Sunday, July 15, 2007


Winning Arguments

Conflicts, differences of opinion, arguments: inevitable. They never go away, and today's won argument is like the dandelion's root. It'll be back tomorrow, and even produce seeds.

We win arguments by beating the other side down until they can't move any more. Nothing is really solved. You could say that fatigue wins more arguments than anything else but eventually, no matter how many bricks you put on top of the pressure cooker the old argument is still steaming away in there. It'll be back, and will usually unload at just the wrong time. We've all seen it: someone comes along and kicks a pebble and pretty soon the whole hillside is in motion, sliding, grinding, crushing everyone in its path as the old argument takes on a whole new life.

It seems pretty damned hopeless. Do differences of opinion always have to end this way? What happens when the argument is with the God of the Universe? He's pretty strong. Not much point in even trying to present a different viewpoint: He's right, by definition.

What we don't see is how humble God is. No one talks about this. He has no ego involved in winning arguments, and the fatigue technique is destructive. What he wants is for me to gladly agree with what he presents, as gladly as he has accepted me into his community of saints and angels.

I had a dream one night about being in about the last place I'd expect to be: in that great hall of Heaven, with the throng of people and animals all crying out "Holy, holy, holy" while looking upon God. God could demand this. It is no more than the truth: he's holy, I'm corrupt. Yet he accepts me, which is a decent foundation for worship. But still, standing around in the crowd like that? Well, the feeling of the dream was of a far more dynamic thing. Everyone was there both because they wanted to be, and because God wanted us there. There was no grudge, no pointing out of old sins. God was glad we were there, and the "Holy, holy" part was just a kind of spontaneous thing, like doing the wave at a concert.

You don't get argued into offering up a heartfelt "Holy, holy, holy." How does God do it? I can't speak for others. What I've seen and felt is God's steady encouragement. His burden really is light, and life-giving. I've seen his humility, asking me for forgiveness. I've experienced directly his steadfast commitment for 36 years, even when I said I wanted nothing to do with him. I follow none of the rules of Christianity but God still holds onto me. I'm rather sad that it has taken 36 years, but the arguments just sort of dissolve as God proves he's more interested in me than he is in a program. He holds onto me as we--what a strange concept, we--untangle the choking threads of the past.

My survival has depended on a lot of practices that run counter to the kind of life God made me for, and the kind I've dreamed of. To step away from what's familiar to me and walk into God's new land is something I profoundly resist. Dragons lie in wait out there, smoking and ready to flame. I've felt their flames. I know those dragons from experience and want nothing to do with them. I've lost every fight with them. God says we--still a strange concept to me, we--can defeat them. Argument.

Who argues with dragons and wins? Somehow, God does. It's more than a suit of asbestos armor. Truth reveals that the dragons aren't that big any more; what's huge to a boy is just plain smaller to an adult and yet the dragons remain huge in emotional memory. It's more than a sword, as a sword does nothing against flame.

So, it's truth, and patience, and waiting, and repeating the lesson in different ways until internal reality finally shakes loose in a psychotectonic event of sliding ideas. God knows that an unsettled argument is a weak foundation stone waiting to fail, and if I have the patience to match his he will take that weak stone and show it for what it is and then rebuild it.

We're on the borderland of metaphor here. I don't know how much of the foregoing is comprehensible. God is no metaphor, but he fits none of my words nor concepts so I try to paint a moving picture in words that are themselves abstractions of the rainbow-clouded reality. What is sure is that failures in human institutions are no surprise, given that they're based on winning arguments by crushing the opposition. Ruling by the strong, when we'd often be better served by listening to the weak and humble.

I also can't generalize too much here. My experience leads me to interpret events in a certain way, and what I see as oppression in an organization may be just what someone else needs. We have to make up our own minds, and listening to God is an essential part of that. He comes, humbly, offering to help because he wants to. I never thought I'd believe someone else had my best interests at heart--that's usually the prelude to a good reaming--but it's true of God because he has no ego involved.

You don't get to "We" by being beaten up. I know it's the usual technique to force things and people like it because it brings quick results, and it feels satisfying to the ones who force. They can count the numbers and see the effects, and then move on. They don't have to clean up after the explosions, because those who explode blame themselves for their weakness.

Self-denial doesn't come about because of losing an argument. Self-denial comes from falling in love with Jesus. How very odd it is that I can now conceive of that idea.

(composed to Ray Thomas' "From Mighty Oaks")

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