Hebrew word for “word” is /davar/, which can be translated as ‘word’ or ‘thing.’ Words are just as real as food or any other thing. In this mindset, words are concrete saying something to someone, putting a word in their ear, is like putting food in their mouths. Words are important. Words have meaning.

    If words are inherently meaningless or if it’s essentially impossible to communicate meaning, where does that leave us with what God has given us? God gave us his word in the Bible. Jesus was the word, indeed, and he relied on the scriptures, told his disciples to rely on scriptures. When he wanted to get a message to someone, he used words.

    Was God planning on distorting truth as much as communicate it in the Bible?

    Was Jesus hoping to distort truth as much as communicate it?

    Are words essentially meaningless so you can de-construct everything I write (or Jason writes, or Jesus says) and fill it with your own meaning?

    No.

    Words have meaning. Words are the primary way God has chosen to reveal himself to us; words are the primary way God has instructed us to interact with him; words are the primary way God has instructed us to interact with other believers and an unbelieving world.

    Once we jettison the reliability of words, (which is one way to go after discussing their weaknesses, I’m not saying whether or not Jason has done this, I don’t know him well enough) that has a few consequences.

    1. We feel free to start re-defining words with our own special meaning. If words are essentially meaningless, then we can use them to mean however we want. This introduces real problems in communication. If I define, say, “love” as an emotional high and someone else defines love as allegiance, and someone else defines love as a type of goldfish; if we are free to redefine every word and have no common understanding, we’ve undercut our communication.

    2. We begin to redefine the Bible where we aren’t comfortable with the message. The Bible defines loving God as “walking in obedience to his commands.” But if words are always failing, then God’s commands as recorded in the Bible are just up for grabs. Rather than having any foundation, everything comes down to what filter different people are using, and the focus is turned away from God’s word into ourselves. But if it’s impossible to understand God’s commands, then it’s impossible to love God.

    If the problem isn’t the the nature of words, what is it?

    An old proverb – maybe from Confucius – has always stuck with me: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

    I think most of the time that we don’t understand is because we don’t want to.

    It’s easy to misunderstand, but it takes some work to understand. That’s on the receiving end of communication, and as the hearer or reader, the goal ought to be to really understand what the other person is saying, which may often take the form of asking clarification questions.

    On the sending end of communication, we can grind understanding to a halt by refusing to be clear and remaining purposely vague. Politicians are great at this, talking about an issue yet not giving any specificity. It’s a great strategy when you want to deceive or when you’re afraid of the consequences of someone finding out what you really think.

    So if a friend is not understanding me, the problem is either that I’m being purposely vague, or my friend is not interested in understanding.

    Certainly one word may not perfectly describe where I’m coming from, but thanks to other words, we can seek and give clarification.

    I am responsible for the words I say, and I am responsible for putting time and effort into understanding the words of others. It’s not appropriate for me to outsource my responsibility onto the nature of words. That would simply be seeking to shirk my own or someone else’s responsibility.

    I suppose what it boils down to is: we use words imperfectly and we don’t seek to really understand each other, so we need to use words better with more clarity and to seek clarity from others.

  8. Mike

    I’ve learned that people rarely hear, or care really, what you say; but they do remember how you make them feel.

    My wife sent an email last night outlining the load she is carrying due to the end of school (she’s a first grade teacher) the upcoming wedding of our 20 year old daughter, baseball games for our 9 year old son, etc to one of our leaders at church. My also works with our media team at church and wanted a replacement for the month of May. The reply was “sure.” That’s it. One Word. A word that should have been positive but felt so negative.

  9. Fellow Traveler

    Mike, good point which applies in the area of defending the faith as well. Many people can shoot rapid-fire questions without much thought, but it takes time and care to provide thorough answers. But often you’ll find that no matter how much time you put into answering the question, your hard work will go unappreciated as the person continues jumping from question to question without pausing to really consider what you’re giving him. At that point it’s best not to waste any more time and move on, because it’s clear that the truth is not earnestly being sought after.

  10. Becky

    Words. They can be so powerful, for well or ill. Our minds are filled with words as we think through our day. Words are our primary way of communicating. Then we add layers of tone, volume, emphasis, facial expressions, body language and gestures.

    Words can wound or heal, eddify or tear us down, bring understanding or confuse us.

    We have God’s Word, but even the words of the Bible tell us not to use words all the time. We’re told to “mourn with those who mourn…” Wives are told they can win over an unbelieving or disobedient husband “without words, but by chaste and respectful behavior”

    God understands that we will have times of misunderstanding. But He will never misunderstand our words, as our souls cry out to Him with the help of the Holy Spirit that intercedes when words fail us.

    Thank you, Jason, for putting your heart out on your sleeve for all to see. Your music (lyrics) are wonderfully moving.

  11. Heather Carrillo

    I think perhaps “dialogue” is not the problem, but perhaps “monologue” is. We can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Josef Pieper’s “Abuse of Language; Abuse of Power” is a really good resource for this question.

  12. Jazz

    if some one wanted my true opinion on something, they would have to give me several peices of paper and a pen. I do not give very good speaking opinions. I could write for hours on one subject.

  13. Nick and Susan

    “There are the words you speak and then there are the words that the other person hears”.

    I’m frequently paralyzed by that fact. Especially if a conversation takes place with someone I’ve known for a long time, or a family member. It can be hard not to speak without first bearing in mind all the baggage a person has got and therefore arranging your words based on that fact. It drains me. Hence, my paralysis keeps my mouth shut – too much misunderstanding can cause one to seek the safe haven of being the sort of person that ‘doesn’t say much’, and then no one ‘expects’ anything verbally from you. (or perhaps the haven of being hidden safely behind this screen – I wouldn’t say a peep to any of you face to face!)

    On the flip side, oh how my words spiral out of control when trying to explain something to my husband, if he doesn’t ‘get’ it first time I’ll try another angle, then another, on and on ad nauseam.

    I wonder whether fear is at the root (or even pride) of all of this. I want freedom to be honest, but hold back because of fear (pride?).

    Interesting thoughts – I liked the story you ended with. Oh, how many times are our prayers said for the sake of the hearer – on one hand it can be helpful but I wonder whether we’d pray differently for someone if they were deaf.

    Susan

  14. Heather Carrillo

    Also, there are those times when you *think* the person doesn’t understand you, but really you just disagree. I think that should be brought to light. I’ve often had someone explain and re explain and re explain what they are saying and it isn’t at all that I don’t understand. I just disagree.

  15. Leigh Mc

    Ah, words. They fail me too, and I’m a writer as well. My worst vice in that regard is demanding surgical precision from myself in expressing what I mean (there’s a wicked editing process going on in my head all the time), and then anticipating a certain reaction when those carefully crafted words are received. The word-wrangling process is much messier than that–and requires real patience and forbearance on both ends. (More than I often possess.) I have to be willing to be misunderstood and rejected when I write. And I can’t follow anyone around with a book of mine and say “Do you get it?” or, “I’ve grown since then–what I should have said was…” I have to do my best and let it go. Emily Dickinson helps me here: “Tell the truth but tell it slant, success in circuit lies; too bright for our infirm delight, the truth’s superb surprise. Like lightning to the children eased with explanation kind, the truth must dazzle, gradually, or every man be blind.” Jesus could have blinded anyone with his words. Instead, he often kept silent, or told the truth in circuit: “A certain man had two sons…” But for the record: Jason Gray has a winsome way with words!

  16. Fellow Traveler

    I do agree with Heather. There can be times when the other person understands you perfectly but simply takes another view.

    In that case… just decide whether it’s worth fighting out, or not. Often, it may well not be worth it.

  17. Cindy Keiger

    This is oh so, oh so, oh so true!! and I have nothing else to say 🙂 except Thank you for sharing!

  18. Jennifer

    Jason, You are an amazingly gifted “arranger of words” and my all-time favorite lyricist.
    I, too, often am frustrated by the limitations of words. They seem such shallow containers for conveying such deep feelings from one heart to another.

  19. Peter Br

    Jason… Brother… Twin?

    When you open yourself up to share the lessons, longings, and lacerations of your own marriage, it’s like you’re holding up a mirror (with the possible exception of the orange toilet episode). I am that one with the too many words, who seeks to nail down every hidden meaning in an attempt to understand and be understood — when often (like tonight), my poor wife just needs someone to enfold her and accept her in her worn-out, exasperated state as she unloads. Of course, being the sort of person I am, I end up taking it personally, and then I become the caustic wielder of even more words, seeking to justify myself at her expense.

    In short, this was as timely as it gets.

    Words are a wonderful gift, but oh, how we sinners can misuse them. Maybe somebody should write a song about that.

    Thanks be to God who did not — does not — leave us in our brokenness.

  20. Becca

    Thanks for this, Jason. I resonate with your struggle so much! The most destructive sins I have ever committed have been word-related.

    Even yesterday, I was careless and fumbled something. It was a thoughtless, playful comment; but immediately, the ripples of damage started spreading and growing. My heart sank when I realized it had happened again. The gap between intent and reception is so awful.

    One more Sayers quote below, plus two questions seeking advice. (Please don’t hate me for obsessing on her this week. I’m trying to sift and incorporate the wealth.)

