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SUMMER 2008 RETREAT RECAP
Friday Night: The Grinch Was Right
Oh, the noise, noise, noise, noise! Boisterous behaviors and loud values clamor for our attention these days, from fame to freedom to “extreme” everything. In the cacophony of our culture, certain quieter virtues are easily shouted down, overlooked, ignored. Although they aren’t flashy, these virtues are exactly what we need to find our way—and even if we can't quite articulate them, we deeply long for them. As we seek to follow Jesus, we know we need the quieter virtues: discernment, innocence, authenticity, modesty, contentment, reverence, generosity.
Saturday Morning: INNOCENCE: a sense of justice that directs us to set all good things free, and to bind up evil—without our being bound by it
Just as Herod slaughtered the innocents in an attempt to maintain his power, so Hollywood slaughters innocence as a way to keep the public in its grasp. At times, our sense of justice is engaged or enraged over this situation—but we are also so dulled that we do not “weep and wail” over the losses. Innocence is not “Precious Moments” sentimentality, nor is it air-headed naiveté. It is informed ignorance, a quality that enhances our ability to experience pleasures wholeheartedly, that provides the good security of “unbreached” borders, that increases the gumption required to resist injustices in our world. If we have lost innocence through pornography, we might struggle to pursue sexual justice. If we have lost innocence through gossip, we might not do justice to others’ reputations. We should not lose heart, because we can also “find” our innocence once again.
Saturday Evening: AUTHENTICITY: the courage to care for others with a rigorous inside-out consistency.
Living among extravagant fakery, from silicone implants to blatantly deceptive public relations campaigns, we may “play the game” of phoniness, but we long for genuineness, for intimacy, for sincere authenticity. It’s part of what makes Jesus so appealing. Working against the virtue of authenticity is “the Gospel of Sight,” our culture’s overemphasis on the image. We are image-conscious to a fault, obsessed with appearance, and burdened by perfectionism. Learning to become authentic involves “practicing real presence” by being honest before God (as if we could fool him!).
Sunday Morning: CONTENTMENT: a hope that frees us to live the unsatisfied life in a satisfying way.
One wonders if our economy could exist if Americans were truly satisfied. Certainly, the nation’s largest business, advertising, is opposed to it. These “graven images” appeal to our totalitarian impulse, our innate desire for complete control of our lives. After all, control is the basic appeal of all fantasy. The classic tension surrounding contentment is between the pursuit of excellence and some measure of acceptance with our lives as they are. Contentment is neither a bland acceptance that discourages achievement nor a smug complacency that discourages self-evaluation. The key to contentment is learning a healthy kind of dying, learning how to do all that we can while trusting God with the results.