Congruence

Jordon Cooper has a link on his site to an article from Christianity Today – an interview with Eugene Peterson.  It seems to be hitting right where I am at as far as my needing congruence – a good sense of alignment of who I am and what I do.  I think I get too caught up in wanting the contemplative side of my life to take precedence but I am also a person who has been given certain practical gifts and, as far as I know, I need to continue to use them.  I guess I need to find a renewed sense of being useful to God where I am now.  I need to live out my life in this constant tension between the practical work world in which I live and the world of the spirit where I would like to dwell.

I especially liked the following quotes from the article:

“Do not let the word “contemplative” throw you off, Peterson admonished. He is not interested in an isolated life spent pondering high-minded concepts. Instead, the contemplative Christian life can be described by what he saw in Tournier—a life lived with “wholeness, honesty, without contrivance.” One word that comes to mind is authenticity, but the one Peterson used over and over was congruence—the alignment of who you are and what you do, the harmony of the ends you seek and the means you use to achieve them….”

“It’s easier to talk about what Christians do—life as performance,” Peterson said. But the three pieces of Jesus’ fundamental declaration that he is the way, the truth, and the life, must be in perfect correspondence. “Only when we live Jesus’ truth in Jesus’ way do we get Jesus’ life,” Peterson said. Not his truth in our way for the sake of our life….”

“He introduced this baffling paradox of the Christian life. “This is slow work; it cannot be hurried. This is urgent work; it cannot be procrastinated.” In American culture, in which “fast” is equated with “good,” this is a contradiction. What’s worse about the contemplative life, he told me afterwards, is that “most of the time you’re unconscious of it. … The minute you start thinking about it, you mess it up; there’s a sense of always having dissonance.”

I do want my life to be in proper alignment – to be living Jesus’ way, to be doing what I do the way I do it because of Jesus living in me. 

I think there is a lot of truth to the statement about the contemplative life best being lived unconsciously.  I begin to lose the purpose he called me to when I start to worry if there is perhaps a more contemplative life for me somewhere.  I need to live in the “now” doing the jobs he has placed right in front of me. Sort of need to keep my feet on the ground, hands in the mouths, eyes on Jesus.  Above all keep my eyes on Jesus.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Congruence

  1. Toni

    Well, that’s a lot of words!

    If I understand correctly, what he’s saying is that it’s more or less like walking downstairs: fine if you just get on and do it. In essence that seems correct – try to walk with Jesus and let Him deal with our characters in his time (assuming we’re open to Him doing so) and we will be aligned.

    I guess I get a little worried when people try to analyse and intellectualise the Christian life. By it’s nature it should be simple enough for anyone of any intelligence level to follow. There’s nothing wrong with trying to understand (quite the opposite) but althogether too much ‘theology’ seems to be arranged to hide the secrets of God by clever use of language. The sharpest mind I’ve ever known was used to bring lesser minds up to their level – not to impress them with how little they really understood. So, I think, it is with God.

  2. Linea

    Toni,

    I guess I can agree with you about the theology and the intellectualizing although Peterson’s translation, The Message, seems pretty down to earth.

    What I found most useful in the article was the part about living lives that are not just a performance but are the results of God living in and through us. What people see in us should be who we are. They should see Christ in us if he is there because he should be changing us. A performance requiring constant and conscious effort is more likely to get messed up.

  3. Toni

    Sorry Linea, that didn’t quite come out right, did it? It seemed to me like a long way of saying “just do it. If you think about it then you’ll trip over your feet”.

    We’re all different, and I’m sure that it’s part of God’s love of variety that makes one man’s meat another’s poison etc. I think I’m also frustrated because I see some people wrapped up trying to agonise their way through all sorts of difficult things that understanding will not make the least difference to. Sure it’s good to understand, but for me life comes first, and understanding follows on.

    Still, if it worked for you then that’s great. Hopefully I’ll keep my size 8s out of my mouth next time ;-/

  4. Linea

    Toni,

    I appreciate your comments and as long as you can get your size 8’s out again with grace then no harm is done!

    I am probably, right now anyway, agonizing too much over having a sense of wanting something more and not knowing just what it is. I think maybe these words, like yours but longer and more convoluted, told me to just proceed with what I know for now and not get too hung up on it all. If God has something he wants me to do differently he will have to show me, and if I sense a lot of uncertainty right now it must be for some reason. Maybe he just wants me not to get complacent. Maybe he is going to bring some sort of change and is getting me ready. I don’t know so I will proceed as usual doing what he has given me to do now. You are right that my agonizing over this is not going to be helpful. He will do what he will do and I may understand it all later.

    Still I sometimes find words help a lot in clarifying things for me, especially if they are practical and not just empty words.

  5. Toni

    I’ve just remebered some useful words – when in hole, stop digging.

    Think I’ll put this shovel down then.

  6. Donna

    Linea,

    My prayer for you, would be that the Lord would awaken your spirit to the simple fact that each day that you “contemplate” and attempt authenticity you seek Him. Sometime it feels like we are wandering about in the wilderness, alone. But the Lord draws us deeper in our walk, closer to Him during those times of “wondering” or should I say “wandering”…continue to seek Him and I KNOW He will answer…expect it and watch for Him to respond to your cry.