    First the quote:

    “The habit, very prevalent today, of dismissing words as ‘just words’ takes no account of their power. But once the Idea has entered other minds, it will tend to reincarnate itself there with ever-increasing Energy and ever-increasing Power. It may for some time incarnate itself only in more words, more books, more speeches; but the day comes when it incarnates itself in actions, and this is its day of judgment. ”

    Now the question:

    How do we (as writers) incorporate freedom/playfulness/grace into the creative process alongside a healthy sobriety, knowing that Ideas that will domino into Energy and Power?

    And how does the inevitable gap between creator and receptor play into that? (Sayers talks about spending time ‘sitting in the audience’ listening to how our writing will be received. But what about when you can’t anticipate that fully?)

  21. joe

    It always bothered me that in response to a Ron Block comment on becoming more concise in language, I responded “Brevity is the soul of twit”. By “twit” I was referring to the social networking site Twitter. It occurred to me that one of the wisest men on earth may have perceived me as calling him a twit. This is kind of funny, but still brings me a bit of angst. Sorry Ron Block. By that I mean “I am sorry Ron Block”, not that Ron Block is sorry. Ug. (there has to be a better way to communicate. Is it too late for everyone to learn greek?)

  22. Loren

    Thank you, Jason! I totally understand what you’re saying! …Or do I? Maybe I’m imposing too much of myself onto your words…. Yikes! This could truly drive one made! As the great playwright said, “Words, words, words….” He sure knew how to play with them!

    I’ve recently finished (I think) a serious email conversation–one I felt I had to initiate, but since it involved confrontation I hated it. To say the least, I did a LOT of praying that my words would be godly, but also that they would be heard and understood. Though I believe God gave me the grace to be godly, it became increasingly obvious that my words weren’t understood. I had hoped, since I felt God was pushing me to the conversation, that He would blast minds with truth and change everything (and that I wouldn’t be prideful about my effective communication!). Instead I realized through the course of it that God used the conversation to help me see the situation more clearly, and evaluate my behavior in the matter, so in that sense, the words were effective. I think it is a case where the other party didn’t just choose to misunderstand me, but rather disagreed, but wouldn’t come outright and say it. And that to me was especially frustrating.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts on words. In the end they’re only effective as God is working through them. He always does. It’s just the results aren’t necessarily what we expect. After all, that Perfect Word was nothing like what was expected!

    Thanks again for your good and effective words, Jason!

  23. Profile photo of Jason Gray

    Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Becca – wow, great question… I don’t think I have an answer, except for a kind of vague one… for what it’s worth, I guess like I feel humility plays a big part… I also know that fear is one of our greatest enemies, robbing us blind as we let it, so I think it’s right to move forward resisting the kind of fear that would paralyze us. So we need boldness, too. And trust.

    I guess I write/speak/sing now knowing that I’m only seeing part of the picture and am probably wrong in a 100 different ways. But I think there’s still a value in putting it out there. I think it’s how we grow and how we are blessed to help other’s grow. So I try to communicate and use words with humility, boldness, a certain respect for words that gives me pause. Sometimes I fail, sometimes I don’t, but I think I honor God with my trust. He has given for us to speak the truth as best as we know how in any given moment. He dignifies us in that way, it’s so generous, and it emboldens me and humbles me at the same time.

    It all goes to hell, literally, when I get defensive and too clingy to my stance (I know this thought breaks down – there are certain absolutes that we must cling to, but in general I think this statement is true. Clinging to things I assume I’ve figured out also prevents my growth. I grow by having my assumptions challenged, continually letting go of lesser truths to take hold of greater truth.)

    SecondJon – it saddens me to think that you feel unwelcome here. I would propose that there may be a filter at work there. As far as I’m concerned, you are absolutely welcome here :- ) And often the fruit of gentle disagreement is growth, so I’m game for whatever you have to say.

    I do feel like you read things into what I say and write that weren’t intended, but that’s probably just a personality difference, and that’s cool. We all have a part to bring, right?

    I heard a pastor say a very provocative statement recently that seems appropriate to what we’re talking about here and will probably irritate some people and yet seems relevant here, or at least good grist for the mill. He said that for many evangelicals, the Holy Trinity consists of God the Father, The Son, and the Holy BIble. Oooooh…. that one stings a bit :- )

    Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not demeaning the Word in any sense (and yes I know that one of the ways the Holy Spirit speaks to us is by bringing the word to remembrance for us…), but I find it an interesting thought and consistent with my understanding of my own weakness that I would try to work the Holy Spirit out of his job by relying solely on the scriptures in a way that resists the discomfort of trusting the Spirit.

    The Holy Spirit in some (not all) ways represents a less structured and potentially subjective voice in the life of the church… It would be easier to have a simple rule-book with every thing clearly stated so that we could obligingly toe the line and get along with each other a lot better.

    But reality is messier than that, and requires MASSIVE amounts of trust and humility. The question I’m asking myself is how uncomfortable am I with the tension of what I’m talking about here? And how much of my dogma (and even our doctrine – which, believe me, I value and know is important) is me trying to pin God down and relieve myself of the harder work of trust, humility, and surrender to the leading of the Holy Spirit?

    What makes relying on the Holy Spirit so hard is that it’s sometimes hard to tell when it’s the Holy Spirit talking and when it’s just our spirit. Of course the Word helps us here, dividing soul and spirit. But just like there are people who rely too heavily on their feelings about God, I’ve encountered people who relied too heavily on the written word. I guess the Pharisees again help us see how that goes wrong.

    Don’t get mad at me everyone, In no way am I invalidating the role of the Word of God. I love God’s word. I’m just asking myself if I ever abuse it by trying to make it give me relief from the tension of trusting. I want certainty, but God desires our trust.

    Just thinking out loud. Thanks for engaging this everybody, grateful. Especially grateful that you came back and joined the conversation SecondJon :- )

  24. Profile photo of Jason Gray

    Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Just thinking about the further challenge that blog comments provides for us with words and how other people interpret them. I find myself reduced to using emoticons all the time in hopes that the gentle tone I intend comes through. I actually HATE emoticons, and yet will gladly use them if it helps avert hurting someone’s feelings or helps clear misunderstanding

    🙂

  25. Heather Carrillo

    Jason, I don’t think Second John is reading into anything. I also felt unwelcome so that’s at least two people, and he was actually TOLD to stop. I think it is not a personality difference, I think I (and Second John as well, as far as I can tell) just disagreed with your last post. Which is also fine. There is a LOT of doctrine and issues of doctrine that are (not that I’d ever say UNimportant), but further out on scale of importance.

    You said: “I heard a pastor say a very provocative statement recently that seems appropriate to what we’re talking about here and will probably irritate some people and yet seems relevant here, or at least good grist for the mill. He said that for many evangelicals, the Holy Trinity consists of God the Father, The Son, and the Holy BIble. Oooooh…. that one stings a bit :-)”

    You’re absolutely right. Even the emoticons didn’t help. This really is irritating. For many reasons. A. You assume that is what people who disagree with you think; and B. I don’t really know WHAT you are trying to do with this example, but you are definitely downplaying the word! I also do not remotely understand the “discomfort with the Spirit” reference. I don’t know how that is discomforting. I believe in the Trinity and I believe God is revealed in His Word…which, you seem to think if one “relies too heavily on the Word” (cause oh yeah, I totally think THAT can be done….yes, that is sarcasm), they are Pharisees.

    You seem to think trusting in God and relying on the Word are different. You have to trust the Word, Jason. That is God’s revelation. Since it IS the word of God it seems you can trust it, and even rely on it. I perhaps am not understanding what you’re saying, but I am willing to bet that we just disagree. And an assumption that trust in God is different from reliance on the Word seems to me a lot closer to the center on the scale of importance.

  26. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Haha Joe! I mean ha-ha as in laughing at your comment, not at you. And of course I’m not saying that laughing at someone in particular is wrong. I really don’t have any opinion in the matter, or, if I do, my opinion is not worth anymore than anyone else’s, of course.

  27. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    In discussion, what matters more than anything is tone. Especially online discussion, where tone is not audible.

    If someone’s comment makes you angry, it’s good to take some time to respond, and come back to it only when cooled down. Otherwise these little emotional buzz words get in there and what the other person hears is not Truth, but “You are a blithering, brainless, knuckleheaded, nonsensical waste of skin, you moronic know-it-all. How you even justify one minute of your existence I cannot fathom. Of course, I mean that in the best possible way, in Christian love.”

    One thought about the Word of God. We can know the Word of God thoroughly in an intellectual sense. We can know all about isms and the Atonement and Legalism and Grace and What Christ Accomplished On The Cross and any number of other topics; we can even write about it and teach it. It all means absolutely nothing if we do not choose to rely on those truths as Reality and step out in faith.

    So yes, the Word of God is important. It is where we must start, and continue. But the letters on the page may just as well be from The Diary of a Wimpy Kid if we read them without relying on the One who inspired them, the One who claims to live inside us, claims to be omnipresent (wherever you are, He is), claims there is nothing to worry about, claims He is the power in you to will and to act according to His good pleasure.

    That’s what Jason’s illustration brings out – the false trinity. Father, Son, Bible. The written Word of God is not a Person. It points us to a Person – the Person in whom we must all put wholehearted unmitigated reliance.

    We can know the Word and be utterly deceived in its meaning if we do not embrace the same Spirit who inspired it. The Bible as Instruction Manual: “Do This And Ye Shall Live” (a book of Law). Or the Bible as proclaiming the “senile benevolence” spoken of by Lewis. The Bible itself is letter; in order to understand it, we view it through the lens of Spirit.

