choosing the good in the uncertain moment

Last week was the week to be indignant about everything, and I spent it being self-righteously enraged. It was great [and we’ve got nearly $100 000 pledged as a deposit for when Pauline Hanson puts her house back on the market… How amazing is that?].

I think this week is the week to find the good in the uncertain moment.

My colleagues have been inspiring me. We were talking about Carl Williams last week in a meeting, and I said something about how our instinctive human response is to assess someone’s worth and right to exist – to assume the right to judge, label and dismiss them. It’s our default position as humans – it comes as naturally to us as breathing – and we revert to it the moment we let our guard down. Sarah replied: ‘Perhaps that’s what faith is talking about when it asks us to die to ourselves everyday’.

Alongside that, I’ve been doing some writing about all I no longer know of faith. At the end of the piece I wrote, ‘I’m left being sure of nothing but my need to love’. It was an easy line to write, and a nice way to conclude. Then my colleague Andy showed me a video of John Swinton yesterday, where he quotes Thomas Aquinas [I paraphrase]: ‘Love means saying to the outsider, I am glad you exist. I am glad you are here.’

It’s a beautiful definition, but I’ve realised I agree with it only as long as I get to choose who to say that to. The trouble with enraged weeks is that they leave one sure of too much… and I’m a bit scared that the anecdotal evidence of my own life seems to indicate that the more I am sure about, the less I love.

Last night I tried saying ‘I am glad you exist, I am glad you are here’ while watching politicians of all persuasions on the news, and while reading stories of melbourne’s crime and justice system. As it turns out, love is an act of constant will, contrary to every one of my instincts… my default position is that I want to make an equation out of love: I shouldn’t have to be glad that Pauline Hanson exists because she does so much that is hateful.

I suspect that me hating Pauline Hanson doesn’t do any good. Likewise, I suspect that me saying ‘I am glad you exist’ won’t change her either. But it will change me. Even if simply because it forces me to acknowledge that truth, life and love are bigger than my imagining. I am making myself live the truth I want her to live too. I am dying to myself.

I liked it better last week when I was sure. It turns out living in the uncertain moment is much harder than i thought.

2 Comments

  1. at the Esther Project we’re currently sitting with resurrection stories, particularly in terms of how Jesus listens, and helps restore our voice, and what it might mean for us (as individuals, as the community of Christ) to offer that gift to others, and I find resonance in your words – dying to self opens us up to live the story of resurrection, of new life, of a way of being that is glad that others exist; opens us up to love

    thanks again for your openness, your honesty, and your wonderful way with words

  2. ben

    Yeah this is hard…

    Ive been thinkin a lot in my studies about “unconditional positive regard” which is one of the most therapeutic aspects of counselling. It might be easier to do that in the room, one one one, where its your job to be the person that holds that space for the other.

    But Im not sure whether I am capable of it for all people, in all places… but as i look for what hooks me into certainties about others… (last time it happened was when a teacher was telling students the evils of a certain group of people – i was certain they were wrong).

    When that sense of righteous indignation rose up in me, i watched as it separated me form what my actual hopes for myself are – to be able to be present to and accepting of everyone (not that is is probably possible).

    More and more i think that certainty that we feel we need to defend cuts us off from ourselves as well as others.

    Thats my (small) consolation when i feel like uncertainty is hard.

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