As part of my commitment to a couple of book projects, this spring I am taking a personal blogging hiatus and have invited some folks to blog in my stead. It is my intention help share some new voices and perspectives with a larger audience and keep my blog active during my break. If you are interested in guest blogging, feel free to submit an idea. Today I welcome Greg Bolt to the guest blogging crew. Greg is a pastor for Youth and Their Family in Bend, OR. He is a father of two, an avid West Virginia University alumni, and a sports nut. Follow Greg on TWITTER or read his BLOG.
I have this coal miner friend, actually he’s the father of an ex-girlfriend (but that’s another blog), who always says “Be who you say you are.” When I first heard it I thought it was one of those quaint Appalachian colloquialisms that folks from a different generation say. Then I got to thinking, those six words may be the most challenging words I’ve ever heard.
I have always thought of myself as open-minded, Christian, caring, and passionate. Those are terms that I have used to describe myself since I could remember (or was asked to describe myself). Looking back, however, I realized that the word used by my peers most commonly to describe me was…well, let’s just say it wasn’t any of the words I used to describe me.
Of course, I didn’t recognize the disparity in the descriptions or understand why people didn’t understand that I was actually open-minded, Christian, caring and passionate. All they saw was a loud, arrogant, demeaning, elitist.
Then I went to seminary, this is the same time I met my coal miner friend. One day, while I was in CPE – I was a chaplain in a hospital for 10 weeks during the summer and participated in what amounted to group therapy – I was “disagreeing” with one of my more conservative colleagues, others said I was “lambasting” him (so much for being caring) when our supervisor stepped in and said, “Greg, you are a liberal fundamentalist.”
I was aghast. First off, what the heck does that even mean and secondly, is that even possible?
He explained that I was not willing to accept or acknowledge any ideas that were different from my own, especially if they were conservative. That stung because he was right. I was a liberal fundamentalist! (open-mindedness out the window)
This exchange stuck with me, then the following year of seminary was an election year. On campus, there were liberals and conservatives, the liberals were definitely louder, the conservatives also let their voice be heard. As the election drew near and the rhetorical heat turned up there were some awkward (read here unloving) exchanges between some people with opposing views. When, after being accosted by some of my liberal brethren, my next door neighbor, a staunch conservative, stormed into my dorm room and said, “You liberals! You’ll let people be whatever they want as long as it isn’t conservative!” (so much for being “Christian” in seminary)
It was after these exchanges that I started to take to heart the word, “Be who you say you are!”
If I was really open-minded, caring, passionate, and Christian, I would be able to be respectful of my friend’s theology and political leanings, even if I did not agree with him. I could still care for him, listen to him and be open-minded enough to try and understand his perspective. I could still be passionate about my theology and politics, that did not mean that I could be disrespectful.
So I wonder, if I do that now and does my perception of myself match other’s perception of me. Am I being who I say I am? I know that I try.
Which leads to another question, are you? Are you as open-minded as you think you are?
As a person of faith, does your life reflect your faith…really?
If the answer to that question is yes, good for you! If the answer to that question is no,why not?
And if none of this makes any sense, read this great post over at Momastery
Blessings - Greg Bolt