  28. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Becca: One large mistake I have made many times in my life is that when I begin to learn something in my head, I begin to teach it to others. Something akin to someone wanting to play banjo and reading books about it, then talking about it to other people. Until he gets the banjo in his hands, encounters the very real problems with learning it, and really begins to be able to play, he cannot effectively transmit “How To Play Banjo” to others.

    I am learning, when in a learning phase of something, to keep my mouth shut, to let the caterpillar stay in the cocoon. When the butterfly comes out and begins to fly it can do the teaching.

  29. Heather Carrillo

    @Ron Block: I’m guessing your “argument suggestions” were aimed at me since it was pretty clear that I was irritated. I would add to that, that if one does not want that sort of response, one should not purposefully post things in full knowledge that they will annoy others. Nay, for the purpose OF annoying others.

    I’m going to point out here that this is perhaps why I feel unwelcome. The attitude of “You disagree?…what a jerk/moron/know-nothing/pharisaical person you must be.” Anyone is allowed to say anything to you for the purpose of hurting or irritating you, but if you get mad you are very bad…how is that encouraging dialogue?

    The Word doesn’t just point us to a person, it is the revelation OF that person. It’s so much more awesome (in the sense of awe and not in the sophomoric exclamation kind of way) than how I’m hearing it described. We cannot truly KNOW the Word and not embrace the Spirit. They are mutually exclusive.

    The false trinity thing just doesn’t make any sense to me at all. I still don’t understand the point. No one worships the bible, but you have to rely on it for the revelation of God.

  30. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Jason: Words come out of that inner Choice. Either we walk in accord with the same Spirit that spoke through the lips of Jesus, the Spirit of Love (even when the words were harsh, they were from Love) – or we are motivated by the spirit of the Pharisees: “You are of your father, the devil, and his works ye will do.” Jesus spoke what he heard the Father saying. Those particular Pharisees spoke what they heard their father saying. Both used the Word of God. Both came to vastly different, even opposite conclusions about the Word of God.

    Jesus trusted in a Father who is love, a Father in whom he is the only begotten Son of God, a Father who sustained, fueled, fed, watered, energized him, spoke through him, did mighty works through him. If we are walking that way in the moment, the spirit of our words can’t be too far off.

    Also I think we often miss the heart of what someone is saying because we are looking too hard at the dotting of every “i” and the crossing of every “t.”

  31. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Heather: You are guessing wrong. I have been in online discussions like this for over fifteen years. I have seen every type of arguing possible. I can assure you I was not picking you out in particular. I meant, in particular, myself, Jason, you, Becca, and everyone else I’ve read on this thread, and in fact every human being that ever debates anything. This is something to watch out for in ourselves, period. We have all done it, spoken words from the wrong spirit – the spirit of not listening for the good in what the other person is saying, instead lobbing grenades with emotional buzz words that explode in the human consciousness and cause only animosity. For instance, I could say to my son, “Please clean up the mess from making your sandwich.” Or I could say, “GEEEEZ, could you PLEASE clean up the mess YOU MADE with that sandwich.” The first statement is without judgment; it’s simply stating a fact (he made a mess) and an imperative (clean it up, please). The second statement says, “You are messy. That is your identity. I am so annoyed with that.”

    On seeing good in what the other person is saying – for instance, in a legalistic person there is a real desire for holiness, goodness, doing what is right. That’s a good thing. Trying to be holy in the wrong way is the wrong part. A licentious Christian wants freedom. Freedom is a good thing. Exercising freedom in destructive ways is the bad part. Seeing the good first in what someone else is saying is a good rule of thumb.

    On the false trinity idea: I have known people who don’t trust the Holy Spirit within them. I have been one of those folks at times and in certain areas of trust. Instead, we want to go to the Divine Rule Book. “Just show me what I need to DO.” But God says, “I’m the one in you who is willing and doing in you. Trust me to do that, and step out in faith.”

    Suppose Corrie Ten Boom, when asked “Are there any Jews hiding in your house?” had thought, “Oh…Thou Shalt Not Lie…” and then said, “Yes. They’re in the basement.” She would have kept the rule, but not the spirit of the law, the spirit of Love.

  32. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Heather: Yes – we cannot truly know the word, in the sense of ‘ginosko” (intimate knowing, used also in a sexual sense, meaning union, or being mixed with or one with what we know) and not know Jesus Christ. But there is an intellectual knowledge, a head knowledge we can have. This can be very impressive to others, and yet when it comes down to it we may not be trusting God very much at all. An illiterate person who only knows Jesus died for his sins and now lives in him by the Spirit, and trusts those very simple facts, is much better off than a theologian who knows everything about God but cannot actually step out in faith. Of course, I think it is better to have both – head knowledge and heart/faith/trust/walking knowledge.

  33. Heather Carrillo

    @Ron Block: I deeply apologize. It came right after my (irritated) post, so I just assumed. You know what they say you do when you assume. (har har har)

    My typical rule is to read what the person is saying and not think about tone, and it usually keeps me fairly grounded. I mean, sometimes there is just a need to develop a thicker skin (she says while still miffed at being called a pharisee, but seriously) especially on these online forums. I’m wary of them myself due to a lack of what I would call “dialogue” and an inability to read body language. But since this is what we have for now, and no knowledge of one another, I think we should sort of not overthink the tone thing too much. Assume that the person means exactly what their words say, which is also a good argument for making a valiant attempt at dotting ‘i’s and crossing ‘t’s.

    I can’t imagine when/how the Spirit would lead you down a different path than the Bible would. The bible reveals the Spirit…who is God (yes, my terminology/words do fall apart when talking about the trinity) so I still don’t see a dichotomy here. Corrie Ten Boom is a perfect example! Because she can think “Thou Shalt Not Lie” (which the bible doesn’t technically say) and THEN she could think immediately of Rahab…and lie. That’s why I am having a really hard time wrapping my mind around this weird example.

    And I absolutely agree with your head knowledge only point. You do indeed need both. Oddly enough that was one of my main thoughts from the other blog.

  34. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Ha yes Heather. Well, I have been called, alternately, legalistic, or just wanting an excuse to sin, or any number of different isms. I know I’m hitting close to the mark when being accused of radically opposite things by different people.

    I think the Spirit can lead us down a different path than what other people think the Bible means. Like the Rahab or Corrie Ten Boom example. Love won out over a rule because Corrie was operating by the Spirit of Love.

    I’ve found it is entirely possible to fool ourselves that we are trusting God and walking in the Spirit when we are really only studying the Bible and making our heads fatter. The Christian life is about letting things filter down past the neck.

    And yes, assume that the other person means exactly the words they are saying. I am learning do this even in daily life – to take people at the face value of their words, rather than reading too much into body language, tone, and suspected intention (remember Screwtape talking about the patient’s relationship with his mother). Also assume that the other person has good intentions and means the best. That is a major blow to the devil’s schemes.

  35. SecondJon

    @Jason Gray,

    So just to clarify….

    Me being told by Pete Peterson to stop commenting should have made me feel welcomed, and if being told to shut up didn’t communicate welcomeness to me it was just an internal issue with my “filter” (your word, not mine)?

    Your comparing me to a Pharisee and an idolater because, of all things I *gasp* prioritize the Bible rather than the “subjective” (your word, not mine)… this should also make me feel welcome, and otherwise it’s just my “filter” (your phrase, not mine)?

    Frankly, it doesn’t seem like this is an open-minded place to discuss unless we “toe the line” (your phrase, not mine). Anyone who has a differing perspective is a idolatrous Pharisee.

    I suppose I’ll just respond on my own blog. You can comment there and call me whatever names you want, I won’t ask you to stop commenting simply for disagreeing… unless through your filter that would make you feel welcome, which is what it sounds like… in that case don’t you dare comment on my blog (by which, of course, I mean you should feel extra welcome to leave comments).

    I’ll post my full response there shortly.

  36. Profile photo of Jason Gray

    Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Heather: You said: “A. You assume that is what people who disagree with you think; ”

    I believe that in what I wrote, I was talking about myself, the conviction that statement brought to me personally. I was challenged by it. So I guess if anything, I was disagreeing with myself, my own tendencies, my own lust for certainty, my own spiritual allergies to trust, humility and surrender. I just brought it up here in case it resonated or might convict anyone else. I’m not sure that it works as a blanket statement, but I shared it trusting that it would find it’s mark in anyone that the Holy Spirit intended.

    You also said: “and B. I don’t really know WHAT you are trying to do with this example, but you are definitely downplaying the word! I also do not remotely understand the “discomfort with the Spirit” reference. I don’t know how that is discomforting. I believe in the Trinity and I believe God is revealed in His Word…which, you seem to think if one “relies too heavily on the Word” (cause oh yeah, I totally think THAT can be done….yes, that is sarcasm), they are Pharisees.”

    Well, if you don’t understand it, then maybe it’s not for you, maybe it’s not something the Spirit would use to speak to you. Maybe it’s not corrective for you. However, it has seemed to elicit a strong reaction in you, so if I were you – meaning, what I do in those circumstances – is I would be curious what that is about. Maybe it’s about nothing, but maybe it is. I find whenever I get riled up it means something, and I try to follow it back to it’s source. Not saying you should or need to, I don’t mean that in a condescending way at all, I just mean that’s what I try to do and it’s usually illuminating.

