Spiritual Maturity

Spiritual Maturity

"Rend you hearts and not your clothing,"  reads Joel 2:13.

I’m thinking at least one important aspect of doing Lenten study and soul searching is reconsidering how it is that our way of Hying in the past may not serve us well in the present.

My experience of growing up in central Illinois in the 6Os and 70’s was shaped by daily experiences and entertainment. One of my favorite childhood memories is of going with my parents and siblings to TRIPLE FEATURE o John Wayne movies at the drive-in. We had brown grocery sacks blotched with grease that were filled with salty, salty popcorn. There were sodas and the fun of being out late at the movies. My father would adjust the level of sound on the metal speaker that hung on the driver’s- side window. Between films I would roam the pathways of the drive-in. How much more fun can a nine-year-old boy have?

John V\Jayne was the manly way of being a man to which I aspired at that time. A couple years later, The Duke sealed my ideological deal when playing Rooster Cogburn in “True Grit”, he called out to “Lucky” Ned Pepper, “Fill your hands... .“ Feel free to finish his words if memory serves.

Fight for the good and never, ever, ever, EVER be weak was the message I absorbed. It was very compelling: never let anyone hurt me emotionally; if wronged, punish the wrongdoer; shoot him if he resists. The sense of power and control and completeness I beheld in my film hero formed my understanding of the kind of powerful man I longed to become.

My problem was that I had a November birthday, which meant 1 was always the smallest boy in my classes. It didn’t help that I was so skinny that every bone in my body of any significance pretty much poked through my skin. Living the dream of being powerful and always in control and feeling complete was not happening. That did not keep me from trying.

Later in life, I learned that desiring the sort of powerfulness I saw on the screen in those westerns meant isolation and loneliness. Always being in control required a lot of energy, and feeling complete without vulnerability was a fantasy; and not a healthy fantasy. What worked in Hollywood fictions did not work so well in my life. So, I dumped that version of being a man.

I listen to the radio and watch television and behold the behavior of many men my age in our culture, and it seems the old Hollywood fiction of how to be a man is something many men have yet to set aside in favor of a fuller, more mature experience of a lifetime that is emotionally compelling and rewarding through an open heart that risks and sometimes breaks on behalf of meaningful relationships with people and a meaningful relationship with God.

If you have finally figured out that those old ways prescribed in our adolescent Hollywood fictions no longer work, perhaps you will choose the way of Jesus: a heart that is rent, open to God’s presence and will; without need to be powerful in ways that feed the ego; realizing only God has control over our lives; and, we are only complete through our relationship with God, and also other people. This way of life is more difficult because it is rooted in reality and the hard, hard work of living with an open heart. It is also an authentic way of life beyond looping reels of incandescent celluloid. In the name of Christ, all are invited.

In Christ,
Pastor MeCaskey

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