A Christmas Disturbance

In Isaiah 35, the prophet speaks the word of the Lord saying, “Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.”

I don’t know about you, but the more I think about the coming of the day of the Lord, the more I am disturbed. While my first impulse is to find comfort in the words of this new day that God will usher in, I quickly begin to ask myself – what if I am part of the overall problem?

I believe being disturbed by God is okay. It causes us to sit up and listen. Edgar Shein, the father of organizational culture and leadership and former professor at MIT, points out that all people and organizations work hard at maintaining equilibrium (we don’t want to change). We are only motivated to change when enough disconfirming data is introduced into the system (our life) to cause serious discomfort and disequilibrium.

In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, we see that Scrooge is impacted by the Spirits of Christmas Past and Present, but is only when serious level of disturbance is introduced by the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come that Scrooge finally changes. Scrooge is confronted and disturbed as he sees the result of his unreflective life. His grasping, greedy, and relation-less life ends with no fanfare and no compassion. The Spirit takes him to a back alley shop where a woman is selling Scrooge’s bed curtains. Scrooge hears her say, If he wanted to keep ’em after he was dead, a wicked old screw, why wasn’t he natural in his lifetime? If he had been, he’d have had somebody to look after him when he was struck with Death, instead of lying gasping out his last there, alone by himself.”

The consequence of Scrooge’s unreflective life, which he lived only for himself, is highly disturbing.

And this is our danger; most of us are unaware of how selfishly we live our lives. We are so comfortable that God must disturb us to get us to see ourselves honestly. Most of the time, we don’t realize how clouded our vision really is.

Barbara Brown Taylor, in her book An Altar to the World, writes, “We have just enough religion to make us hate one another but not enough to make us love one another. Because we are human, which is to say we are essentially self-interested, we are always looking for ways to add a little more authority to our causes, to come up with better reasons to fight for what we want than to just say, “Because I want it, that’s why.” If we can convince ourselves that God wants it too – even if that means we cast God in our own image so we can deny the image of God in those not like us – than we are free to harm others not for our own reasons but in the name of God, which allows us to feel holy about it instead of feeling bad.”

While it doesn’t really excite me, the truth is I need to see my name on that tombstone. I need God to shake me on a regular basis and disturb me to the depths of me being.

For my welfare? The best thing for my welfare is to stay blind and comfortable.

For my reclamation, then.

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