    Like why do I get riled up whenever I hear someone talk about John Piper? I have discovered that I have some wounds there, and when I follow it back to the source, there is an opportunity for the Lord to speak to me about it.

    You also said: “…it was pretty clear that I was irritated. I would add to that, that if one does not want that sort of response, one should not purposefully post things in full knowledge that they will annoy others. Nay, for the purpose OF annoying others.”

    If you think that was my purpose, then I’m afraid I’ve been misunderstood. If that’s who you think I am, I don’t blame you for being irritated with me – that would be annoying. I’m sorry if that’s the way I come off, that’s not who I intend to be. I do like talking about provocative things because I think they can help us have productive conversations that can grow us. Like when I read a book, I rarely like reading books by people I already agree with, I much prefer to read books by people whose belief and understanding of truth is at a slight variance from mine. It helps me see things I wouldn’t otherwise see. This is how I process, by having those kinds of conversations. Sometimes I have them in the form of a blog.

    I love Ron’s admonition to give a person the benefit of the doubt first. I wonder how my comments and my posts would read if read in light of assuming that I mean the best. I don’t expect you to agree with everything I say, but as yet I haven’t really felt like I’ve been heard. I think I’ve contended with you here and elsewhere in the spirit of “that’s not what I’m saying”. But that’s probably how you feel, too – and what a terrible feeling that is. I am sorry about that. I’m trying to hear you. I think I understand some of what you’re saying, and very much agree. That’s why I undermined my own statements by acknowledging that they aren’t perfect statements, but I offer them, imperfect as they are, more as conversation starters than as dogma.

    And about trusting the word too much – all I mean is that Mother Theresa and Pastor Fred Phelps of the insidious Westboro Baptist Church are reading from the same bible. The fruit is very different, so there must be another ingredient that is necessary. I think you and I would agree that that ingredient may be the Holy Spirit who oversees the word and brings it to life in our hearts.

    See, even this conversation here I think is helping us clarify and come to a position that is closer to the truth. I hope so anyway. And to demonstrate my sincerity, I offer this: ;- )

  37. Heather Carrillo

    Oh absolutely! Pharisee/Radical/Fundementalist/Liberal theologian….you name it, I’ve been called it, and I only assume it will get worse as I age. 🙂

    Yes, the Spirit can lead us down a separate path than what people THINK the Bible means, which would be the path the Bible DOES mean. See, I just don’t think you could seriously study the word of God and NOT have it trickle past the neck. I mean, you COULD say the Pharisees did, but I’m pretty positive they weren’t actually saved (Matthew 23). I think it’s pretty impossible to study the Word of God seriously and just retain head knowledge only. I do not think that applies to doctrine. You can study doctrine alone without it getting to your heart, but not the Word. I just remain unconvinced that is possible.

    Yes, good Lewis example (…as if there were a bad one, am I right?) I do; however, differentiate tone from “implied meaning.” I think if I said something like “Well, GEE, Ron Block, I would THINK that an ACTUAL educated man would believe…fill in the blank.” I don’t think you would be out of line to assume I was calling you uneducated, and for taking me to task on this kind of language. So, if I ever say stuff like that, don’t let me get away with a “you are reading into my words” excuse. 🙂

  38. Profile photo of Jason Gray

    Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    SecondJon

    I didn’t see in the thread of the last post where that happened and I’m headed out the door now so I don’t have a chance to verify. If that’s the case, I am sorry. At least it wasn’t me who told you to stop, can we agree on that?

    And I know Pete and am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I know sometimes he steps in when he feels like it’s beginning to be unfruitful contending. He’s had words with me about that before, too. It’s tough as the moderator to wade through all that’s being said and know when to step in or not. If you feel like you were shut down, that is duly noted. I apologize, and assure you that I don’t think that’s the spirit of this place – imperfect as it may be.

    Please come back (if you like), I mean that.

  39. SecondJon

    The Pharisees’ problem wasn’t that they knew the word. Is that they put the word aside and elevate man’s word, the “subjective” to the same level as scripture.

    Did Jesus ever tell people they were just placing too high of a priority on the word? I don’t recall this, but I’d be interested if anyone has a passage come to mind.

    If Jesus never said anything like this, why are we so gung-ho about promoting a message so different than what Jesus teaches?

  40. Heather Carrillo

    Jason: It elicited a strong reaction because I was insulted. Sometimes, when you are insulted, you have a strong reaction. That is all.

    You posted the quote under the impression that it “will probably irritate some people.” How can I possibly understand from that that you didn’t meant to irritate some people. You knew it

    No, I’m pretty sure you know what I’m saying, and I’m fairly certain we disagree. So, I’m not concerned about the “that’s not what I’m saying,” thing. What I am concerned about is an implied (and it’s there even though not in actual words) understanding that I am not loving God because I am loving…the bible too much. This confuses and angers me not a little.

    Honestly, Jason, I can’t give you the benefit of the doubt because I don’t know you. You can’t do the same for me. I don’t expect you to read my heart and I don’t expect to read yours. I can however, interact with your words. We’re just going to have to try harder with words or agree to disagree. I’m ok with both.

    *Cough* We are assuming Fred Phelps READS his Bible. I would argue that he does not, and if he does he is not studying it.

  41. Profile photo of Jason Gray

    Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Okay, my choice of words is imperfect (I’m proving my own blog I guess :- )

    I think Ron expressed it better, I read what he wrote and I was like, “yeah, that’s what I’m trying say!”

    And one verse that gets closer to what I mean is 2 Cor. 3:6 where Paul says:

    He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant–not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. NIV

    Or:
    He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life. NLT

    Does that help you get a clearer sense of what I was trying to say?

  42. Heather Carrillo

    Wow, that’s weird. I totally didn’t finish the second paragraph. Alas for having no “delete comment” button! What I meant to say was. “You knew it would irritate some people and even said as much.”

  43. Heather Carrillo

    It…does help clarify your thoughts, but I’m positive that doesn’t mean we can rely on the bible too much. I’m just about sure that is referring to the Covenant with Israel, embodied in the Commandments which pretty much just served as reminders that God was gracious because there was no way they were keeping all of those. I mean, you know this, we all know this. I’m not even sure why I’m telling you. 🙂

    The point is, the Word of God and the Law are different things. We can have too much reliance on the Law, but we can’t have too much reliance on the Word of God.

  44. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Heather – yes on “I would think if you actually had a brain…” statements. One thing, though. The more secure we get in who Christ is in us, his unlimited love for us, his abiding and energizing power, the less we will give a rip about What Others Think Of Me (or Say). I’m finding this in my relationships. If I trust the Lord Jesus Christ, that Spirit that lives in me, and recognize his continual presence, that I am always in him and he is always in me, that I no longer need any kind of validation, that I no longer need other people to like me, or agree with me, that they are free to even hate me and insult me if they desire – as I come closer to living out these things, I am finding, seeing in experience that I am caring less and less What Others Think Of Me and caring more and more How Others Feel. It is that continual recognition of Christ as present, immanent, and present, transcendent, that makes a huge difference. What does it matter if a thousand grenades were thrown at me if am standing inside a fortress with steel walls 100 feet thick? Likewise, what does it matter if I am insulted, or others attempt to manipulate me, or try to make me feel bad due to their own flesh-trips? What matters is that Christ died for me, and rose for me. And he died for them, and rose for them.

    This is why seeing Christ in the other believer is crucial. Our unity does not come from a strict uniformity of doctrine. It comes from seeing the reality of Galatians 2:20, that I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. I died, and my life is hidden with Christ in God. Same with Jason, same with Jon, same with all of us. No matter where we are in our understanding of Scripture, of Spirit, of Father, we are all reborn children of that same Father.

    Not that doctrine isn’t important. As anyone who has been here long can testify, I talk a lot about truth, about reality, about the Word. But total agreement isn’t going to happen in a lot of cases, which is why it is all-important that we no longer know men after the flesh appearance. We no longer look at the outside; we’re to no longer give a flesh-identity to the people around us, because our fellow believers are just as in Christ as we are, and Christ is as much in them as he is in us.

  45. Profile photo of Pete Peterson

    Pete Peterson

    @pete

    Everyone’s point of view is welcome. Some attitudes, however, are not. The Rabbit Room has had a thriving and thoughtful conversation going on for years, but in the last few months quite a few attitudes have arisen that are actively alienating long time readers and commenters.

    Several times in the last couple of weeks I’ve heard statements like the following from various readers: “I don’t even read the comments anymore because people are more interested in proving themselves right than hearing what others have to say.”

    The tone of the Rabbit Room has always been one of friendship and understanding. Disagreement is welcome but it needs to be accompanied by a genuine respect for each party and a genuine effort to understand (and learn from) their point of view, even if–especially if–you disagree with it. That’s what’s missing in quite a few comments lately, a desire to understand.

    I’ve never asked anyone to stop commenting and hope I never need to. I have, however, had to edit offensive and insulting comments, and have pointed out instances when people are merely rehashing points that have already been discussed ad nauseum to prevent the particular thread from being dragged back into debate. The Rabbit Room is not, and never will be, a place for hot debate. Productive discussion in search of understanding? Yes. Debate? No. The internet is filled with sites that welcome that sort of thing. The Rabbit Room isn’t one of them.

