I had an interesting day of conversations in regards to how we think. Our thinking creates many perceptions and these perceptions become in a sense our reality. If we continue to live like this it becomes irrelevant whether the perceptions are false, they take on a life of their own in our minds and become "true" as far we are concerned.
I have been surrounded recently by a number of people who have allowed suspicions of others to take root in their minds and hearts and the wild growth of these suspicions has just been stunning. So many times, at least in my experience, what is seen as fact or truth about the other so often isn't even close to being true. But the seed has been sown and in too many of us that seed finds fertile soil to take root and the new seedling grows rapidly. As far as relationships go this is just disastrous.
That is one way that our thinking can create many problems for us.
But it was another area of thinking that initiated this post. I guess I would describe it as a way of thinking that never allows an alternative thought....a different perspective on what is possible or even what is reality and truth. This way of thinking that I am sharing today might open up for me a new possibility...a greater freedom...or they could lead me to a place that I never intended. Maybe even some difficulty? Is it worth the risk? Not only do I think so, I think it is necessary for us to grow and avoid finding ourselves in a place like Nicodemus found himself. But Nicodemus had something churning inside his head and heart that led him to go out into the night under the cover over darkness.....against all of his "better" Pharisaical judgement. Try to imagine what he was feeling. Maybe some disorientation? Maybe some sick-to-his-stomach feelings? Maybe some out right paralyzing fear? But he went and took the risk, because he had heard something that had caused some alternative thinking to begin in his head.
If you don't know the story go read it. The religious system and much of it's teaching has so screwed this one up. Well at least how I am seeing it these days. We have used this encounter between Nicodemus and Jesus to create what we call a "Born Again" experience. Sadly, kind of like an event similar to getting your drivers licences, only more important. In doing this, I think we miss the wonder and the tension of what was going on in Nicodemus and what God desires for us all. That encounter seems to me to be more about having the courage to reconsider everything...to let go of all we think we know and start over....to become like a child....in a sense wipe the slate clean. It is living with the ability to think differently over and over again. Not a one time moment of deciding to believe...it is an attitude of living as children live...that is, until adults and this world get a hold of them and turn them into more adults that lose their child like trust in the loving father that is caring for them.
As this happens, they like so many others become suspicious of almost everyone to some degree, and begin to form many illusions in an attempt to bring certainty to a life that offers no certainty. Fear then takes over and a life of protecting ourselves is set in motion and we form hardened positions and ways of thinking that become entrenched in our minds and hearts....at this point alternative thinking becomes almost impossible. We either become ones who "know that we know it all" or so afraid to questioning things because of what we have been told might happen to us if we do. We become stuck.....that is....unless something happens. Nicodemus took a risk and walked out into the scary night to see the one who seemed to speak of something so different than the religion that apparently had left him wondering if there was something more. I think he found what he was looking for that night in the gentle loving company of Jesus, the one that had just pulled the rug out from under him. Jesus took from him that night the "certainty" that had been his former belief system. I bet you that very night and the days to follow, Nicodemus felt wrung out like a rag....yet exhilaratingly alive.
I want to end these thoughts with something from a present day Old Testament Theologian, Walter Brueggemann from his book The Prophetic Imagination.
He speaks of the culture and it's mindset as the royal consciousness.
"We also are children of royal consciousness. All of us, in one way or another, have deep commitments to it. So the first question is: How can we have enough freedom to imagine and articulate a real historical newness in our situation? That is not to ask, as Israel's prophets ever asked, if this freedom is realistic or politically practical or economically viable. To begin with such questions is to concede everything to the royal consciousness even before we begin. We need to ask not whether it is realistic or practical or viable but whether it is imaginable. We need to ask if our consciousness and imagination have been so assaulted and co-opted by the royal consciousness that we have been robbed of the courage or power to think an alternative thought."
Can we risk trusting Jesus, so as to believe in something other than what this world and it's economic, political and religious systems tell us?
"The royal consciousness leads people to despair about the power to move toward new life. It is the task of prophetic imagination and ministry to bring people to engage the promise of newness that is at work in our history with God."
As Nicodemus found out, alternative thinking might feel risky and scary...but in reality, the only thing risky and scary is to remain under the control of the royal consciousness, unable to have an alternative thought.