I am very self-conscious that the tone and content of my writing may project the image that I am a super-Hutterite. I am not. I do struggle with some of our communal values, traditions, and beliefs. I occasionally cause problems in my community. I, and those who are acquainted with me, know this to be true: I have my personal demons; I have to guard myself from falling into destructive habits because of my slightly OCD personality; I am a classic conflict avoider; I hurt people too, and sometimes I think being right is more important than being kind.
That said, here is some background: I write from the the perspective of one who has spent the last 4-5 years immersed in the writings of the early Hutterite church. Editing modern editions and translating some of these texts has brought me face-to-face with core ideals and the powerful faith of those who have gone before us. I confess that sometimes the dichotomy between the vision of our forefathers and mothers and the reality I see today, within and around me, is frightening. I have to constantly remind myself to focus on changing my own inner landscape first and foremost.
The late Henri Nouwen, who’s writing on community I appreciate, struggled with the same thing and I love what he has to say about the words we speak and write:
Flesh Become Word
The word must become flesh, but the flesh also must become word. It is not enough for us, as human beings, just to live. We also must give words to what we are living. If we do not speak what we are living, our lives lose their vitality and creativity. When we see a beautiful view, we search for words to express what we are seeing. When we meet a caring person, we want to speak about that meeting. When we are sorrowful or in great pain, we need to talk about it. When we are surprised by joy, we want to announce it! Through the word, we appropriate and internalize what we are living. The word makes our experience truly human.
Growing into the Truth We Speak
Can we only speak when we are fully living what we are saying? If all our words had to cover all our actions, we would be doomed to permanent silence! Sometimes we are called to proclaim God’s love even when we are not yet fully able to live it. Does that mean we are hypocrites? Only when our own words no longer call us to conversion. Nobody completely lives up to his or her own ideals and visions. But by proclaiming our ideals and visions with great conviction and great humility, we may gradually grow into the truth we speak. As long as we know that our lives always will speak louder than our words, we can trust that our words will remain humble.
It is this posture of humility that I want to assume in my writing regarding my personal life and the state of our church-communities. This, not the the pretense of perfection, gives me the courage to keep talking about difficult issues.
And while I’m confessing my shortcomings, I may as well say that I’m eating a generous portion of 4-layer chocolate caramel cake courtesy of Jenny. At 9:30 in the morning.