"Truth," truth, and creativity as vulnerability.
Beginnings are important.
Whether it’s a first impression or the beginning of a marathon, if you get off on the wrong foot it’s often an uphill battle from there. That’s why I’ve spent quite a while sat at my screen, trying to figure out how best frame this first blog.
I’m a reasonably self-confident person, quite sure of myself and comfortable in my own skin. It seems strange to me then, that every time I come to write something down I feel a sense of unease, as if what I write down and then send out is somehow putting me at risk; exposing me in some way.
Without fail every time I write something the same comments get fed back to me: “what about all of the personal stuff, why don’t you share more about you?” The answer is easy: because it’s always safer to speak about things in the abstract, than to reveal something about yourself as a person.
As a student of theology, a pastor and a teacher I have learned the careful rhythms of self-protection over the years. I have learned the all-important skill of being able to teach without leading students toward my own bias, but along the way I also convinced myself that vulnerability was a weakness, that to reveal to much about myself was inappropriate, that to let people know who I really was would end up being a mistake. I thought this was wisdom, but it turns out it was just plain old fear.
Fear of exposing myself to the world, and being rejected.
I wonder if you can relate?
The problem with this of course is that without vulnerability there is not capacity for creativity, and creativity is the currency of our existence.
As difficult as it is for me, and perhaps you, to admit, every genuine moment of creativity is also an act of vulnerability. Without the ability to be vulnerable, I have no capacity to step into the future, and create the kind of things I feel God has called me to create.
"every genuine moment of creativity is also an act of vulnerability"
I love to teach. It’s one of my great joys in life. I love the feeling of stepping into a classroom at the beginning of a semester and feeling the excited tension in the room. Students wondering what I will be like, me wondering what kind of class we will be, the excitement of looking forward to months of community building and learning. I teach theology, so inevitably in the first week of most classes, as we begin to navigate through some of life’s deepest questions, a student will raise their hand and ask one, seemingly simple question:
“But what is the truth?”
As we begin to open up questions, and ask questions of God, of ourselves, and of our place in the world it seems that there are always people looking to circumvent the process of learning and skip to the end, the ethereal “truth” that they think will be available to them with just a little bit more reading, a little bit more google-ing.
After a few years now, I have come to expect the question, and respond with one of my own:
“Why is this truth so important to you, right now?”
There are quite a number of people, particularly people of faith, who spend their life searching for this truth. They think that they’re looking for the Truth, but actually what they want is some concrete, objective, easy-to-articulate reality that they can then begin to use in a number of different situations.
I used to be like this. I had the truth, the answers, and yet I still felt strangely empty.
I heard someone say once that “truth clothes us, because it’s true whether we live it or not – but beauty exposes us because we risk the world rejecting what it is we have created.” Some of the most abrasive people I know are desperately searching for some form of objective truth but it’s not so that they can experience genuine transformation, it’s because they desperately want something that can clothe them, hide them, and protect them from the genuine practice of vulnerability. I relate to this.
These are not bad people. On the contrary, they are people desperately needing to experience the life-giving freedom that comes with every choice to create, every choice to be vulnerable.
I am reasonably convinced, at this point in my life, that the Christian faith (and by default, Christian theology) has much more to do with vulnerability, or the cultivation of empathy, than it does with simple doctrine or logic. I think that creativity and imagination lie at the very core of the Christian journey, but that the challenge of allowing your imagination to be renewed through the Spirit, to produce genuine creativity, requires the deep plunge into vulnerability. Only there will we find the Truth that brings life, the Truth that leads us to God.
"the challenge of allowing your imagination to be renewed through the spirit, to produce genuine creativity, requires the deep plunge into vulnerability"
For those that know me well, the irony of my very first blog post being about the cultivation of empathy and the embrace of vulnerability will not be lost. For those who don’t know me yet, let me assure you that we are on this journey together.
What you will find here, what you will find in me, is not a quest for certainly or a bold declaration of truth but rather a simple journey of discovery, fueled by an innate curiosity and expressed through a longing not to understand the truth, but to follow the truth.
After all, the truth really isn’t a concept, or a doctrine, or a statement of belief. That would be too easy.
The truth is a person. Which is much more challenging.