16 Jun 2017

The hermeneutic of suspicion and how to tear it apart

Somewhere, someone, somehow, we learnt not to trust.

We distrust ourselves.
Living Google world, we wonder if we need yet more information in order to make a decision. Knowing how many times we have messed up in the past can cause us to lose confidence in our ability to judge and choose well. This shows up in our lack of confidence to deal with decisions or certain aspects of life.

We distrust each other.
Close friendships can be torn asunder, siblings can quarrel past the parents' demise, couples break up due to infidelity or from disappointments and hurts that feel too deep to heal from.

Distrust is growing and gnawing at us all today. We distrust those who take a different view of things, hold to different values, espouse different ideals.

Distrust is extremely toxic as it presumes that the other is 'guilty' as it were, and lays down an a priori verdict.  This is the air and the hermeneutic today. We pick up the newspapers expecting to find news that we will object to. We engage social media to like/dislike/opine at the most superficial understanding of any situation. We half-listen to one another, more focused on how we will respond so as to trump the conversation.

Our brains that seek consonance conspire in this process with its innate ability towards confirmation bias, and we practise selective listening with finesse.

All of this happening in a time when self-expression and fulfillment are the gods of the day, which means that our referent point is The Self, a pretty small space to begin with.

Where lies the hope that we can communicate with more calm?
How can we reach out to those who began at a totally opposing end of the spectrum?
What is the way forward for marriages, families, and ecosystems within society, including political structures?

Recently, a young adult tried to educate me about SRS (sex reassignment surgery), and she began by saying that I must see it as a sin. I have never interacted with her prior to this, and she was writing an email to me about a subject that is both sensitive and painful. I was surprised that she had presumed (probably because I am a pastor) that my first frame of reference is about the sinfulness of it. In reality, what bothered me was the very real pain, loss and grief of the psychiatric condition dysphoria. To feel a disconnect with one's self, to experience rejection, and to search for a way out - all of it is deep pain. I agonised for the person and her family. I also agonised over how the church can communicate truth in such circumstances.

So how we can trust each other better?
How can we regain trust when we have lost it?
How do we prevent what precious little trust we have from going to rot?

Nothing is resolved where there is no genuine heart interest to do so.

Why bother to risk it and get hurt or disappointed - we hear it all the time.

Someone has pulled the wool over our eyes, having us believe that protecting our interests, guarding our borders and entrenching our positions is what grants security. This happens emotionally, psychologically, socially, and even politically. It is all playing out before us these days. From the needless haggling for a petty discount to the couple breaking up the assets, to the culling of human lives through immigration policies, we live by the rule of paucity and mistrust. There isn't enough to go around, and survival goes to the ones who can out-manuvuere others. We build walls all the time. Trump's wall is but a visible expression of an inward reality that already exists.

We need a fresh vision.

We need to believe that trusting is better.

Interestingly, the heart of the Christian's relationship with God is one of trust, expressed as obedience. 

But O, how we struggle to trust God!

With mere logic, it can seem insane to trust an unseen Being. It feels scary to say that an ancient text (collection of texts to be precise) should be infallible and hold authority over our lives - whatever we feel, grapple with, aspire towards.

Trust isn't what we are inclined towards, although we need it and yearn for it.

We want someone we can rely on, count on, come through.

Yet our parents, BFFs and all will have moments when they cannot be all we need them to be.

In the midst of turmoil, the prophet Isaiah inserted this gem in chapter 26. Here it is, in three different English versions:

“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace,
Because he trusts in You. [NASB]
You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you. [NIV]
You, Lord, give true peace.
    You give peace to those who depend on you.
    You give peace to those who trust you. [ICB]

Trust in God yields the fruit of conviction of mind, a steadfastness, and peace.

Conviction of mind is important for us to enter into interactions. It offers us an anchor and a vision for where we want things to go. But it needs the other two, or it can be mere stubborness and even a hurtful bull-dozing.
Steadfastness is needed because mistrust easily creeps back into our psyche. We ask endless 'what ifs'... and back-pedal or stall due to this. Being steadfast allows us to hold on and plod through these moments.
Peace in the Bible is not so much an emotional state, but a relational state. Hence trusting God gives rise to peace as we recognise that God is larger and stronger than our arguments and defenses. We go into dialogue and seek the possibility of understanding, and even communion by holding on to this peace and letting it become the atmosphere for the encounter and interaction.

Recently I read an excerpt from Kay Warren's heart-rending story of how her early years of marriage were a wreck. She had stumbled upon pornography as a young woman and that had filled her with a darkness and a guilt that seeped into her marriage. Pornography is a dehumanising deed, degrading both the those who watch it and those who perform for it. They also got married very young when much of their life values and skills were not matured. Like all couples, Kay and Rick gave each other plenty of ammo to choose a lack of trust.

But they tore asunder the wool being pulled over them. They chose instead to trust God, and from there, to trust each other, again and again.

If there is any relationship as intense and as open to abuse, it is the marriage. Two lives, two hearts, two totality, coming together like rivulets crashing together into a turbulent stream.... a powerful force that can shape what it meanders around.

And perhaps this is why the marriage is a sign of the Kingdom. When two hearts can learn to rest in trust in the Heart of Love, and slowly pick up the skills to speak, listen, and act out of trust in God and each other, that training will overflow into other areas of life. That unity will sustain other lives (children especially) through the inevitable seasons of life. That union will showcase that the genders can co-operate and bring out the best in each other, and not compete as if there is only space for one gender.

If you are not married, there are yet plenty of places to grow to trust.

As we trust God, His trustworthiness folds into our being and we too grow to be able to trust others and ourselves better.

1 comment:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and heart here, and helping to to build a real, faith-full community together!