Talking ourselves into it
Frequently, we don’t recognize encounters with divine grace when they’re happening. It takes the clarity of the rearview mirror to make it plain and it takes telling the story to reveal its meaning.
Do believers have to have everything sorted out before they start talking about their faith? Author Thomas Long doesn’t think so. In his helpful little book “Testimony: Talking Ourselves into Being Christian” he writes,
We talk our way toward belief, talk our way from tentative belief through doubt to firmer belief, talk our way toward believing more fully, more clearly, and more deeply… trying to put our faith in words is a part of discovering what we know about God, believe about God, and trust about God.
There’s an account in the ninth chapter of the Gospel according to John that provides Biblical precedent for this assertion. Jesus heals a man of his blindness. A known beggar in the community, he’s been blind since birth. You might imagine that this miracle would result in some kind of community celebration. Instead, the miracle triggers an investigation into the identity of Jesus with the now-sighted man as the primary witness. Three times he’s questioned about what has happened and each time, his story changes. We might imagine, if someone were telling us about this event, that a witness who changes his story is in big trouble, and he was. But that doesn’t make it all bad. The formerly blind man, when asked about Jesus, goes from a claim of ignorance to a posture of worship in just three questions. To Long’s point, the more he talks about Jesus, the better he gets at it. He becomes clearer and more convinced of Jesus’ identity.
There’s something here for you and me.
Faith in our culture is regarded as a private matter. It’s one of those taboo topics. Further, we frequently imagine that if we talk out loud about it, it’s to convince others to our way of thinking. What if Long is right and the experience of the blind man is typical? If that’s the case, then we need to talk as a way to take hold of what we believe for ourselves.
Frequently this involves remembering. We talk about our faith with the gift of hindsight. It’s hard to recognize the acts of God in the moment. In the rearview mirror everything becomes clearer.
Leading worship at the Chapel last Sunday I was again struck by the fact that most of the events we remember in church didn’t happen in church. I was reading my way through the long prayer that gets us into the celebration of Holy Communion. The prayer is a laundry list of divine action: creation of the world, Noah’s salvation through the flood, Israel’s passage through the sea, the teaching and miracles of Jesus. All of this comes in the form of thanksgiving to God in preparation for receiving what we believe to be the body and blood of Jesus as a sign of life for us. Together, we frame our present experience with what’s happened in the past. We talk ourselves into it.
This is true in our personal lives as well. Frequently, we don’t recognize encounters with divine grace when they’re happening. It takes the clarity of the rearview mirror to make it plain and it takes telling the story to reveal its meaning.
The task then is to remember, and having remembered, to speak – even if imperfectly at first.
March 29, 2017
Rev. James A. Wetzstein serves as one of our university pastors at Valpo and takes turns writing weekly reflections.
- Archives of Devotional Writings from our Pastoral Staff
- “Some Lent!”
- (Your vocation here) of people
- A Point of Privilege
- A season of anticipation
- Advent = Hope
- All will be well
- Are we willing to cross the road for one another?
- Better Together
- Can we learn to be happy?
- Carrying the COVID Cross
- Come and See
- Did Jesus really suffer?
- Doing without in a life of plenty
- Don’t miss this moment
- Exiles with Vision
- Fear not!
- Feeling at Home
- Finding Purpose in the Journey
- Finding Words for Times Like These
- Forgiving others – and ourselves
- Getting ahead with Jesus
- Getting down on Jesus’ level
- Have yourself a merry little Christmas — somehow
- Holy Week and Taking Out the Trash
- Holy Week: The aid station late in the semester
- Hopes & Dreams vs Life in the Wilderness
- How glad we’ll be if it’s so
- I almost slipped
- In a time of uncertainty, these things are certain
- In praise of plans B … C … D …
- In Praise of Skeptical Disciples
- In the midst of grief, God will bring life
- Is there such a thing as being too forgiving?
- It’s a Three Day Weekend!
- It’s In the Bag
- It’s What’s Happening
- Killing off our future selves
- Lessons in fire building
- Let us work for real wellness in our communities
- Life Is a Highway
- Lilies and leaves and whatever else is beautiful
- Living in the Present
- O Lord, you know I hate buttermilk
- Of Fear and Failure
- On Christian Unity: When we’re not one big happy church
- On the Bucket List
- Pray and Let God Worry
- Preparing for the world to be turned rightside up
- Recovering from an Epic Fail
- Reformation calls for examination
- Remembering among the forgetful
- Seeing beauty in brokenness
- Signs of Love
- Starting Small
- Still in the storm
- Taking a Break from the Relentless
- Talking ourselves into it
- Thankfulness leads to joyfulness
- The Art of Holy Week
- The Funny Business of Forgiveness
- The Greatest of These is Love
- The Magi: Exemplars of Faith and Learning
- The Power of Small Conversations
- The Power of Taking a Sabbath
- The Spiritual Gift of Hindsight
- This can’t be done alone
- To be known
- You will be in our prayers this summer of 2020
- Ventures of which we cannot see the ending
- We had hoped
- What do you do with your anger?
- What is your base reality?
- What to do after you find your voice
- What to do on the day after
- What we know and what we don’t know
- When bad things happen
- When joy and sadness live together
- When the promise of resurrection is hard to believe
- When you offer up your broken cup
- Where God will be found
- Where is the good shepherd carrying you?
- Wilderness Journeys
- Year-end time management: Keeping the main thing the main thing
- Your Valpo roots will help you grow into your future