Monday, June 17, 2002

Last week, before vanishing for a few days, I posted this bit about doctrine. Because Emily Stimpson and I have gone back on forth via email as well as in our blogs—always in the friendliest manner, by the way—I emailed her, pointing out the piece I had posted. So I was surprised when she emailed back saying, in effect, “…and…?”

Thinking about it over the weekend, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t say quite enough. To Emily I hoped to say, in effect, “I know we disagree on some subjects, but I am trying to keep the conversation on legitimate ground.” To regular readers, my hope was to remind people who are much further from the teachings of the Church of reasons to be cautious. That much was probably pretty clear.

What I didn’t write, but what rattled around in my brain, is the truly remarkable thing about this. God’s love and openness to our weakness is such that He will accept us into his embrace even on the terms I outlined. And those terms are pretty stingy, if you read them that way. “Don’t do what the Church teaches because you think it is Right, do it because it is safe.”

My parents were never satisfied with me merely saying the right words, they had to be convinced I meant them. I often had to get rid of “that expression” on my face before I could walk away from the scolding or correction I was receiving. But God will accept me even when I fight, if I yield even a bit.

He wants a conversion of heart, of course. But He accepts first a conversion of behavior, or a surface conversion. Its not that you can be insincere, or fool Him—please, please, PLEASE don’t think I’m telling you that. But an incomplete conversion, an openness to the possibility of further change, is desired by God because it is the sine qua non for all else that is to come.

Start being faithful by acting like the Church matters. If you are not sure what to make of this or that teaching, follow it to the maximum extent possible while you make up your mind. If you can’t induce a charitable attitude in yourself, at least take charitable actions. Open the door a tiny crack and see what sneaks in.

A pearl is formed when a grain of sand or some other irritant gets inside an oyster. If the only irritant you can accept is the possibility that the Church might be right about something that you’d rather it were wrong about, God can accept that, and will still welcome you into His fold as the pearl forms inside you.

“She carries a pearl in perfect condition
What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things”

From “Grace” by U2


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