Category Archives: Anthropology

Peopling is hard

My brain sometimes behaves like an 8 year old. It hides behind things and jumps out at me in the hopes of messing me up. One of its favorite tricks is to blend words that people say to me in new and unique ways so that all I am hearing is gibberish.

As an interesting example, when I was a child, a minister friend of my father’s would greet me with “What’s new?” My brain scramble would hear, “What snew?”

“What snew?” I have no idea what to say to that. Like my brain just jumped out at me and said, “Gotcha!” and all I could do is go, “waaaaaaaahhhhh” but that doesn’t contribute anything at all to the conversation. I would function enough to know that simply going waaaahhhh would get me sent away, so I just gaped.

Since that brain scramble wasn’t enough, my brain decided to disconnect the circuitry that responds to anything. After rejecting waaaaaaaaahhhhhhh as inadequate for the situation, I would say nothing and just wait for something to load….

“Snew…” “snew.” *file not found. critical error. abort immediately.

From the perspective of the adults around me, I’m just a drooling imbecile. But my brain runs Vista and frequently shuts down.

As I got a bit older, I started to just say, “What?” Or, more politely, “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.” Or perhaps “pardon me?”

But then he would just say, “What snew?” again, which isn’t exactly helpful.

How many times does one say, “What?” before one just gives up and says the first thing that pops into his mind?

“What snew

“What?

“What snew?

“I purpled a thing and I can’t dog anymore.

Peopling is exhausting sometimes.

Of course, as an adult, I am far more understanding of the gaping child. Look at it from his perspective: he is sitting there minding his own business. His mind is pondering. His unicorns are unicorning and his purpling is purpler than ever before. He is thinking through the mysteries of self and why I am me and you are you and what is the dogness of the dog and then some giant man shouts at you…

“What snew?”

That’s just too much input. Critical error. This is going to take some time to boot up.

I need a nap now. This, mom, is why I just would give up and go to bed at 9:30.

If I’m gaping at you, or my words are not the expected response, please be assured that I am really trying. Also please be aware that I might just need a nap.

Jesus said to deal with your neighbor as you would have them deal with you. We all have a basic need to be understood. God created us to know and to be known.

But we teach our kids to be silent, to conform, to be just like everyone else. In fact, our whole education model is based upon making the children conform. No wonder anxiety and depression and ADHD are rampant. God didn’t create us to conform. He created us to commune! We aren’t borg. We are image-bearers of God.

But we have had generations of teaching children “Sit still. Answer the adults. Be respectful. Regurgitate your lessons properly. Don’t fidget in church. Don’t embarrass your parents by being different…”

Let’s try a different strategy. Let’s try communing with our children instead of making them conform. Listen to them. Provide a safe space for them to thrive. Let them be themselves, with all of their glorious coloring.

“I think that those who would try to make you feel less than who you are…that’s the great evil” (Fred Rogers).

Let’s stop the “I turned out just fine” model and learn from the past.

And when a child is staring with an open gaping mouth, maybe give him a break. Things that come easily to you might not come easily to everyone else, and that is OK. All of us have our own glorious purpling.

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Filed under Anthropology, Image of God

On being human

Sometimes it is OK to laugh at ourselves.
I am Reformed, as most of you probably know.
When I say that, I don’t mean the pop-reformed, conference going, almost five points, know a little bit about beards and micro-brews and read John Piper once.
I mean actually Reformed – I hold to the historic reformed confessions. I belong to a real Reformed denomination and submit to the authority of fellow elders.

But sometimes we need to laugh a bit at ourselves. Sometimes I feel that a real weakness in our tribe is the struggle to be human beings. It is almost like those who belong to Reformed churches are actually cyborgs trying to access their “human interaction” programming modules.

You can tell whenever you try to engage them in normal human activity. There is a bit of a stare, almost eye to eye but not quite. The beard quivers a bit, and after a split second that is just slightly too long, they say something that is ALMOST appropriate – but not quite – to the situation.

This phenomenon is only observable with normal human behavior. If you start a conversation quoting Owens or Edwards or even RC Sproul, they can almost come across normal.

But anything outside of their programming, they can’t quite seem to click.
Sometimes the human interaction module malfunctions completely. Take these examples.

I visited a Reformed church when I was in my early 20s. I knew one person there. That person came up to me after the service with a group of his friends. They stared just past the top of my head and shuffled their feet awkwardly. I said, “Hi, I’m Sam.”
The leader of the gang said, “Are you Reformed?”
I said, ….”yessss……”
He said, “Do you believe that God ordains the reprobation of the wicked as well as the election of the righteous?”

See? They human interaction module malfunctioned. It is a common error message that flashes in unexpected places.

A few years later, a young man visited the church. He was poor, on his own, on the verge of being homeless. After the service, he asked a group of men where he could go to buy some food.
Conversation stopped. Awkward shuffling. Eyes slightly unfocused. Pending malfunction. Prepare for error message:
“Ummm. We don’t shop on Sundays. It’s the Lord’s day…” And there it is…

I think one of the best things we can do is just be human beings. Jesus became flesh and is not ashamed to call us brothers. He is the express image of God in the flesh and he came to redeem us in the flesh – to restore us as actual human beings with feelings, tastes, emotions, artistry, joy – and hungers.
We long for beauty, for significance, for respect, for intimacy. We long to simply connect.

Let us not be ashamed of just being human. Let’s listen to music. Let’s read CS Lewis and resist the urge to say “Actually, he was wrong on…” Just enjoy it.

We really don’t have to have a life and world view on the music of Dean Lewis or Passenger. Let’s just be human, enjoy it, praise God for the forgiveness of sins and join the human race.

I think this is what Solomon meant when he said,

(Ecc 9:7-10 KJV) 7 Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.
8 Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment.
9 Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.
10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

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Filed under Anthropology

On being a human

Jesus, the Eternal Word of God, who is God and who is with God, became flesh. He was the true Israel of God, the true Son of God, succeeding where Adam failed, “Like unto his brethren in all things, sin excepted.”
He, then, is the true Image-bearer of God, who came to restore to us the fullness of our humanity that we lost after the fall.

This is a deep subject, that will take further study. Pick up Colossians, to start with…

If this is true, then that means that Christ came to make us fully human again, instead of the twisted caricature that sin turned us into (Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:10)

And if that is true, then why is it that so many conversations with Christians sound like their bodies have been invaded by aliens and they are trying to learn what it means to be human?

Think about it. There is a quick pause, as if they are thinking to themselves, “How would a human respond?” and they almost get it right, but not quite.

Maybe it’s just a Reformed thing…
I, for one, think that we should probably quit putting on some kind of a weird front, and just admit that we like Redbone, Dean Koontz, Stranger Things and let the chips fall where they may.

So today I’m coming out. I’m a human being. I like music and art and best-selling novels. I am currently binge-watching ER. I missed it when it first came out so Hulu is catching me up.

I love seeing God’s image in his creation. I love watching creatures create beauty, sound, lights, color, characters
I’m not afraid of catching sin through my eyes and ears. I have enough of it in my heart, but my savior is greater than my heart and has made me fully human again.
Praise his name forever!!

Now go be a human again.

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Filed under Anthropology, Men and women