    I think I speak for each of the Rabbit Room contributors when I say that we share our thoughts, stories, and struggles in order to draw one another into a more perfect understanding of each other, of our world, of our art, and of our God. We invite you to join in that ongoing revelation, and that means that you are invited to see us both at our best, and at our most fallible.

    So please, come on in, join the table and let your voice be heard, but be mindful of one other, speak in love, seek understanding, and practice resurrection.

  46. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    One more bit just to be clear. We are going to have reactions. We are going to feel certain things when it seems we’re being insulted; we’ll feel anger, frustration, even hatred. But those feelings aren’t who we are; those are things in our soul, inner circumstances that are happening. It’s important to refrain from self-condemnation or self-justification at how we feel. A feeling is just what it is; it comes and goes like the wind.

    What we’ve got to center on is that we are spirit-people. We are reborn as saints – holy, loved, accepted children of God, filled with power and energy and love. But a billion dollars in the bank does us little good if we don’t know or believe if it’s there.

  47. Becca

    Ron:

    I love the butterfly example, and I have definitely been guilty of cutting open the cocoon too early. I think I did that on Jason’s last “Falling in Love” post. If RR had a “delete” button, I’d go back and erase a bunch of that.

    I’ve been thinking about this tendency of mine a lot this week, and I’ve realized that I tend to mistake for three main reasons:

    1.) The excitement of learning. Bubbling over from it. There is a natural overflow that happens when I’m joyful about something.

    2.) I learn by writing. The physical act of making words seems to embed things deeply in my brain. And sometimes writing even unlocks things. This is difficult to describe briefly, however I will leave it at this for now.

    3.) Putting faith in my own fleshly power to redeem a situation. This is essentially idolatry, because I’m trusting my strength instead of God’s. The worst mistakes I have ever made in my life were because of this.

    How do you know when the butterfly is emerging? Are there some clear signs that it is time?

  48. Becca

    Maybe I should add this one, too.

    4.) Sometimes I’ve been guilty of debating stuff, just to see if it holds water. (Cringe of shame.) In my house growing up, we just did this a lot, taking different sides and wrestling with various issues. It was sort of a “given” that we were all learning through this exercise, and everyone was willing to toss their stance in the end if it was proven wrong. But we needed people to take different sides for the debate to be effective.

    Sayers helped me see that I need to be more careful about doing this in public. Because people absorb stuff, and the ramifications can be exponential.

  49. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Becca: On 1, 2, and 3, we are the same. Often when I write, I reread it and think, “Huh! I’ve never thought of it that way.”

    If you are learning a language, how do you know when you know the language?

    If you are learning to play an instrument, how do you know when you know the instrument?

    It starts with desire. Then faith. Faith involves endurance. Suddenly, it seems, we are thinking in the language, not just parroting phrases. Suddenly, it seems, we’re playing a song rather than stringing licks together, thinking in music rather than imitating.

    With babies it is spontaneous. They see their parents talk; they desire to be like their parents. They believe so easily that they don’t even ask the question, “Can I do this?” They watch, they take it all, they start babbling, and then suddenly they explode with language. They soon become “one’d” with the language, spontaneously expressing their thoughts.

  50. Heather Carrillo

    @Ron Block: I seriously just typed the best response to you the world has ever seen. Unfortunately my computer decided it didn’t want to post anything and lost the whole thing. So this response is just a tribute to the best response in the world (all apologies to Tenacious D…and to anyone that reference totally missed)

    I agree with you, on the point of worrying what people think of us. It actually bothers me less and less as I age, what people think of me. I’ve had many a person not like me (imagine that!) and I just usually think about how I only have an audience of one. And as long as I’m doing everything within my power for that audience, I’ll be content just to hear Him say “Well done, good and faithful servant.” So, if people on the forum don’t like me, I guess I’m sory about that, but it doesn’t really bother me. As long as it’s for the right reasons, and not just because I’m being a jerk. Which also happens (again…imagine that!)

    What does bother me, is when my relationship with my Savior is called into question because of my “apparent” lack of emotion. So, I’m kind of an egg-head. So I really like to talk (or debate…call it what you will) doctrine. It has nothing to do with my heart condition. So, when that happens, sometimes I get angry. I don’t really know how to respond except, I’m working on it? Sanctification is a process after all.

    I also agree that there are certain points of doctrine which are (I refuse to say unimportant) but they aren’t essential like some (the existance of God; the deity of Christ; etc,). I can’t help but think our view of the Word of God is in there…which is why I spoke up. I have an active fellowship with Lutherans, Catholics, Baptists, Episcopalians, and Pentacostals, all wonderful brothers and sisters in the Lord. We don’t have to agree at all on every point of doctrine. As Bill Craig often says, “If we went to hell based on poor doctrine, we’d all end up there.”

  51. SecondJon

    Ok, as someone who is new, I get the message: Jason and Pete and the others are refining what they want the blog to be, which is very fair.

    I know what it is to have others not even try to understand what you’re saying, it’s happened here repeatedly. A good example would be those who declare they don’t even need to read the comments of those they disagree with because they already know what they’re going to say.

    My goal was to understand others by inviting interaction about outside-the-box propositions and asking clarifying questions, but these were responded to with judgment and purposeful vagueness rather than clarity. I desire clarity and truth relentlessly. Clarity is a relational thing. Truth is a Jesus thing.

    Clearly relentlessness in pursuit of truth and clarity is not everyone’s cup of tea – indeed it would be difficult for many to enjoy a cup of tea at all while being relentless. I believe a nice serving of Lapsang Souchong would be the right choice for that situation, but I understand some prefer Sleepytime Tea.

    The awkward thing here is that now I’m the odd man out, when I was personally invited to interact with this blog by Jason when he left a confrontational comment on my blog, which was a very strong case for a truth claim and critical of those who had posted comments there. Follow that up with Jason writing blog posts that are intended to be confrontational toward those who have issue with his song, which further sets a tone of confrontation, yet the environment is not to be one of confrontation.

    In the end, I think this chalks up to a case of miscommunication – I was invited to participate in a way that wasn’t actually fitting to the environment.

    I will attempt to comment in the future when my opinions aren’t strong or agree with the original post, and will post any dissenting opinions on my own turf.

    Thanks for your time, and enjoy the tea.

  52. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Tenacious D rocks, man.

    I like the Bill Craig quote.

    Yes, there are essential points. But really they are very few, comparatively. The early Christians were saved by very few Facts. Jesus was the Messiah. Somehow his blood made them right with God. His resurrection proved his claims to be the Son of God who could lay his life down and pick it up again. His Holy Spirit gave them power here and now. If they trusted God they could do amazing things – love one another, even! A lot of the delineation of the Trinity and other Facts came later.

    A help to me is the recognition that I don’t need or have to convert anyone, convince anyone, show anyone their identity in Christ, help anyone. I don’t have to do those things, because they come only by revelation by God to the individual. I can talk all day about identity in Christ to someone but if they aren’t broken of trying to be holy by their own effort, of thinking they are an independent self who has to work for God, then what I say will have little effect except in a seed-sowing way. At times I have just said, “If you still think you need to try to be like Christ by exerting your human effort, then by all means do so. But ‘Be ye perfect, as your Father in Heaven is perfect.’ That’s the standard.”

    Your relationship with Christ: Only you and Jesus know what that is, how it is, how deep it is, how deep it is going to go (really deep!).

    It is hard for us because we live in a world of sense impressions, feelings, thoughts. We get caught up and spin around in the whirlwind of who said what and he-said-she-said.

    Christ is deeper than our thoughts about him and our thoughts about ourselves. He is deeper, stronger than what we think we need. In fact, we have only one need, and that need is already fulfilled in us. Sanctification – we are sanctified, set apart, holy, whole, complete. We just don’t always believe it, so we try to get what we think we need in order to fix ourselves. That is one reason we try to fix others. Speaking from experience, of course. What we think is “unsanctified behavior” is really just behavior which comes out of a failure to rely on Christ within us, our resident Holiness.

    All we have is Christ. That’s the only possession we carry out of this life. What we do with that Fact is the only thing of real importance.

  53. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    When I say a lot of other delineation of doctrine came later, I don’t mean that it was an add-on or somehow irrelevant, but was reiterating that the early Christians were saved by very few Facts.

  54. Becca

    Ron, how does a writer practice his “instrument” without cutting the cocoon open too early?

    Babies make a lot of mistakes and babble before the language suddenly ones. But if what Sayers says is correct, it’s potentially dangerous to stretch as a writer. Our words can hurt people.

    I can’t figure out how to grow as a writer without making mistakes that could be damaging. I need community to point out my blind spots, because in isolation, my weaknesses just fester. But what if something I write leads someone else astray?

    It’s all so scary. I find myself yanking my blog offline every few weeks because of this. I can’t figure out how to do these things simultaneously:

    1.) not be afraid
    2.) walk in faith
    3.) give myself grace
    4.) embrace the seriousness of words
    5.) not trust my own ability to be “right” to accomplish God’s purposes.

  55. Fellow Traveler

    I would just like to make one comment regarding something Ron said:

    “I am caring less and less What Others Think Of Me.”

    This was helpful to me as someone who’s been pushed away and misunderstood by multiple people who don’t really know me. I’m learning the lesson of letting it go too—slowly but surely. Thanks for the reminder, Ron. It was helpful.

