Tuesday, 1 January 2013

From Fearful What-Iffery to Untroubled Why-Nottery: a New Year Solution

Lovely New Year's piece by UK columnist Melanie Philips in The Daily Mail—In at the Deep End—about the way in which she inherited a lifelong struggle with fear, of water, among other things, and her determination to learn to swim. This sentence lit up for me:
I was haunted by ‘what-iffery’.
Which also resonated with another thing I'm reading at the moment. In Fearless Faith: Living Beyond the Walls of "Safe" Christianity (Harvest House Publishers, 2002), John Fischer muses on the attempt by many North American Christians to create a "safe" Christian subculture in Christian schools and Christian music and publishing industries. This, he argues, is done for fear of secular cultural influences. This Christian form of what Philips calls "what-iffery," Fischer writes, does not jibe with Jesus' teaching on safety. For example, in Jesus' prayer for his disciples (and us) in John 17:
He asked not that we be removed from the world, but that we be protected from the world while living in the midst of it. His prayer assumed the world is a dangerous place. He offered no hint of any safe places. Jesus tells us in Revelation 3:16 he would prefer to have us "hot" or "cold" when it comes to faith. Those whose "lukewarm" faith rests on on the safety of their Christian environment are most often the ones who have the most to lose. Better off to have a real faith in a dangerous world than a false faith in a safe one. p103
Life is not safe. It was never meant to be. When we try and make it safe, we go against the purposes of God and we remove ourselves for any influence we might have for good in the world. p107
EM Forster is on to a similar sort of "what-iffery" in A Room With a View (New York: Vintage, 1986), when he described a cautious, joyless kind of approach to life which leads to
a cheerless, loveless world in which the young rush to destruction until they learn better—a shamefaced world of precautions and barriers which may avert evil, but which do not seem to bring good. p92
As a husband, father and grandfather; as Rector of a parish and chairman of a diocesan safety committee; depending on how well I've been sleeping; I can all too easily slip into a joy-eroding "what-iffery" to do with things like lunatics at large, the welfare of my family, criminal record checks for Sunday School teachers and Hazards Assessment Checklists for annual parish returns. I'm not sure much evil is averted or good done.

So in 2013 rather than allowing myself to be "haunted by ‘what-iffery’," it would be much better for my family, my church and me if I trust in Jesus' prayer and resolve to live, not just a Happy New Year, but a Joyful one, no matter what. It would be much better to make a point of asking each day that The Lord's joy will be my strength so I may constantly pray with joy in every one of my prayers.

Rather than allowing myself to be "haunted by ‘what-iffery,’ this year, I choose untroubled "why-nottery" instead.