Generally speaking, as a body of people, the church is afraid. Battered back and forth by our own ideals of making a difference in this world with a compulsive need for theological certainty and stamped permission slips we’ve lost our edge.
We go toward certainty and permission, and then swing wide the other way. It doesn’t take too long to figure out that we can’t have it both ways. At least not at the start. For anything worth doing first requires guts and a certain ‘leave off the unexplainable parts’ in order to get a job done.
The need for psychological certainty is a living death for the church. Fear based ministry ends up being no ministry at all.
For we and everyone in the world are living messy lives. If the outside looks good all we have to do is dig a bit under the surface and we find all sorts of relics and dead bones and living fears. If we are afraid our aim becomes to stay safe and become certain.
God never promised us psychological certainty. In fact “lean not on your own understanding” directly implies that we will not have it all figured out.
Yet how often have we made love and service to people take a back seat to ‘our own understanding’. Unless all the ducks are lined up we hold back. And in that holding back, in that idolatry of ducks-in-a-row, how many potentially mighty acts of God have been aborted.
According to Daniel Goleman author of Emotional Intelligence and Primal Leadership, one of the key traits of both emotional intelligence and resonant leaders is the ability to walk with mixed emotions and to hold ambiguity well.
According to this, we the church have traditionally been pretty low on the emotional intelligence scale.
My own journey of emotional healing and into emotional intelligence required me to give up my own “best understandings”. God has upset my ‘box’ of paradigms so many times that, thank God, I have finally figured it out that I don’t have God figured out.
How does the Church who claims the upper-hand on the knowledge of God reach for emotional intelligence, leave off our ‘best understanding’ and embrace ambiguity? And why should we?
The reasons are plain.
It is the emotionally intelligent ones who are leading the way. The ability to walk transparent, to examine oneself with good humor and frank understanding, to manage ones feelings and to lead others on a path of similar self discovery and humility is the work done by emotionally intelligent leaders.
Whether they know Christ or not.
Emotional intelligence trumps every other kind of intelligence. It is the kind of internal savvy that cannot be manufactured or controlled. Who we are shows up in our emotional intelligence, and our emotional intelligence interprets what we intellectually know to everyone around us.
Have it intellectually correct but without emotional intelligence and we are simply offensive. The content may be spot-on but without the highway of emotional intelligence the message dies before leaving the gate.
For in any group or group of groups, there are those who are the designated leaders, and then there are the ones that are the true influencers, the ones that people are paying attention to.
That one is always the most emotionally intelligent.
On the world stage, the church is generally not leading in emotional intelligence. Do I dare say that we are not okay with ambiguity. Might it be that we are not all that good at self-examination. Do we know how to learn from others who are not the same as us? How deeply afraid are we?
The only way I know to save the Church from itself is the same process that any one of us can employ to save ourselves from ourselves, and that is to get out there and get our hands dirty.
Entering into something bigger than us automatically strips us of pride and self-sufficiency, immediately challenges our primary assumptions, and brings us face to face with our own ugly arrogance.
We won’t have it all figured out, God shows up differently than how we might like, and in this we are loosed from fear and the need for psychological certainty. For when we let down our guard we find God in the smack-dab middle of all we don’t know. Such a blessed relief.
We are not called to know it all or to have God all figured out. It is not an intellectually-led discussion. We are in fact invited into relationship first and foremost, and relationships require emotions, and uncertainty, risking and listening and a whole host of other things.
Fear, paranoia, hunkered in, closed systems, big sticks, little self awareness, talking first before we listen, is all the work of the enemy.
God’s world is much bigger than that. May the Church be bigger than that too.