  56. Fellow Traveler

    I like that quote too, Heather. Bill Craig is a good family friend, a really great guy and a fine philosopher.

  57. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Becca:

    It’s relational. I mean knowing when to be silent and when to speak.

    I was at church on Sunday. I was joking about something. It was ok with God. And then suddenly, I felt a check in me. I said to my friend, “I’d better stop. I’m getting that weird flushed feeling.” It wasn’t embarrassment; left to myself, I would have kept on joking about it. But it was really a Holy Spirit, “Ok, that’s enough you rascal.” There have been times when I’ve not listened and pushed right through that boundary, kept on going. As I get older I realize the price is too great psychologically, spiritually.

    I think I have pushed past it many times when trying to explain the Christ-in-you life. It depends on the person; we cannot know what is happening inside the other person. God does know. He knows with precision what needs to be said and what doesn’t, what will cause confusion and what doesn’t, what can be explained and what can only be experienced. So he’s the Gatekeeper of the mouth.

    If the opportunity presents itself, I speak freely until checked. I would imagine it is the same with writing. Write freely and ask God to stop or silence what would be detrimental. But all the second guessing and fear will kill your writing; it’s self-effort, self-consciousness, and that always kills art.

  58. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    SecondJon:

    “Clearly relentlessness in pursuit of truth and clarity is not everyone’s cup of tea – indeed it would be difficult for many to enjoy a cup of tea at all while being relentless. I believe a nice serving of Lapsang Souchong would be the right choice for that situation, but I understand some prefer Sleepytime Tea.”

    Jon: the issue isn’t about relentlessness in pursuit of truth; it’s more about the courtesy of seeing others as wanting the best, of wanting to know truth. What we don’t realize is that when we see others as lazy spiritually, we are helping create the situation or environment of disunity, anger, condemnation. Truth, absolute truth, is crucial, yes. We are told to speak the truth. But to speak it in love – to send the truth down a funnel of love – that’s more likely to produce results all around.

    If I was getting frustrated with my wife about some issue and began intimating that she is lazy, or stupid, or second-class, I have effectively shut the door against further communication. Looking for whatever truth is in her viewpoint, latching on to that, that’s what gives the opportunity to discuss. In other words, loving her, accepting her even if I don’t fully accept her viewpoint, is what knocks down barriers and allows what I have to say to get through.

    That has been the spirit of the Rabbit Room in most cases. I have had major disagreements with people, but we have nearly always maintained unity – a faith that Christ lives in the other person, that I don’t have to convince them to believe exactly every bit like I do, that God has their back. I think disagreement is great. In the same way, doubt is a wonderful thing. It stirs us up, gets us out of complacency, and makes us have to choose.

  59. Fellow Traveler

    Pete said:

    “I have, however, had to edit offensive and insulting comments, and have pointed out instances when people are merely rehashing points that have already been discussed ad nauseum to prevent the particular thread from being dragged back into debate.”

    I’ve seen Pete make clarifying comments of that sort sometimes, but not always. For times when no explanation is offered, I am curious as to whether every effort was made to understand the people whose comments were edited or deleted entirely. I am only guessing, but it seems like at least a viable possibility that in some cases, people who issued complaints were jumping to conclusions and becoming offended over something that really wasn’t, objectively, offensive. It happens.

    Since this is a thread about understanding people and not jumping to conclusions, I thought I would at least place that thought into the discussion and see whether it makes any helpful ripples.

  60. Jen

    Fellow Traveler: Um, yeah… I missed it too. Catching up on reading and processing before I say anything on-topic.

    But I will say this….

    Heather: I got the Tenacious D reference! And it made me laugh. Just thinking about the video of that song cracks me up. Rock. =)

  61. Becca

    Ron,

    So it’s not really an issue of waiting a certain length of time (x number of years, etc.) to “season” before writing, but remembering to write as we are growing with a listening heart?

    Is that more of what waiting for the butterfly to emerge means?

  62. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    The cocoon/butterfly reference was more about learning something and then trying to teach others before we have owned it, trying to teach Spanish before we can speak it fluently, trying to teach banjo while only knowing about it theoretically. This cocoon is usually a time-process. I remember being so excited about Christ-in-you that I talked to people who weren’t ready for it, talked to those who had not yet been broken of thinking of themselves as independent selves having to work for God, resulting all too often in either argument or misunderstanding.

  63. Loren

    Becca–Your comment 52, point #2, “I learn by writing”–Oh, how I hear you! My mom recently pointed me to a great word (not sure if it was coined by the blogger who used it, or if it’s actually out there): “scribotherapy.” Writing helps me process and learn….

    Love the ongoing discussion here (though I will admit to feeling a squirmy, uncomfortable feeling at some points). It reminds me how we so often confuse the unity of the Body with uniformity. Both my family and my husband’s thrives on intense discussion, and there are times I have to step away because I feel a little raw. But I know that no matter what the differences, my family loves me and accepts me, warts and all, and that’s the heart of true unity and “seeing the best in others.” In the end that’s so much better than everyone seeing the same thing the same way (uniformity). After all, the Body is made up of many parts and if we got rid of the nose or the armpit–well!

    And to clarify that final point, I’ve been finding the Rabbit Room fits into the unity category rather than uniformity!

  64. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    How long does it take to learn to play a banjo?

    How long does it take for a baby to learn English?

    There is no final answer. Individuality has a bearing on it, so does the will.

    Remember what the Oracle said to Neo. “Being the One is just like falling in love. No one has to tell you you’re in love. You just know it…”

    To really know something is to be one’d with it where you are mixed with it. I don’t know exactly where “the English language” and “me” begin and end. I’ve put on the English language, and put it on, and put it on, until finally it is on. I can improve, of course, but essentially I’m married to it. The same is true of guitar or banjo playing. I can improve, I can gain more knowledge, but essentially I know it enough to do it experientially.

    The difference with learning who we are in Christ is that we appropriate it by saying it already is. I don’t have to affirm Christ lives in me to make it true, or make it happen; the thing already is, whether I believe it or not. All I do is set my mind in accordance with the written Word and agree with God. “Ok. I’m dead to sin. I’m dead to self-effort. I’m alive to God, alive to righteousness, a new creation. The old man is dead, crucified, buried. The new man is fully operational.” I say it not to make it happen or to learn it but to confess that what God says is true, no matter how I feel.

    For Norman Grubb it took awhile for his statement of faith, “I died in Christ,” to be an assured inner reality to him and be manifested in his life. It took his wife a much shorter time. I have no idea why, except that God knows exactly how much time we need.

  65. Jen

    Becca and Ron: As someone who’s struggled with this — respecting words, using them wisely, but not letting fear of getting things wrong cripple me — eavesdropping on this conversation has been incredibly helpful. Thanks.

    I’m not sure if this adds much, but there’s something my Bible teacher said that gave me a new perspective on words and fear. My co-workers are going through a study on Biblical peacemaking together, and we discussed how the root of most damaging conflict is pride or sloth, two of the “deadly sins.” He taught that the ultimate end of either is death (murder or suicide, specifically. if you think about it long enough, it makes sense), and he referenced a character from the book The Plague by Camus. This character was a writer who was so obsessed with his words and feared rejection so much that he couldn’t get past revising the first sentence of his book over and over. He just wanted the right words, but in a way, as my teacher said, this holding back was “an extended form of suicide.”

    I honestly can’t remember what that had to do with peacemaking (bad student), but that idea haunted me. It was really painful to hear, as a writer and as a believer, because I do this all the time! I worry so much about being wrong or misunderstood or rejected, that I could be withholding a God-given part of who I am. And while questioning yourself is so important and takes humility, it can turn into pride if we put more weight on our words than they deserve.

    Jason touched on this here when he talked piling more and more words on in an effort to alleviate misunderstanding. I’m going to suggest (on faith that he will get the heart of what I’m saying and not think I’m picking on him ; )) that this need to get ourselves “off the hook” is a symptom of that kind of pride. Sometimes the better way is to examine your intentions and own your words, and if someone misunderstands, then “absorb the misunderstanding” (as Jason put it), apologize to whoever you’ve wronged, and carry on.

    But don’t let it paralyze you. We’re only human.

    Huh. When I started writing this, it applied to your question, but I might’ve wandered down a rabbit trail. I think what I’m getting at is yes, I 100% agree with Ron’s suggestion to not “cut open the cocoon” too early, but also balance that with courage and humility to share your words and have faith that they might resonate with someone.

    I’m learning this too. I can’t tell you how many unfinished writings I have because I’m scared to share them and mess up…. but I’ve had times where months, sometimes even a year later, those sketchings turn out to be seeds for something meaningful.

    Does this make sense? Or help a little?
    Yes, I’m second-guessing this comment. haha.

    Also, re: Pete’s comment: for what it’s worth, that’s what I’ve always loved about The Rabbit Room. It’s challenging, but a safe place to work through big, complicated ideas and celebrate our common ground, diverse as we are. (hey, the Inklings didn’t always agree on stuff, right? =)) I’m thankful for what you guys do.

  66. Ugly Biscuit

    Wow! I missed everything! See what happens when your Dad comes to visit you and see his grandaughter for the very first time! You miss stuff!

    Jason, I didn’t see anything wrong with what you said…..I thought it was pretty powerful, thoughtprovoking if you will!

