My biblical initiative to respond by resisting
I am sure the words of the apostle that walked and sailed the Mediterranean Sea counter the words in the title of this blog post. I sure the words ring in your heart and in your memory as one of those cherished passages of the New Testament that you memorized in those formative days in your journey with Jesus. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” [Philippians 4:4, NIV]. My taking of this verse reference and changing but one word twice, to render a completely different meaning is intentional.
My last blog post on this word “resist” alluded to my resisting and how difficult the act of resisting was for me during that moment in time. I was resisting the internal pressures to go out and attend a church service. I resisted to the point where it was very difficult, and until the clock literally struck the moment of no return. Once the clock’s hour hand was past twelve noon, and the minute hand was past the thirty minute mark, I knew it was over. I did not any longer have to resist so forcefully. The hour of temptation had passed. There was no more church to be visited or experienced that morning. All the church services were complete. All of the gathered people had been blessed and released to return to their homes, or released to go to whatever restaurants that they would visit for their noon day repast.
The signs and wonders of the roads in Waterloo
Last Sunday, my darling Lori-Anne had the desire to attend a particular church, for their Advent week celebration. She wanted to visit Knox Presbyterian Church, a church that is situated in Uptown Waterloo, in between the Waterloo Public Library and the Waterloo Town Square complex. The main street that journeys northbound from that core part of the city is Erb Street. It is at this junction that Bridgeport ceases its journey northbound and merges into Erb Street. That junction is exactly at the corner where you find Knox Presbyterian Church. If you go straight through the intersection, the street becomes Caroline Street, and if you merge right, you merge into Erb St.. If you go and merge left, the street becomes a one way south bound Erb Street all the way to the number 85 Expressway. Such are the wandering streets and roads that make up Kitchener-Waterloo. Enough to drive the inhabitants crazy when there is road construction, and enough to baffle newcomers to the region to paralyze them to the point where they will either actually stop when they don’t know what to do or where to go, or worse, go in reverse up the road, or pull a u-turn and go against traffic. I have witnessed all these reactions at this very intersection. I am no longer surprised by such actions on our roads.
Our morning routine, even on Sundays
On Sunday, we got up as we usually do. I made coffee and bacon and eggs. Lori-Anne went through her own morning routine of meditation, a workout, coffee and breakfast with me. She was going to walk to the church, and I was going to drive, so that we could go out for lunch together as part of our day together. I was fine with that. So as we finished our time at home, and I walked the dog, we came back together, and got ready to go. She had decided by that time that she would drive with me as it would take too long to walk it that Sunday. So off we went. Lori-Anne offered to drive. We drove down Erb Street and we were making good time. It was around twenty minutes after ten, as we came around the road that takes us to the Waterloo Public Library parking lot. That parking lot acts as an over-flow for Knox Presbyterian Church. We parked and we walked across the street and came to the Knox property and Lori-Anne saw the sign in the window: Service: 10:00 am.
Taken off guard and how we respond to disappointment
Lori-Anne turned and looked at me. She appeared stunned by the revelation that she and I would be late for the morning service. Lori-Anne likes to be punctual. She would rather not go to something than to go in late. She and I were both raised that way by our parents. She said, “Well we are too late for this service. Let’s go to the United Church, maybe they start at 10:30.” That United Church is only a couple of minutes’ walk from Knox, a couple of streets over. I looked at her and I said, “I will go and wait in the car.” She refused to give me the keys, as she misunderstood what I said. She thought that I said I was going to drive home. So Lori-Anne walked briskly to the United Church. I walked behind her and I said, there was no way I was going to go to a United Church. I watched her walk into the United Church. I turned around and began to walk home, as the library was closed until 1 pm that day. So off I went.
I was well on my way, walking down Erb Street. I was already over half the way home, when a silver Hyundai Elantra stopped along the curb and rolled own its right side window. It was Lori-Anne and it was four minutes after 11 am. I had been walking for a half hour and I was at Erb Street and Amos Street. I got in and we drove home and made some lunch. I did not bring the morning situation up during our day together. We spent the afternoon and evening in our rec room. We relaxed together with a pot of coffee and just chilled together. We did some reading and I put on Google Play Music and streamed it on the TV via WIFI. It was a wonderful afternoon. By the evening Lori-Anne said, “Let’s not repeat what happened this morning. Whatever we decide to do, let’s make it about a time to share together. I don’t want to go through that again.”
I could not have said it any better than that.
Resist when you do not have peace about something
When I resisted going to the United Church, it was precisely because we had not agreed that we would go to the United Church as a backup plan to the Knox Presbyterian Church. The last church I would ever visit would be a United Church. It is ultra-liberal, not just liberal. When a church allows a preacher to be an avowed atheist and retain minister credentials, you are no longer a Christian denomination. The United Church has been not only in decline but on its death bed for over five decades. It was on life support when my family immigrated to Canada in 1967. The United Church became so politicized when it was formed out of the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Evangelical United Brethren, that they were mockingly referred to being equal to the social gospel agenda of Canada’s socialist political party, the New Democratic Party (NDP), and were called the “NDP at Prayer” in jest. It was no laughing matter. Some of the most progressive political and social causes were jointly supported by both the NDP and the United Church. To me both the party and the supposed Christian denomination were anathema. So that Sunday morning, I chose to “resist” and resist I did. I refused to go there. If I was going to be going to attend a church service, to honor my wife’s desire to attend an Advent service, and it was agreed upon to be at the Presbyterian Church, then it would be the Presbyterian Church, and not some United Church. I was not at peace with going to the United Church so I resisted.
My resistance meant walking away from something so that I could walk forward into something new
When I resisted and walked away, it was intentional. It was not a whimsical situation. It was an intent of my heart and intellect, which I would intentionally refuse to do something, so that I could walk in freedom in another direction. That was no simple thing to do. It really hit home that resistance implies action. That action is both an “against” something, and “for” something. They are opposite positions when it comes to movement. There is movement and when you resist that movement, you are putting to a stop that particular direction in which you are going, in order to counter that direction and move in another direction.
When you think of “resistance movements” you think of those, like the men, women, and children that were a part of the French Resistance, the Maquis, who resisted the German occupation of France in World War Two. The Resistance resisted any kind of compromise not only with the agents of the German state in France, but also the agents of the political establishment, the compliant French government bureaucracy, the police and the French military of the Vichy French government. The French Resistance committed acts of sabotage, gathered intelligence for the Allies, committed political assassinations against Germans and French citizens who had betrayed France, carried out attacks against military and economic targets to hinder the German war effort. So these resistance fighters not only resisted the actions of the German state and its agents, and the sold out Vichy French government, but acted for the restoration of the rightful French government and the liberation of France from the tyranny of Germany over the French people. They were against something and they were equally for something altogether different and opposite of the other.
The importance of discernment when it comes to resisting
When it comes to “resisting” one needs to be aware that resistance has with it both a commitment for action, as well as an outward action that verifies and validates the resistance. The determining factor in this process is the gift of discernment. How do we discern the right thing to do in a particular circumstance? How do we decide whom to resist and what to resist? Are we guilty of resisting God’s will when we resist even things that are considered good and noble? How do we discern simply what we ought to do?
When I began this post I substituted the word “resist” for “rejoice” in Philippians 4, verse 4. I implore you to take to heart the notion of resistance being a good and noble act. I know when it comes to practicing discernment, we can become derailed emotionally and spiritually when we try to figure out what the right action ought to be in a given circumstance. I believe there are some things we can be very intentional about and very much rely on, when it comes to discerning whether in any given circumstance we will act in accordance to our heart and conscience.
Discernment implies a heart knowledge, not just a head knowledge
We need to resist simply doing what is easy, what is convenient, what is popular, and even what is expected in certain situations and contexts. We can become conflicted within our own selves. We can become so paralyzed by our not wanting to act in a certain manner, that we often miss acting at all in any shape or form. We cave in to the pressure of having to act and we decide our action will be in effect non-action. We will do nothing.
The whole point of living life, is to act as the verb implies. Life implies living, acting out the reality of life in real time and real circumstances and situations, where decisions are made both consciously and unconsciously based on the inner workings of our hearts, our human spirits, and our convictions. It is not the trials of life, or the challenges of life that form character. Rather it is the very difficult circumstances and choices that we make throughout the days of lives which reveals itself within each decision, the moral fiber of our being. Character is revealed in conflict and difficulty. This is when that “stuff” is shown to one and all, when who you really are comes to the surface. Character eventually reveals itself in all its simplicity, beauty, complexity and even its hypocrisy.
So as you live life, live and respond in the moment
Lori-Anne and I had to live in the moment on that Sunday. I know for me, I failed miserably. I was angry. I was angry for several reasons. I had discerned that I would support Lori-Anne and go to the Advent service at Knox, only to discover that we were late when we arrived. Neither of us wanted to face our self-perceived embarrassment of walking in late. So we did not go in. Lori-Anne, determined she was going to go somewhere, forced herself to go for the half hour remaining, to the United Church. Me, I just simply said, “Screw it. I am walking home. I was ticked off. I did not want to remain angry, so I walked toward home, blowing off the steam of the situation as I walked. I realized here again in this moment just how disappointing this whole “church” thing is for me. I can’t even get the time right, even for when I have determined that I will attend.
