Choose one of the following descriptions:
- Espresso machines whir in the background of a coffee shop/art gallery where laptop computers provide electronic lighting, in addition to the vintage-looking lamps strategically (yet somehow sporadically) placed on end tables and hanging from unfinished ceilings. The aromas of imported, fair trade coffees seem a perfect backdrop for an emotionally charged philosophical discussion on the cultural implications for human rights violations in the country of Ukraine (thanks to a recent blue book exam in Modern European History class).
- Classic carafes filled grace every perfectly stressed, re-claimed barn board tabletop. Modern color combinations inspire placemats and name cards in the exclusive party room at the uppest of scales restaurant where the sounds of the city's highly sought after jazz ensemble drift just under the murmuring conversation about the topic of the gala fundraiser: human trafficking.
- An improvised family dinner, featuring items in the fridge and pantry nearing expiration, quickly evolves behind 12 foot cement walls and coils of concertina wire. The small, makeshift table overflows with potluck plenty and every fresh-from-college, penniless international volunteer settles in for the patchwork courses and three cups of tea to follow. The meatless menu curves conversation around to an all too-high-brow discussion of frightful fast food production and the undeniable consequences on the modern child.
Do you recognize these scenes? I do. I can put myself in each one, or a variation at least. These scenes play like merry-go-rounds in my generation.
In a recent conversation with a close friend, we were lamenting our generation's increased probability to begin (and become passionate about) movements and the equally probable end result: to bail out. We are obsessed with the idea that we can be a significant part of change but equally obsessed with the idea that we are entitled to choose NOT to. In this way, all our passion is like a high speed motorboat leaving havoc in its wake. We are good at starting things, planning things, dreaming things, and especially thinking about things - and it's good to start, plan, dream, and think. But, in five or ten years, will all these efforts be about us or will they be about a different object?
Don't get me wrong. Understand that I wonder these things because I am continually indicted by the person of Jesus Christ to examine my own motives and tendencies and this is one of those times. I love a passionate conversation, over coffee or wine, but I'm wondering if our convictions carry less commitment because of their root.
I wonder if our convenient conversations would bring anchoring commitment if grounded in the person of Jesus Christ instead of a cause.
We make and break commitments every day to each other, with excuses salt and peppering our well-planned withdrawals like seasoning on a mediocre steak. We expect people to back out because we back out. It's just kind of the reality for generation Y: don't expect too much, but then there's a chance you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Enter my newest created word: affirm-entum.
[af-er-men-tuhm]–noun the movement resulting from the assertion that something exists or is true
You would have guessed rightly if you surmised this word is the wedding of affirmation and momentum. I think they will live happily ever, don't you?
After several minutes of frustration-directed conversation, my friend suggested it would make much more sense to just start encouraging one another. Isn't that what we're called to do, in Christ ("encourage one another and build each other up..." 1 Thessalonians 5:11)? This immediately inspired thoughts about causes focused inwardly on the cause itself as opposed to causes focused on a solution in the future.
Why don't we first assert what we know to be True. Christ is our one perfect example of man and Christ constantly reminded us of our purpose to exalt God rather than to exalt man. Christ pointed to God (and, Himself by association) as the fixed point in the distance. An assertion that this is True (the Gospel) will most definitely be followed by movement.
On a practical level, I am wondering if this means our coffee shop study groups, elite charity dinners, and friendly potlucks should all share this most important fixed point. If our passionate discussion comes from and leads to passionate proclamation of who Christ is, then we are inviting movement toward that fixed point in the distance. People will surely change along with their commitment level, but if we hope for true, significant change then we must defer to the only constant.
This must be our affirmation and encouragement to one another, so our efforts are not motivated by passionate anti-ideas, but rather by the positive agreement that God is greater.
Oh, goodness. I may have just ran around in wordy circles just now. In any case, can you please,