Chapters 3 & 4

Chapter 3– The Sh*t is Never Getting Together”

Pavlovitz admits this probably should’ve been the title to the book!  As a 27+ year veteran pastor he admits to having the inner voice that says, “You know you don’t know what the hell you’re doing, right?”  Now he realizes is wasn’t a lurking devil, but an honest friend.  Uncertainty, he writes, “is where all authentic spiritual journeys begin.”  Certainty and moral certainty usually don’t invite the turbulence they should, the kind Jesus regularly hosted as he gathered with the religious elite and godless street rabble.  Biblical figures like Moses and Paul also became “traitors” to their old tribes and heretics to their former selves.  We know more each day than we did the day before; using the analogy to praying for our “daily bread”: sustenance in the present and fuel to propel us into the coming day, when we’ll have a little more life to draw from – and more questions.  But all who have matured know there’s a grieving in the growing and outgrowing too.  We lose some of that familiar story and sense of security in the old story.  We ask “who am I?”  Pavlovitz writes, “I am an asker with more questions, a seeker still looking, a knocker approaching new doors.”  New testament author of Hebrews 11:1 writes, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” So faith isn’t about certainty but about suspicions, a movement towards something just slightly out of reach, something that propels you to ask and seek and knock – because you don’t know it all yet.

Chapter 4–“Thou Shalt Not Be a Jerk”

Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart remarked in a 1964 case addressing the nature of pornography he had trouble defining obscenity but famously declared “I know it when I see it!”  Can we recognize it when we ourselves act like jerks?  Pavlovitz asks if we tend to put our theology over people and by that, unintendedly act like “jerks.”  How do we respond (or post!) to those with whom we do not agree?  We’re encouraged to ask ourselves, “Am I trying to understand this person, or am I trying to defeat them?”  By instructing to “love our neighbor” Jesus is cautioning us against being cruel in his name.  The author uses the analogy of an athlete “playing hurt” who is showing up and contributing to the team as much as possible despite limitations.  How many do we encounter daily who are “playing life while hurt” and we offer them little grace or kindness?  We are reminded that everyone around us is  playing hurt in some way, all nursing hidden wounds.  Each of us is equipped to offer some assistance to those walking wounded around us.  Jesus even asked the disciples prior to feeding the multitudes, “What do you have? What can you come up with?”  He knows they don’t have everything needed to feed the thousands, but they can offer something to share, something that will multiply and magnify.  Jesus is frequently exasperated with those who loudly declare a grace they seem unwilling to extend to everyone.  He made folks do the hard work of confronting the gap between their testimony and their activity – to de-jerkify their lives.  We are called to be the Samaritan stopping to attend to the wounds so many others pass by, often belonging to those we feel the least inclined to love.  If our religion doesn’t compel us to be more compassionate, loving, and aware of people’s pain, and more moved to address it, it’s probably not made of God.  Our faith should not make us jerks, it should do the opposite.

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