Saturday, March 3, 2012

Passing on platitudes

Ever since I was a small child, I've heard people in the church give the most inane, simplistic, and trite answers to questions that deserve better treatment.  Such answers usually take the form of platitudes that are time-worn and - might I say - so tired.  Some of them are downright insulting and wrong on so many levels.  They may come from the discomfort people feel in the presence of intense emotion or of honest doubt - and intended to shut that unpredictable, threatening thing down and put it in an easy-to-manage box.  I'm inclined to think that is the case... for we've built up quite a repertoire of cutesy or airy-fairy little sayings that mean nothing in the practical world.  For example, one I read on someone's dining room wall said, "Faith isn't faith until it's all you're holding on to."  (Now first of all that's untrue - because it's circular: you don't have faith in faith - it doesn't make sense.  It's like being in love with being in love... it might be possible, but it doesn't get you anywhere...)   

And we pass those platitudes on.  We put them as statuses or tweets on our social media, we forward emails with them in there and call them "inspirational".  

Who knows? for some, they might be.  For some, the worst problem they have is that they ate two cookies instead of one.  Or they didn't come to a complete stop at a stop sign. But for those of us who have real issues, who struggle with heavy-duty feelings of shame (that is, feeling bad for who we ARE rather than what we DO - which would be guilt), such platitudes are sadly lacking in any substance.  And when the rubber meets OUR road where the footing is slick and the wind howls in our ears - all those cute little bunnies, heart-shapes and teddy bears won't save our sanity and keep us between the lines.  

Source (via Google Images):
http://bridgwaterpsychologytests.blogspot.com/
2009/11/can-you-spot-fake-smile.html
We need something real.  We need something that's going to last - something strong.  The only thing I have ever found that can stand that acid test is relationship with God.  The ONLY thing.  People can - and will - let you down.  It's the nature of the beast (that is, of human beings).  We keep trying to trust each other completely, when we know that each of us is fallible - and yet, we expect each other to fill a void that only a perfect being can fill.  Or we try to fill that void in others - or at the very least, try to silence the voices - the ones that scream questions that have no answers.  Playing God doesn't work - it's not our job for one thing! Eventually people - left to their own devices - let each other down, whether they mean to or not. And it is always devastating when that trust is broken. The only completely trustworthy One is God.  

Relationship with Him gives us something solid, dependable, beyond and above our selves. It gets us in touch with our inner lives - allows us to connect with our instincts, our emotions.  Instead of running from our emotions and mistrusting them, we can submit them to God and allow Him to redeem them so that we can fully live ... instead of just exist.  

Passing on pat answers and tired clich├ęs to each other just won't cut it.  Christ calls us to a life of rigorous honesty with ourselves and with Him... a life of adventure in Him... a growing relationship out of which will spring challenging circumstances, yes, but also amazing opportunities. It doesn't mean we won't have questions; in fact, the questions are part of the process, and settling for trite trinkets of advice does more to hinder our growth than to enhance it. 

When it comes to platitudes, I think I'll just pass.

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