Breath for the Bones Book Club: Thoughts on Chapter 4 by Queenie from Rancho Ruperto
This week’s book club post is provided by my dear friend Queenie. Without her, writing group would be terribly lonely. For more from this tender heart, visit her blog.
I grew up attending a small, rural, old-fashioned church with bare wooden pews and a cappella singing. Currently, however, I go to a largish church with a modern, comfortable sanctuary, three services, and concert-style worship music. I didn’t realize how much my sensibilities had changed to match the latter until I attended a weekend program whose trappings reminded me strongly of the former. I was both intrigued and repelled by the unpretentious, unapologetically homespun feel of the weekend, and I couldn’t stop thinking about my ambivalent reaction.
Society encourages us to seek success and its trappings. Even when it comes to church, we want to be a part of something that is prosperous and respected. Give us the polished, the professional. We’re looking for hip and highbrow, not anything imperfect, out-of-date, or, God forbid, tasteless. The problem is that I think that somehow these are the very things we do, indeed, need.
When we experience what is less than aesthetically ideal or technically flawless but which comes from the heart, we are reminded of the person behind the offering. We glimpse the truth that we are human, imperfect, even frail. And that those around us are exactly the same as we are. What’s more, we remember that Jesus has called us to love each other, weaknesses and all.
We may not want this. Our style-driven culture craves neatly-packaged worship experiences that enhance the decor of our lives. But I’m convinced that instead of a perfectly-manicured Christian assemblies, what we need is some hard work and mess: dirt beneath the fingernails of our lives with each other, if you will. I need to hear my neighbor praising God next to me, whether or not she can carry a tune. I need to know that everyone’s help is required to make the next church activity function (whether or not we can all can do our jobs perfectly). I need to be sure my fellow churchgoers know and care about my life, whether or not I have it all together.
What does this have to do with Luci Shaw’s Breath for the Bones chapter this week? In Chapter 4, “Learning From Story,” Shaw addresses the crucial role of narrative in divine revelation, reflecting on the fact that story gives truth flesh and bone, something tangible which our minds—and more importantly, our hearts—can apprehend. In many ways, that which is simple and imperfect provides these stories as well, the stories of ordinary lives lived in humble ways for our humble but extraordinary King. As we see and participate in others’ stories, it becomes clear to us that we need to add our own story, for without it the narrative is incomplete.
Like a simple and human-scale get-together, stories have endings that don’t always tie up neatly. The truth which story offers is not a thoroughly-analyzed, 5-point outline that can be projected on the large screen with attention-grabbing graphics. It’s a patient, earnest truth that slowly takes root in and transforms the rotted detritus of a person’s heart. It’s found in the non-glitzy narrative of Jesus, a less-than-gorgeous guy (“He had no beauty or majesty that we should desire him.”) from a seedy sort of place (“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”) who nevertheless expressed the most powerful reality of all: God stooping to our humanity to show his love—the only truly perfect thing in this world.
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