What Am I Doing?

Continuing to learn from Hauerwas and Pinches:

One of the difficulties of taking up any significant way of life is that we never entirely understand what we are doing. Commitments are asked of us, but we are in no position to appreciate their significance when we first undertake them. Marriage is a ready example: we never know entirely what we are doing when we enter it. In twenty years, perhaps, we come closer to such an appreciation and can begin to articulate why it was good for us to marry. Ironically, it is then that we can give good reasons for our marriage, ones we could not possibly have understood at the time of our marrying. Indeed, we could not have known then what we were doing.

Being a Christian is not unlike this. If we can recall a time when we became a Christian, most of us will also recall now that we did not then know what we were doing. So it steals over us that our being now Christian is more a matter of fortune than of choice. We may regret or rejoice that we are presently so identified, but there seems little we did to earn the label and, if we have been truly shaped by it, even less we can now do to shed it.

I read this and think of the stories we sometimes tell of our conversions and re-conversions. There are some churches where it is common to get saved every time and evangelist comes to town, or perhaps at regular occasions throughout one’s life. Sometimes this is explained as a recovery from backsliding. Sometimes it is taken as only now getting down to business with God. Although I seemed to be making a profession of faith in the past, I was really playing games with God. Only now do I truly understand and mean what I am doing.

I think Pinches and Hauerwas are right in suspecting that we ever fully understand what we’re doing. My commitment to Christ as a child is not the same as my commitment to Christ as an adult – regardless of what happens in the intervening years. I think it is rarely the case that I only thought I knew what I was doing then – and now I know the real truth.

So what’s the solution? First, we have to realize that when we started on our walk with Christ, our knowledge of what we were doing, though apparent to us at the time, was limited. Second, our knowledge now, x years later, is also limited, though conditioned and informed not only by our current knowledge of Christ and our relationship with him, but also by our knowledge of our knowledge of our relationship with Christ. We have a level of reflection impossible when we were first starting out. My conclusion form this is that we need to hold on to our relationship with Christ humbly – recognizing its partial nature. We’ll never reach the point of completion in our walk with Christ. It’s simply something we keep on doing.

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