Responding in the moment
In responding to the moment, I let my decision to not go to any other church other than the one we had planned on determine my resulting decision to go home. I was fine with that. I lived in that moment, and as I walked home I thanked the Lord for being able to walk on such a beautiful day. I walked and as I wrestled through my own failed expectations, which was the exact moment in time that Lori-Anne drove up the road and came to the curb and offered me a ride to the house.
There was no discernment needed. We acknowledged each other, and express thanks for each other and that we had the rest of the day to enjoy. We discerned what we loved about Sundays, and that includes spending the day together, reading together, reading to each other, be it out of a book or the Bible, holding conversations over a pot of coffee, and making a meal that we can share together.
We both realized just as Rob Bell has so well expounded, that “everything is spiritual.” We discovered this decades ago, but every day we see more and more just how interconnected everything is with the Divine. You see the imprint of God everywhere, in everyone, in every situation. How you discern and perceive life, determines how well you sense and see God at work in your life.
When you discern you should resist something, don’t fight it. When you discern that you should embrace a situation or a person, fully embrace that situation or that person. Don’t hold yourself back. Embrace that moment in its entirety. Don’t leave room for disappointment. If you wallow in the disappointment, it will only make you bitter and angry.
I resist “Sunday Church” simply because I don’t need it, and nor do I want it. I have discerned that every day is holy and I want to wholly live the day as best as I am able. Being holy does not imply anything other than being true to my own self, and by doing so, I am being true to God and to others. The only conflict arises is when I am in disquiet and conflicted with my own true self.
When I have issues with resistance, I have to resist something and defy it, when in its core it is in conflict with my own true self
If my conscience is clear and my heart and intent is pure before God and my fellow man, that which I resist will not injure another. It may disappoint another or their expectations of me and of themselves, but it will not injure them. When we embrace the expectations of others as being right and correct, and our hearts are conflicted with them, which is when we become dismayed and overwrought by things that we ought not to subject ourselves to. We answer to God in our hearts and in our actions. We should not feel compelled to do anything other than be motivated by love to God and to our fellow man. Anything which does not arise out of love and devotion and to the betterment of another, can be and should be resisted. But each one of us must determine this for ourselves through discernment and wisdom. If at the moment of decision, we have peace with God about our decision, then no matter how many embrace the opposite view to ourselves, we can and we should, surely stand on that truth. As Martin Luther said before the Diet of Worms, “Here I stand, I can do no other.”
When I resist, it is because I have discerned that I ought to resist
I resist not only against something, but also resist for something that is altogether different from what I have resisted against. When Mahatma Gandhi resisted the rule of the British Empire, he felt its full force and willingly took imprisonment rather than to cave in to the unjust demands of the legal authority in the land. He resisted the government and its laws and practices, and as such he resisted for a better day for India and all the peoples of India. He resisted to create a new India. He had a greater vision that began to flourish out of that place of resistance to the other. When Gandhi faced violence, he resisted the impulse to use violence back, and developed a form of non-violence which was difficult to oppose. His positive resistance through non-violent resistance crippled the British Empire and brought freedom and independence to the Indian people.
Be true and be the change you seek
When we resist for the sake of good, be it in others or ourselves, we will see the fruit of that labor come to pass in our lives and the lives of the people within our circle of influence. You sow goodness, you will reap goodness. You sow love, you will reap love. Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see.” It is up to us to be the change. It is up to us to resist if we need to, in order to see the good come out of that resistance.
Don’t be afraid to resist. Resistance is not futile. Resistance can be intentional. Resistance may grate against the perceptions of others and what they think you ought to do and what you ought to be about. But this journey, this life journey, is YOUR journey to be lived out as fully and as expressively as you can. You can indeed embrace the place that is the most irritable to others, and it is difficult for those who lack your courage or conviction to be different and to walk a path that is less traveled than their own well trod path. You don’t have to apologize for being your own unique self. Just be yourself. Be exactly as God made you. Walk out the understanding you have, and resist all attempts by others to distract you from your intentional path. When God leads you, He leads you through simplicity and peace and contentment. You can trust in Him. He is love, grace and purity. He will guide you and direct you. You lack for nothing. Don’t let a little resistance hold you back from where you ought to be. Embrace that place, no matter how awkward it may appear to be to you. In that place, within your heart, you will find joy, peace and contentment, even in the midst of resistance that others do not comprehend. Resist I say. Again I say, resist!
Peace & grace,
Samuel M. Buick