I am currently teaching an in-person class called “Finding God in Culture.” The class is part of a series of class offerings I have wherein we look at some genre of art – paintings, music, poetry, or even an interdisciplinary look at all of them from a particular time period, depending on which class is chosen – and then we discuss the artist as prophet: what does this piece of creative work claim about who God is, who we are, and how we are to live as people of faith? It’s one of my favorite classes to teach because it’s a little history, a little theology, a little creativity, and a lot of question-asking.
Most people I encounter have never participated in this kind of cultural engagement and if they can choose to be a part of a class, it is often a fantastic experience. I prefer teaching these classes live because I love the interchange of ideas and seeing how people respond to the material and the questions and insights they bring to the class material. I also am developing a library of these kinds of classes as meditations for online self-paced use (moment of shameless self-advertising: the current class available online is one on paintings : Missional Wisdom Journey class).
On my way to set up for this weekly class, I encountered a woman who was headed to a support group that meets monthly down the hall on that same night. She smiled at me and said hello and then she started telling me how much she wanted to take my class but couldn’t because she had this support group once a month. I assured her that missing one session of my class would not prevent her from participating in the rest (especially since there is an online portion so she could see what talked about that week), but she was insistent that she really wanted to take the class but couldn’t because of the one-time miss. This bothered me, not because she wouldn’t take the class, but because she was basically lying. That’s a harsh term, but it was a deception. Therefore I ask: a deception for whom? From my point of view, I would prefer that she not pretend to be interested. I get it: what I do is pretty esoteric and it’s not for everyone. I am not offended if she just doesn’t want to commit to coming every week for six weeks. I would understand if she simply chose to spend her time another way. I even get that she thinks it’s an interesting concept but she personally is not interested or willing to come. But the fact is: if she really did actually want to attend the class, she would find a way to do it even if it meant missing one session. Why miss the whole 6-week experience over one absence?
Then I remembered a time that I was going to apply for a two year doctoral program that was linked to a two year spiritual academy program. It was perfect for what I wanted to do but I was going to have to miss a session (maybe two), so I decided not to do it at all. I dropped my application without discussing my decision with the program director (who had been so helpful talking with me up to this point) who might have had an opinion on whether that miss would actually prevent me from successfully completing the program. I added some other complications such as commuting distance and time constraints, but really it was just excuses formed from resistance.
So then I had to wonder about resistance. Why is it that when I am on the cusp of some really significant revelation or break-through, that I become afraid and refuse to participate? Its not the only time I’ve done that. I’ve had people ask me to follow up on a meeting and dropped the ball. I’ve had great ideas but then procrastinated working on them and they are still unfinished. Recently, I had a meditation exercise assigned to me by my spiritual director that I just plain did not want to do. It was too daunting; I was afraid of what reality I might see when I put myself in that place. I say I want to be healed and whole, but looking at those dark places hurts. Plus, not touching it allows me to retain superiority over the situation: As long as I don’t deal with it, I don’t have to take responsibility for it. I don’t have to find out whether the invention will work or the book will sell or the art will look good or figure out why I listen to or believe voices from the past that still play in my head.
Julia Cameron, in her book, The Artist’s Way, says “art isn’t about making something up. It’s about getting something down.” If I truly want to do something, I have to actually do it; not just say I want to; because if I truly wanted to, I would do it – even if it means missing one session to gain the other five.
Surprise! There’s a poem: