If we look for God to show up in people and places but we are looking for the wrong thing we might miss what is actually there. In Peterson’s memoir, he remarks on his own trial by fire as a new pastor who showed up expecting one thing but getting another altogether. He reminds me of another author, Nadia Bolz-Weber who has written a book entitled “Accidental Saints: Finding God in all the Wrong People”…the title pretty much says it all, but it is a great book and read it anyway!
Bottom line for this discussion: in spite of our idiosyncratic ways of being human, God continues to show up in our midst; it makes a difference and it is a sacred one.
Peterson uses a bible story about David gathered in the wilderness, running for his life from King Saul. Soon others gather with David in this exile of sorts, and Peterson quotes a quote to describe those who huddled together when he says on page 106: “every one who was in distress, and every one who was in debt and every one who was discontented”. This of course was referring to people who joined David because they too were at odds with Saul.
I know that Peterson has frankly admitted that he was hoping for Green Beret Christians, but to be quite honest with you, I have always had a thing for the folks that I can relate to more easily. I am not a Green Beret Christian. When asked recently by a street evangelist if I knew I was going to heaven when I died, I had to answer: “I suspect my friends and family can answer that question better than I”.
So church is a complicated thing, because we humans are complicated people. Together we must sort through our sordid tales and sacred moments. We must ride the highs and lows with one another without freaking out because we keep expecting rainbows and sunshine all the time. We must resist the temptation to care more about doing better (which I think is all about judgment) and instead, discipline ourselves in the work of being present (which oh by the way will require us doing stuff).
More on this being present stuff tomorrow. But for today, ask yourself a tough question: have you been willing and able to hang in when people get on your ever loving last nerve? Do you use these difficult challenges as good material to work on yourself and ask how you can be present?