Wanted: A picture worth a thousand words

Every summer, my wife and I mark a variety of milestones. We commemorate good times and bad with friends and family: weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, the day my father-in-law passed away. By the end of August, we have prayed many blessings, eaten too much cake, blown out lots of candles, and expanded our photo album.

With the balloons cleaned up and Celebration 2010 over, I’ve been sorting through pictures, enjoying snapshots of beautiful places and friendly faces. Yet I can’t help but note the gaps – people who weren’t there, things that didn’t happen.

I think the next time we’re together, we need to add at least one more photo. I’d like to see the following caught on film: more good fights.

It hurts that some of our churches and leaders criticize MB theology, or conference programs, or church practices, but don’t show up at gatherings where we might work out our differences. And it hurts that some of our churches and leaders who benefit from various structures and programs in our MB community remain indifferent to what goes on in the larger MB world, and don’t “carry their share of the load.” The message sent is there’s nothing we can learn from you, or there’s nothing we want to share with you.

That said, it hurts when our gatherings are so tightly programmed – with mainly feel-good success stories – that little time and space remain to confess our failures, and to acknowledge that we repeatedly wound each other. And it hurts when those in power – in churches, on committees, in conference programs – begin initiatives, or make decisions, or say things without taking the time to consult those of us “on the ground.” The message sent is we don’t trust you, or we don’t care what you think.

In short, it hurts when we do a poor job of being a community.

Which is why I’d like to see more good fights.

I hope that we’ll be more humble so that we’ll actually get together before we’ve made up our minds. It is great to talk with each other, not just at or to or past one another. Before we assume he is losing his faith, or accuse her of heresy, we could decide to learn more about God and about ourselves and listen patiently to each other.

And hopefully we’ll be more honest. Perhaps we could start by clarifying our expectations of what it means to be part of the MB community. It might be helpful to admit our mistakes before others are forced to point them out. I wonder if we should be frank about what is working and what is not.

Through it all, I hope we’re more gentle with each other.

With more good fights like that, who knows what might happen?

I’m sure our album will have pictures of us being less efficient. I’m convinced we’ll be less polished. We’ll probably appear even stranger and more diverse than we thought.

And yet, my hunch is Scripture will take on a 3-D quality – we’ll live our Bibles. My guess is our view of Truth will have more clarity and width and depth. I suspect God’s kingdom will be seen more fully here on earth as it is in heaven.

Go ahead.

Call me naïve.

I don’t mind. I admit: these are childish hopes; this is wishful thinking.

Yet the Bible has portraits of stranger requests being granted; images of zanier hopes and more outlandish events – like resurrection – coming true.

So at the next family gathering, I think we should take a shot of us having more good fights.

Now that would be a picture worth a thousand words!

–J Janzen

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