The Panic Driven Life

The Panic Driven Life April 6, 2016

I had some more things to say about feminism and Barbara Pym, but because I didn’t write them down or think about them very much, I can’t remember what they are. No, after posting yesterday, and going calmly about the work of the day, I was almost immediately sucked into the inevitable last quarter of the year vortex of panic.

Remember that old book, The Purpose Driven Life? I didn’t ever bother to read it, even though I’m pretty sure that by not reading it I should have been stripped of my status as a bonafide ‘evangelical’ Christian. No, the title alone mitigated against me ever even touching it with my actual fingers. It seems like the kind of book that good upstanding  homeschoolers would love. It could have been called The Purpose Driven Homeschool for the catastrophic level of twitch the very words send down my spine.

Can a person be driven by purpose? Like a stubborn cow being driven down the road? Oh no. I’m sorry, I get it. It’s your internal drive that gets you going. Or rather you knowing and properly understanding God’s purpose for you, emphasis on you. You have to know your purpose in life and then you can be driven by it to achieve something or other, maybe the gospel.

No, a more realistic title for a book, and one that would help me more, would be The Panic Driven Life, or Homeschool. In the panic driven life, you look at the perfection of God, you look at your own level of suck, and you seriously flail and freakout, because if it’s up to you, then we might as well call ISIS in now, because it’s going to go badly any which way.

It discourages me that Christianity has devolved away from God saving the world to be about me getting it together. Last night, because panic drove me to make today’s luncheon yesterday and shove it in the fridge so that I can fill today’s luncheon making slot with a combination of laundry, school, and terror, we all hung about in the kitchen listening to Chris Rosebrough’s first contender for the Worst Easter Sermon of 2016. Last year Katharine Jefferts Schori won, I kid you not. It was a memorably bad sermon. This year, contestant number one (and I expect the badness will increase incrementally night by night) was pretty terrible, maybe not winner terrible, but really getting up there.

As I listened to the poor preacher trying and trying and really seriously failing, and I considered my own strivings at that very moment, I became very sad. What, you might ask, was the preacher saying, to illicit profound and insurmountable depression? I’ll sum up. The Resurrection of Jesus isn’t really about Jesus rising from the dead and saving the world by this remarkable act, it’s more really about you trying to deal with the constant fear that is always ready to devour you. You need to get over that fear, and accept Jesus as your personal lord and savior, so that the resurrection can count for you, and you need to not give into fear, of whatever kind of fear it is, and there are several kinds, and several bodily responses to fear, and you better work hard, otherwise gosh, it will really just be like Jesus is still in the grave.

In purpose driven categories, you are needing to drive yourself and your purpose down the road, and by gum, you better get driving, because hell and failure are just around the corner.

I mean, for real, I know that hell and failure are just around the corner. I get it. I wake up and am driven down the road by a toxic brew of other people’s expectations, my own bad ideas about God, and pride. Even if I do 75% of the things I’ve laid out for myself to do, if I miss that last 25%, I expect the entire cosmos to come crashing in to judge me. I am exaggerating a tiny bit. But really, when the onus of the Christian message is on me and my ability to walk up the mountain and wrest salvation of out God’s miserly and distracted grasp, I have the fear and failure part nailed down more than adequately.

Why can’t preachers preach about Jesus? About God? About the immeasurable riches of his grace? Whereby he rescues us from sin and death? By dying himself and rising from the grave? Why can’t we just think about that extraordinary work? And not think about ourselves at all for like just 30 seconds? Is that too much to ask?

It’s not too much to ask at Good Shepherd, mercifully. If it wasn’t for the preaching about God that Matt undertakes so comprehensively every week, I wouldn’t be standing up at all. The Internet and the world would have utterly crushed me.

I sit in my pew every Sunday and am stunned and amazed to hear that God is a being adequate in himself to manage the world and the sins of humanity, that I don’t need to contribute anything. I don’t need to die, and especially to kill myself, because somebody else already died. I don’t need to endure Good Friday because Jesus endured it. If I’m panicking, I don’t need to pull myself together, I can stop and ask someone greater to rescue and help me. That would be God, just to be clear. Hell and failure, beckoning and threatening, have actually been stopped up and blocked for me, by God himself. I don’t actually have to do anything. I don’t have to save myself. I don’t even have to have a purpose, I can have a rest. And really, I can keep panicking with impunity because it’s not about me getting it together. God can handle the outcomes whether I have it together or not.

And believe me, I have it together, because I already made lunch for today.

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