    What I heard simply was that,

    You love words

    You love your calling

    You’re not perfect, and your good buddy “WORDS” sometimes let you down!

    That try as you may, still words falter and trip up and hinder.

    Hey, as of about ten minutes ago, my 2 year old daughter just figured out door nobs!! OH NO!!

    I like you Jason, will continue to be hopeful that words can get the job done….at least to a certain degree!

  67. Osage11

    Does anyone else get tired of working so hard to say something in just the right manner as to not offend anyone? I am beginning to believe we live in a world of pansy little whiners who want everyone to know their feelings have been hurt. It seems lately that anytime someone is offended or their feelings get hurt we need a new law in place to protect the masses. We don’t have a God given right to never be offended. Unfortunately, it happens. Unfortunate as well, our penchant for unknowingly offending. In our word only interactions it’s just plain hard to account for every issue, inflection, tone or facial expression.

    I have also been offended more times than I care to discuss. I learned to grow thicker skin. I have also unknowingly offended. I guess in the end I simply get tired of writing and reading disclaimers for every post or email.

    These are just my feelings. I am in no way, shape or form trying to offend any individual or group of individuals. If I have unknowingly offended please accept this pre-apology as my humble regard to your feelings.
    By the way, I love The Rabbit Room and all you beautiful folks who contribute and post.

  68. Heather Carrillo

    @Ron Block Yes, there are very very very few absolutely essential doctrines, and I think because our thinking is (in the scheme of things) SO terribly limited, God was gracious and gave us a TON of leeway on things.

    @Osage11 I agree with you. Even though…earlier…I was doing the whole “my feelings are hurt thing…heh. But in theory I agree with you! We are supposed to watch our words AND the effect they have on others, but I think we can be just as sinful in NOT speaking (even when it hurts) than by speaking. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, am I right?

    And to the people who did catch the Tenacious D reference: That made me SO happy! 🙂

  69. Timothy

    Osage11, Since this is a post about words and their power I would just like to use your post to illustrate something. I don’t mean this in a hurtful or accusatory way. It’s just that, to me, in my experience, one can’t say “world of pansy little whiners who want everyone to know their feelings have been hurt.” and believe they’re not going to offend someone. These seem to be words meant to offend or at least put someone in their place. The thing is I tend to agree with your overall point but when I read the above quote and then your disclaimer at the end it makes the disclaimer seem…less than sincere at the least. Again, I’m not trying to pick on you or refute the things you said. I don’t believe you were trying to hurt anyone and as I said I do share your frustration. I just think that this really supports Jason’ original post about the power of words and how they often fail us.

  70. Heather Carrillo

    @Timothy: There is some substance to what Osage is saying. We are indeed living in a VERY pluralistic society. We all agree on that correct? For better or for worse “tolerance” is the battle cry of our generation. This thinking has seeped into the church. And in some ways, it’s really good. Tolerance is a great thing. We should all (myself included…probably MORE than most of you guys) work on it, but not at the expense of truth. I think Osage’s “harsher” words are modified by the comment at the end, rather than the other way around. He’s right. I know I’m a TOTAL pansy. I desparately need to develop a thicker skin (as seen in my response to Ron Block’s caution that wasn’t even directed at me).

    @Ugly Biscuit: I don’t know if I could truly say that I “like” Jack Black. Some of the things he produces are really offensive, so I by no means endorse or whole-heartedly embrace him. That particular song I referenced, is very funny though.

  71. SecondJon

    @Ron Block

    “Jon: the issue isn’t about relentlessness in pursuit of truth; it’s more about the courtesy of seeing others as wanting the best, of wanting to know truth. What we don’t realize is that when we see others as lazy spiritually, we are helping create the situation or environment of disunity, anger, condemnation. ”

    I completely agree. I grant others the benefit of the doubt that they have the best of intentions. You and I, Jason and Fellow Traveler, Barack Obama and Sarah Palin, all want the best. I believe that.

    I also agree that it does tend to shut down communication and express condemnation to see others negatively. Just a few comments earlier Jason compared me to Phariseees and idolators (the Christian equivalent of calling someone a Nazi – the ultimate bad guys).

    I don’t take personal offense – it’s the opposite of love to be easily offended (1 Corinthians 13), and I think it’s worth asking ourselves – when I feel offended, how much of this is my fault, my sin in being easily offended?

    When we sin that way, it’s another way to de-rail constructive conversation. Rather than continuing in a conversation with the potential to be a relational journey toward truth, we’re demand that everyone stop because I got my feelings hurt. I can’t think of a way to tell someone “Stop being offended, it’s a sin to be easily offended” without offending them. Can you?

    I do recognize that I, for one, communicate things with the strength corresponding with the strength of my position on it. The more I’ve wrestled through an issue, the stronger I can believe it and communicate it.

    Taking a stand for something shouldn’t cause offense on the part of someone else. That is, as Jason would say, a matter of filtering. The one taking a stand out to also be granted the benefit of the doubt, and sought to be understood and engaged.

    I also have my mind changed constantly, usually through continual tweaks and adjustments of how I see things. Sometimes I have a total about-face whether all at one or as a cumulation of these tweaks. I pray I never become stagnant.

    In general I don’t think we need to feel defensive. If I’m in agreement with truth (reality outside of myself), then I don’t need to be defensive of the position, it will stand up for itself with solid reason. If I’m some distance away from agreement with truth, then I want to be corrected so I’m in closer alignment with truth.

    It is usually difficult for us to be pushed closer to truth because we all tend to settle where we’re comfortable. We don’t tend to have the mindset of being on a journey with fellow travelers in the pursuit of truth – we tend to just want to hold our ground and get defensive or offensive if someone challenges us.

    (There’s another issue in some environments that shuts down positive communication, and I don’t know if it’s true here: The central idea that everyone gets to be right as long as they have good intentions, believe they’re pursuing the best – who doesn’t? – and as long as they don’t think anyone else is ever wrong.. except, of course, those who disagree with this central idea, who are the only people who ought to be judged and shut down.)

    As a quick response to an earlier comment or two:

    1. It was Jesus who talked about dotting every i and crossing every t (Matthew 5:18) and the issue with the Pharisees wasn’t that they knew the Word inside and out, but that they had taken man-originated ideas, the “subjective” and exalted them to the same authority of the Bible. If they really knew the word, they would have followed it, which includes loving God with all you heart, soul, mind, and strength. The issue wasn’t that they knew the Bible, the issue was that they didn’t.

    2. There are very few essentials for salvation. But even the apostles were confronted about lesser issues and wrote at length to communicate to Christ-followers what we ought to believe. I think we ought to love each other enough to care whether or not we’re where Jesus wants us to be holistically – with our hearts, minds, souls, and strength.

  72. SecondJon

    Osage, Timothy,

    You just proved a great point. When someone is living in opposition to love by being easily offended (1 Corinthians 13), there’s basically no way to effectively communicate that to them without them just taking offense and blocking communication.

    Why would anyone take _personal_ offense that someone feels they live in a world of pansies? What’s wrong with spring flowers?

    It’s rather entertaining that the response to “I feel like lots of people in the world are easily offended” is “I’M OFFENDED BY THAT!”

  73. Fellow Traveler

    SecondJon said:

    “Barack Obama…want[s] the best.”

    Oh man…I better not touch that one with a ten-foot pole or we could have some serious fireworks! 😮

  74. Heather Carrillo

    ^^^ “The Christian equivalent of calling someone a Nazi” At the risk of sounding sophomoric *A MILLION TIMES LOL!!!* That is so true. Please tell me people thought that was funny, because it’s pretty funny.

    @Fellow Traveler: Barack Obama MAY indeed want the best. (We were discussing giving the benefit of the doubt) He also may go about it in the way that some of us (or even none of us) agree with.

    As the subject at hand is WORDS: I think there are points to be made on both sides. We should be really careful how we use our words, but at the same time when someone says something like what Osage just said, just read the facts in what he’s saying: “We live in a world where people are too easily offended.” It’s true. Whether or not he chose to use some extra verbage that might be a little “rough” sounding, probably shouldn’t detract from the fact. I usually try to focus on the proposition being put forward instead of what I think the person is saying. Although, sometimes…I get bogged down into what I think the person is saying. Obviously.

  75. Fellow Traveler

    Osage did indeed have wise words, even if I didn’t have the guts to put it quite like that in this setting.

  76. Osage11

    Yes, I meant it to be ironic.
    Timothy, glad you picked up on it. I thought on it for a while before I decided to pull the trigger. I guess my point is this: communication is difficult under the best of circumstances. I am so gratefull for this forum, and I may get into that later, but communication becomes exponentially more difficult when we don’t do it face to face.

    I am what I call a word fumbler. I am not quick witted and take great difficulty relaying neural synapses into coherent words, especially when I am under pressure. What I want to say rolls around in my head like dust bunnies under the fridge when the first breeze of spring blows through the house, after all the doors and windows finally open. They are always just out of reach and difficult to pin down. Because of this, I have gaffed it on many occasions, ask my wife. Trying to make sure others understand me is sometimes just plain painful. I have offended so many times and beat myself up over it often.

    I have been lurking here in the RR for a long while now and very seldom post. Mainly because most of you intimidate me. I love to read good writing, it’s what draws me here. I fear sounding stupid (for lack of a better word) and often think about posting but never do. Thankfully, after reading Jason’s post and all the rambling that goes on after all his posts, I thought “why not.” So, thank you all in advance for being who are and I hope no one is offended.

