In this cycle of Ministers’ Messages, we were challenged to reflect on truth. What is truth? How do we understand truth? How do we encounter it, share it, dedicate our lives to it?
When we speak of truth, aren’t we speaking of wisdom? Aren’t we speaking of that greater reality which draws our hearts forward, which inspires us and challenges us to be better people?
In the philosophical tradition with the ancient Greeks and others, many were drawn to reflect on beauty, goodness and truth. These were the three pivotal and great realities to which life was dedicated. It was important to orient yourself around these three to keep focused on what really mattered.
Truth seems like a slippery thing these days, doesn’t it? With all the toxicity we face in leadership, it seems like truth has taken a bit of a vacation.
When I think of truth, I must consciously differentiate this from fact. Perhaps you agree with this statement, perhaps you don’t. Here’s why I feel this way:
Too often when I hear folks speak of truth, we speak in terms of “who has it” and “who knows it.” Truth is a commodity to own, something powerful that we try to control.
Furthermore, it seems like there is a limited amount of it out there, so you better make sure that you listen to me so that you can share in this limited resource that I have.
Too often in conversations around truth, I experience a posture of grasping. I have grasped onto truth, and I can now rest assured that I am safe. We approach the truth of God as though it were an algebra problem to be solved rather than a work of art to be encountered. Facts don’t inspire me to dance like truth does.
What if there is another approach to truth? What if, instead of this posture of grasping, we see truth as something that we yield to and rest in? Rather than seeing truth as a limited resource that we strive to control and disperse, what if truth is an all-expansive reality that we are called to fall into and be carried within?
Honestly, as a priest, this is how I understand the nature of God. This is what I understand Jesus’ entire life to have been about. He never focused on right answers or control. He resisted any urge to grasp; rather, he invited folks into a deeper relationship of trust. And trust demands release and yielding.
We are not trusting if we are grasping. We are like toddlers on the edge of a swimming pool, holding on to the rail of the ladder while our mother invites us to release our grasp, to leap out and be embraced in the splashing water while we both squeal with joy. That’s as good an image of God as any I can come up with.
I think our hearts yearn for this release, and I think it terrifies us at the same time. The tension in those two are what makes us so beautifully complex as human beings. I think our hearts are tired, cramping from a long season of grasping out of fear and anxiety. Perhaps that’s why so many folks have stopped going to church. They keep encountering a message that tells them to be afraid of not being a part of a limited resource.
What if we turned those tired tables over and celebrated the abundant grace of God that beckons us to kick off our shoes and leap in to the deep end of the pool?
In my experience, lives are truly transformed when they encounter love, not fear. Behavior really changes when folks encounter a compassion that breaks their heart and allows the Spirit room to breathe. Community is deepened when a rag tag group of disciples stops grasping and clinging out of power and control and yields and rests in the truth that God’s love is relentless. That is truth to me.
The Rev. Stuart Higginbotham is the rector at Grace Episcopal Church in downtown Gainesville.