The words that we use are very powerful in forming our experience.
They not only help us interpret our religious experiences. They actual create those experiences at some level.
When Tony talks about his former view of faith, he uses phrases like:
“We must take the mountain, kill the giant, win the battle, defeat the enemy, fight for truth. This language had subtly convinced me that I was just a mercenary for God, nothing else.”
This language ends up failing him. It is one of those moments in life when you realize that the way you have conceptualized faith is no longer working for you.
There are just times when the framing story, the vocabulary or the metaphor fails you.
His friend asks him, “Was this something that came from God or was it you?”
Tony answers “Well, no, God did not ask me to be a mercenary. That is just where I ended up, a hired gun in the army of God.”
This is a devastating admission. It’s not that God didn’t call him. It’s not that he didn’t do some good. It’s not that the experience was completely hollow or B.S.
It’s just that he had reached the end of his metaphor.
Tony ends with a powerful re-frame of his approach:
“So, I decided to stay in the game. I tried to see each new opportunity through new eyes, free of violence, full of love. I looked for opportunities not to fight for God, but to walk with him. I began to believe that God was the one who was creatively tilling, planting, and harvesting all around me. The joy was to take his hand as he led me into his eternal play of love.
So, like a walk in the cool of the day, God led me to a new garden to explore.”
It is no mistake that Jesus used language about gardens, plants, birds, fields, and farms. Jesus just as easily could have talked about Roman wagons and battering rams. The thing is – that language matters.
When it comes to things of soul, language matters even more than usual. The way that conceptualize, frame and vocalize the
- word pictures
- framing stories
truly impacts how we both interpret things that happen and participate in our community and journey.
I have never liked the military language about faith and life. I know that Paul used it. I just think that we have lost the irony of him using it since he was a part of the oppressed minority. Paul wasn’t armed.
Paul’s military analogies don’t sound the same after our Constantinian-Christendom-Crusade-Nationalist-Militaristic historic drift.
It would benefit us greatly to migrate away from military language (even the metaphors in the New Testament) and get back to fields and farms, birds and flowers.
Of course, there is a danger in even that! Since not many of us are connected to our food sources – we are in danger of using allusions and word pictures that we have not connection to.
What are we left with then? I would love it if we would humbly revisit and revise our religions language. The analogies we use, the word pictures and the metaphors are very powerful in not just how we interpret our experiences afterward but in how we participate with them in the moment.