  77. Loren

    Osage11: Anyone who can write “What I want to say rolls around in my head like dust bunnies under the fridge when the first breeze of spring blows through the house, after all the doors and windows finally open” is definitely gifted with words. I get your point completely! Good posts.

  78. Jimmy Stearns

    Good words Jason! 😉 I enjoyed reading this, even if I didn’t get to it until now…

    I wonder if the reason words are limited are because of the fall. I wonder if in heaven we will be able to communicate, with full ‘word power’ if you will. To be fully and accurately understood.

    Sounds awesome…

  79. luaphacim

    Jason, thanks for this! As someone who has spent much of his adult life studying language, I know all too well how words can fail us. I appreciate how you bring out the tension between the usefulness of words and their sometimes frustrating shortcomings. As symbols meant to convey facts and ideas, words (in human languages, at any rate) have inherent weakness. It is impossible to fully communicate reality, experience, or any other complex thing using words alone. However, coupled with experience and mutual cooperation, words can bring us much closer to sharing the experience of others than we could come without them.

    I think the basic problem of words is the same problem the rest of creation has: they have been corrupted, shattered, and weakened because of our rebellion and that of our father, Adam. Yet another example of the wages of sin, I suppose.

    Nevertheless, we know that Christ will make all things new. I like to think that promise applies to language as well as to the rest of creation. Regardless of whether this is true, I know that the true living Word certainly has the power to do it, so I guess whether He will or not is an academic question.

  80. SecondJon

    I just saw a quote from G. K. Chesterton that reminded me of the discussion here about granting everyone the benefit of the doubt that they have they have the best intentions:

    ‎”Most mistaken people mean well, and all mistaken people mean something. There is something to be said for every error, but, whatever may be said for it, the most important thing to be said about it is that it is erroneous.” ~G.K. Chesterton, ‘All is Grist.’

  81. Fellow Traveler

    That’s good! I think I’ll share it with somebody else, or a couple somebodies.

  82. Rachel

    Jason… Thank you. This “says it all” for me… inasmuch as it can be said. 🙂

    We spoke at the Behold the Lamb of God concert in Lincoln this past December. I thanked you for your courage and example and introduced you to my son, who also struggles with getting his words out. I appreciated how, in your segments, you were obviously very careful with your words and was struck by the image you present… a man of wisdom with so much to say, who has to fight to speak his mind. You are an interesting dichotomy, Mr. Gray. (I hope I used that word correctly!)

    We also discussed (briefly) Asperger’s Syndrome, which my son has and you said you were familiar with. Again, there is this tension between what is real and happening inside and what is visible and expressed to the world. And what is perceived so often falls so very far short of what is real.

    As I’ve read your blogs, I have often felt the care and the tension of your words, as you have struggled to express yourself and be understood. It is the thing I struggle with myself… what to say, how to say it, when to say it…

    “Oh no, I’ve said too much. I haven’t said enough…”

    As I read this today, I told my husband, “6 lines… but 21 paragraphs on what he’s really thinking in those few moments…” I hope that people are challenged by these blogs to read deeper and to think deeper. It is easy to sing a hip-hoppy chorus. But I think it is good to be mindful of the fact that there is so much more to what is being expressed than just what is being said.

    “If you could read my mind, what a tale my thoughts would tell…”

    I’ve often said I do not necessarily have favorite songs, so much as favorite LINES from songs. One line I have always appreciated is from an old Amy Grant song…

    “Some people always know the right things to say. I don’t really think I was born that way.”

    My point…? I don’t know. I guess I just wanted to thank you again for contending the way you do with the power and the limitations of words. Thank you for expressing here what I often do not know how to say. And thank you for doing the same with your music. I can’t promise to always understand your meaning, but I do think I understand your heart and intent. And that is why I listen to (read blogs by) Jason Gray.

    One more thing… because you know… you can never say enough… This is the heart of why I love your song, “Yahweh”. The idea that the name of God is so deep and so… unfathomable… that it can best be described as a deep breath.

    Thank you again. Please continue as you go. And I hope you will return this year as the Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor. The role suits you!

  83. Dave

    Jason, We are each knit together with different backgrounds and unique experiences…words can take flight with its readers to places where the author may not have intended. This past Saturday evening this song was on the radio and my 12 year-old son initiated a discussion with me about its lyrics. We live in an age where rules and beliefs don’t matter…a promiscuous “love” that has lost its meaning is idolized. Sadly, this worldview is very present in the Church. Jesus Christ wants us to believe in Him (John 3:16, II Peter 3:9). He wants our allegiance, He wants us to live for Him. He wants our entire being to conform to Him.

    John 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.

  84. Profile photo of Jason Gray

    Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Hey Dave. Glad to hear that my song prompted a conversation with your son. I hear what you’re saying, but I offer this:

    When I (& Jason Ingram) wrote “More Like Falling In Love”, we tried to do it in the classic form of the sermons I heard growing up that begin with the “bad news” of the Old Testament before moving on to the good news of the gospel. Much of the “sermon” of this song is based on the book of Romans, especially verse 1 which is about what Paul has to say about the limits and true purpose of the law.

    Paul says in chapter 3 of Romans, “…no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin…” and that “sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.”

    He’s telling us that the best that the law and our attempts at rule following could do is reveal that we are rule-breakers, sinners, and therefore dead where we stand. He’s telling us the law alone is insufficient for saving us.

    Paul goes on to say, “the law is holy and the commandment is holy, righteous and good” (Rom. 7:12). In other words, as a friend recently put it: there’s nothing wrong with the law, but it reveals what’s wrong with us. “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin…For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Rom. 7:14, 18). And then Paul blesses us by echoing all of our hearts when he says that what he wants to do, he doesn’t do, but instead he keeps doing what he hates. “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24)

    Paul, as I read it, is saying the law is like a mirror that forces us to see ourselves as we really are: profoundly broken, slaves to sin and unable to fix ourselves. And the harder I try to fix myself, the deeper I dig my own grave – it still ends in death. The truth is that if you give me rules, I will break them because I’m a rule breaker. I need more than rules to be saved, but at least the rules do help me realize I need saving.

    And I need more than a truth to believe. Pilate asks Jesus “what is truth?” and Jesus responds with a deafening silence that refuses to offer a defense as though his truth was just one more of any other truth claims in the world. He stands there, as Truth Himself, perhaps waiting to be recognized – not as a theory that can be debated or an idea for intellectual consumption, but as a person to be embraced by. Like Pilate, I need more than another truth to believe, I need THE living Truth – the Son of God – who lives, moves, and breathes. “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

    “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Paul nearly shouts, and we want to shout with him! “What the law was powerless to do…God did by sending his own Son” (Rom. 8:3). This is the good news of the gospel – we are saved! What we couldn’t do on our own with good intentions and rigorous rule keeping, God has done for us through Jesus Christ. “Now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known… This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Rom. 3:21-22).

    And what does it mean to believe? This is the main question I’m asking with this song. Does believing in Jesus mean merely believing the facts of who he is? Or is it more than that? We’re told that even the demons believe, and tremble (James 2:19), so God is surely looking for more than just intellectual assent to the facts. So what is he looking for?

    I believe that Jesus came to offer us more than facts and better information about who God is – information and facts rarely change our lives, at least not the way that love does. And so we get to the heart of it: that Jesus is more than an idea, he’s a person. And he wants more than our mere obedience to rules, he wants our love, devotion, and to have relationship with us. And here is where the gospel turns into a wedding… where we accept his proposal and become his bride (Eph. 5:25-27), his beloved, his intent sealed with the Holy Spirit like a ring around our finger.

    And what will an intimate love relationship make of us that rules couldn’t?

    Well, for one thing it’s kind of like this: I hope my wife gives me a card on my birthday, but I don’t want her to do it out of obligation because it’s expected of her – that would be joyless drudgery for her and meaningless to me. I’d rather her get a card out of love for me, that her love would cause her to carefully pick out the perfect card, write something personal in it, and make sure I got it the day of my birthday. Either way – obligation or love – involves the sacrifice of driving into town, poring through the card section at Walmart, and taking the time to write something in it. Either motivation will get me a card, but only love will produce the result of my receiving a card that means something both to me and the one who gave it to me.

    Love redefines the terms of the relationship, infusing our devotion to the law with passion and purpose – something we do for love rather than obligation. When done out of love, the law which once brought death and condemnation has a chance to make us alive again, because we do it out of delight. But it all starts with love, and a marriage proposal. That’s how I read it anyway, and cultural connotations aside, that’s how I tried to write it in my song. I understand the danger of people’s different connotations with the words, “falling in love” – and I tried to be sensitive to it – but at the end of the day I can’t be a slave to the fear of how different people will interpret it, what baggage and history each will bring to it. All I can truly be responsible for is my heart, my motivation, my obedience. How people interpret it is between them and God. Even if I I may have been misunderstood by you, I’m still happy that it gave you the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation with your son. Some of my best conversations with my boys have come from songs, books, and movies.

  85. Dave

    Jason,

    Thank you for your confirmation of the intent of the lyrics. hmmm….How about if we apply the lyrics within the bounds of a marriage? I am glad that you are not promoting a marriage of lawlessness so that grace may abound! 🙂 Love and obedience make pretty good companions.

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