I posed a question to my congregation this past week: Are you ready to fall into God's grace? This challenge was prompted by two things I have been reading lately.
First, the Revised Common Lectionary's continuous readings for this part of the season after Pentecost have us following Abraham. In reviewing the Patriarch's life it turns out that he made a lot of bad decisions with serious consequences. He decided to take Sarah up on the offer to father God's great nation through Hagar, her handmaid, and conceived Ishmael. The consequences of that decision followed Abraham and his ancestors throughout their lives, and is still with us in the Middle East conflict today. He twice traded his wife Sarah for his own safety, risking his promise for a nation and his love for Sarah on the virtue of a Pharaoh and a nomadic tribal leader, questionable decisions at the best of times. He allowed his nephew Lot, not a giant on character issues, to decide which path to take when foraging shortages were threatening their combined flocks, a decision that placed Lot in Sodom just before its judgement, threatening Lot, Abraham, and their families. These are some, though not all of Abraham's decisions.
Who bailed him out and turned the bad into good? God. About the only good decision Abraham made was to pick-up his tents, call his family to him, gather his flocks, and lead them all to where God was showing him.
Second, in conjunction with these RCL readings, I picked-up a book by the Franciscan Priest, Religious, and Scholar, Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. The premise of this book: that we need to build structures during the first half of our lives, so that we might be prepared to be what God has created us to be in the second half of our lives. The paradox of the faith journey is that it is not the successes of our building time that help us grow, but the failures. Just as God was there to bail out Abraham, God is there to bail us out too. However, we have to learn and accept this grace. So, Abraham was most successful when he was most wrong. Hence, Rohr's title, Falling Upward.
I think this way of approaching our faith lives, both individually and corporately, makes us uncomfortable here in the the good ole USA. This culture values success, and it values people and congregations who are "self-made" in their success. The problem with this way of being is that it leaves little, if any, room for God and God's grace. My church is trying is trying to rebuild. I think we need to be bold in trying new things, risking the possibility of being as incredibly wrong as Abraham, and letting God work on us through these failures. Given my choice, as anxiety laden as it may be, I choose falling, and falling upward would be fine.