Pushed from comfort
May 23, 2007
CBC (the Canadian, government-sponsored national broadcaster) dealt with the death of Jerry Falwell by spewing out disgust, citing his most reprehensible anti-gay comments: nothing redeeming—so construed the CBC—in his life.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm no fan of Falwell. His pompous and harsh pronouncements were as far from Jesus as I could imagine. I found him embarrassing, and never in my hearing showing any sort of humility. His handling of the Jimmy Bakker episode, in my view, was blatantly self-serving.
However, that he was faithful to parts and elements of the Gospel is evident. He also built an impressive university and was a favourite guest of Larry King.
My life intersected with his in the early 1980s. I hadn't planned on it. Instead, as Heifetz says, my future was formed in my response.
Recall 1980, Ronald Reagan won the White House. Part of his success at the polls was that Jerry Falwell, in constructing the Moral Majority, turned from fellow evangelical Jimmy Carter, supporting instead Reagan.
During the lead up to the election we—on the north side of the 49th parallel—became increasingly uncomfortable with Falwell's analysis and prescriptions. It simply was that Canadians sometimes see issues differently than do Americans. Further, given his context was in the highly religious US south, his outlandish comments might have seemed okay. But from where I sat, too often they undercut our witness of Christ.
I was asked by a friend why it was that Falwell seemed to get so much airtime in Canada. Before he finished asking the question, I knew the answer: in silence, who ever speaks first is heard. We had not cultivated in Canada a voice for evangelicals.
In responding (or maybe reacting) to Falwell, I discovered something new and life changing. Falwell pressed Canadian evangelicals—and I suspect Americans as well—to engage in the debates: to provide alternative views and solutions to engender a more Christ-serving conversation, instead of a rant.
I will always be grateful to Jerry Falwell for pushing me out from my zone of comfort.
Looking back over these four decades of leadership, I didn't do what I had planned. Instead I responded to a life reality, and in that response discovered the leading of the Spirit in places and ways I never could have imagined.
Holy Spirit, God behind, God in front, God around, ever present and always knowing, may I not be so concerned about achieving a goal as to feel your nudge. Planning is so correct. It seems assuring, but it exposes my need for security in my plans and not a trust in your leading. I wish not to absolve myself from the discipline of good planning, but please help my spirit to find opportunities in new discoveries opened by your hand. Amen.
People discover and respond to the future as much as they plan it.