Sunday, July 05, 2009

Black & White?

I seem to be undergoing a personality transplant! I am trying to work out whether its a good or bad change, and there seem to be very mixed opinions on it. However, I am trying to remember to not be so absolutely obsessed with whether other people think I am doing the right things and thinking the right things, so right now, I am kind of allowing myself to explore this potential 'new me' to see whether she is ok or not.

Truthfully I know we wont ever change who we are, though we might change the way that we view the world, and that seems to be at the root of the changes in my life recently. I think it can mostly boil down to one main subject area and that is Black & White Thinking.

For most of my life I never even realised how black and white my worldview was. I have always been very careful to know what I think is right and what I think is wrong and to act accordingly. I have held fast onto most of my principles and have been very careful to always try to remain above reproach. (In fact - being 'above reproach' became one of my favourite phrases a while back - I think this proves my point). It was actually upon entering the world of work - the secular world, where I became aware that 'black and white' was such a full definition of who I was. It has been pointed out to me time and time again by people at work and sometimes even church friends, and mostly it was not seen as an altogether good thing. People have also pointed out to me that maybe I just need to relax, not be so intense all the time, but chill out and stop thinking so much.

I guess I never really believed I could do that, and maybe, in some ways, fearing the need to change actually caused me to become even more like that, and I ended up getting myself into some pretty sticky situations.

At my last cell group, we talked about the concept of black and white thinking. It occured to one member of our small group that when they were a child, they would never have watched T.V on a Sunday, because that was considered 'wrong'. Now, they would not have an issue with it. Its interesting how our concept of 'right and wrong' can so easily shift with the cultural changes around us. For someone who has always reveled in absolutes, this is quite a scary thing to acknowledge. In principle I would believe that if something is wrong, it is wrong, regardless of what the culture looks like at the time. However, there is no denying that our opinions and principles do change over time. Even mine have!

Its scarier when it starts to affect how you see yourself as a person, and how you see your future panning out. Its scary when you always thought you would become a certain person, and then you realise that maybe that's not what you want after all. What do you do when your own happiness starts feeling like it is contradicting the person you believe yourself to be. When it seems you can't be that person AND be happy so you have to choose one or the other.

My point is that I am finding that as I get a little older (not old yet) and as I spend more time outside of the little Christian bubble I often find myself in, there is a whole world of grey areas just waiting for me to experience them. I am scared of venturing into those grey areas because of the fear that I am turning my back on the person I always believed myself to be, and the fear of getting it wrong, and the fear of the disapproval of others. I guess I have always NEEDED to know that I am ok. I have always needed confirmation that other people think I am doing the right thing. I have ALWAYS needed other peoples approval. I know that I need to start listening to and trusting myself, but that is really scary when you don't even know what is right and wrong anymore. When the black and white edges of life seem to have blurred. How can I know whether I am doing the right thing in a world of grey?

Now I anticipate that at this point a lot of you will be reading this and thinking, 'you can know what is right and wrong - the Bible should be your guide', and I know and understand and believe that. There are many things in the Bible which to be honest are black and white and which are rocks that are unmovable. They will always be principles I will stick by. However, I think that there are a lot of areas in which the Bible is a little bit more ambiguous. I can know this simply by the fact that many a very clever theologian have debated and studied and researched the Bible and yet come to very different conclusions about a lot of the issues raised. People interepret the Bible differently to other people, and it is that interpretation issue that makes the black and white all the more grey.

I have recently been toying with the idea that maybe we are a lot more obsessed with knowing what is right and wrong - with finding the black and the white than God is. I think ultimately what God wants is a relationship. The first and most important commandment: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart mind and soul'. Similarly, when Jesus was on earth he shattered the Jews very carefully planned out and structured law. For them black and white was the rule of their lives, and Jesus was the one that introduced the grey.

I guess ultimately what I am asking myself right now is, should I venture into the scary world of grey in spite of my fears of being wrong or of others disapproval or should I stay here, in the security of the black and white, but potentially miss out on the most amazing experiences that life (and even God) has in store for me? Is God in the grey? How can I know whether he is offering me the grey areas, or whether he is asking me to sacrifice them? How does one ever know the difference?