Jack Nicholson defiantly responds to Tom Cruise, “You can’t handle the truth.” Honesty is often both difficult to hear and receive. Pastors are not somehow immune to answering the question that sounds like, “Do I look fat in this dress?”
Honesty and Humanity
From the time I heard Jason Micheli‘s voice on a podcast I determined I needed to hear what he had to say or read what he had to write. Discovering his blog felt like reading Anne Lamott. Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith served for me to be one of the gutsy honest books that one rarely ever read growing up in an extremely conservative Christian enclave. We did not know to call it a subculture back then.
Jason writes with a wit and honesty that opens you up and then stings you. Rarely does a pastor gain the privilege to write, much less speak that way. Received like a sucker punch I read Jason’s news that he was battling Mantle Cell Lymphoma. His recent check-up revealed he was cancer free. The point from then to now is littered with gut wrenching pain without the loss of his penetrating insight.
On this episode of the podcast we discuss the origin of the humor and honesty that springs from this life through his keyboard. Currently he is writing a book with a working title, Cancer is Humorous. The title may change, but the work will be worth you picking up when it drops.
Hatred Toward Suffering
How exactly does a pastor respond when he learned he has stage-serious cancer? He tests his understanding that God does not traffic in suffering. Even more he puts to the test the notion that suffering brings us closer to God but is not a means God to coerce personal pieties.
Since our conversation I was left thinking how those who endure the battle that is cancer, having taken a posture of hatred toward suffering, might inspire us to also take a posture of hatred toward suffering with all people everywhere. Jason reminds us this is the Cross.
Know Enough to Leave?
We explore Jason’s catechesis project, Distilled, and talk about formulating belief birthed out of the questions life disturbs. I would guess many pastors suffer the pangs of a young person making a decision about life and faith with what seems like inadequate tools. Rather than equip with patterned responses to the tough questions, it would be good if we took the time to listen to the questions and consider the doubts that arise from human existence. Once we have paid attention then we might refrain from dismissing those questions and patronizing another person’s doubt. The result might at least be a genuine occasion to explore our own questions and doubts.
Most often we fear others questions and others doubts because they stir our own. What would it mean for a community to embrace difficult questions and not be dismissive of doubt? How would we be able to forge with our communities expressions of faith consistent with our practices that transform our lives from that which is limited to that which is possible?
Thanks to Jason for his time, his wit, his honesty, and his open practice of the Faith.
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