I am a rule follower. I always have been one and I probably always will be one. As a youngster, the only time I was written up in school was when I passed a friend’s binder with my feet to another friend, who passed it to another friend, and so forth, from one end of the classroom to the other. And, I am pretty sure the school’s bylaws stated nothing explicitly reprimanding my vicious and malicious act.
Because this characteristic engrained itself into the fabric of my being, I daily (hourly, minutely?) sift through my actions and experiences — actual and potential — attempting to determine their individual moral stance. As I draw my conclusions, I intentionally place myself in situations that fit as tightly to the mold that I created. This causes me to perpetually stay within my interior while losing awareness to the world’s beauty.
Yes, that is all very abstract but practically speaking, this is what I mean: I take one of the many forms of Christianity and create a list, subconsciously, of what I must accomplish in order to be a “genuine” Christ-Follower. Oh, has the list evolved! From conservative moralism and evangelism, to the emergent social justice movement, to traditional intellectualism, with many more to come, I am sure.
What a long list of unique dos and don’ts under the guise of abolishing a Christ-less moralism!
But, in the midst of the lists, those absolute ideas (in and of themselves not evil) superseded Christ himself. Every aspect of my being, of my senses, intended to satisfy the interior unrest of my soul. Perfectly embodying the ideas found on my lists, I believed, would bring about a propitiation of God’s wrath upon this feeble man. Instead, it caused me forsake the beauty of our creator and ignore the intense grace that his Son provided for his creation.
Richard Carson, a Buddhist psychologist from Dallas, urges those whose awareness always focuses upon the interior to shift their awareness outward. While Carson, of course, never alludes to shifting awareness to God’s creation in order to remove yourself from the interior life, I think as a Christian in the 21st century church, we can glean quite a bit from this method.
When I look upon the natural world, notice Christ. When I look upon my gifts, physical and material, notice Christ. When I look upon another human being, notice them as image bearers of the Father, even the ones who have no idea that they bear aspects of his image. I seem to think that the simple act of noticing Christ in all areas of everyday life, subconscious to us, will transform us into who God wants us to be. I wonder if this is what Paul had in mind when he told the Roman church to be transformed by the renewing of their mind…
While the method of simply noticing Christ might one day be misconstrued into its own list, it is a much shorter list than the ones I previously employed. Simplicity, in itself, is a very beautiful thing.