The road to freedom is circuitous.
JUNE 5, 2023
The road to freedom is circuitous. I’ll explain, on this edition of Key Life.
Key Life exists to communicate that the deepest message of Jesus and the Bible is the radical grace of God to sinners and sufferers. Because life’s hard for everyone, grace is for all of us. Our host is seminary professor and author, Steve Brown.
Thank you Matthew. Hope you guys had a great week-end. And I hope your pastor’s sermon was as good as my pastor’s sermon. As you know, over the past few weeks, we’ve been looking at the themes in a book that I wrote called Laughter and Lament: The Radical Freedom of Joy and Sorrow. And you say, I know what you’re doing, Steve. You are trying to sell books and make a buck. No, I’m really not. Actually, years ago when we started this ministry, we decided that all my honorariums and all I get from any book I write doesn’t go to me personally, it goes to Key Life. I got that idea from Mr. Graham who had done that for years, and I think sometimes I was crazy to make that decision. But it at least allows me to say that this has nothing to do with greed, when I go through a book and I do it every time I write a book. And I go through some of the themes of the books that I write on this broadcast. And over the last few weeks, we’ve been looking at lament and laughter, the lament that is retching and difficult and painful, when we cry out to God. And I have suggested that we need to start in our churches to not just sing songs of praise and joy and what God is doing that is so cool in our lives. We need to pause sometimes and allow some silence of tears, to allow the quietness of lament to take place, to allow us because every time ten people get together, seven of them have a broken heart to allow time for honest expectation that God will meet us in the tears. It’s the lament of the people of God, and it’s also the source of joy. When we started this study and when I started writing the book, I pointed out that I had never been to a Christian funeral where there wasn’t laughter, and that’s true. I’ve never been in a hospital room of a Christian who was going through a tough time, when there wasn’t almost all the time. Laughter. And this book was written to explain why that happens. Now, the last of this book is called, Free at Last. And I got that from what Jesus said in John 8:32.
You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.
I like Anne Lamott, she’s different, we’ve interviewed her several times on our talk show. She has to keep her language within certain bounds cause she has a tendency to say some shocking things. I don’t agree with any of her politics. I mean, she’s to the left of whacko and I’m to the right of whacko. And so, we don’t agree on that. The first time I interviewed her, she wasn’t happy with the interview. And I said, let me say something and we’ll keep this short. I’ve probably sold more of your books than you have. I’m one of those people you criticize all the time, right wing, fundamentalist, whacko. But Anne, I love what you write cause you’re the real deal. And she is the real deal. I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody more authentic, with whom I disagreed about almost everything, more authentic than Anne Lamott. And she wrote a book called Dusk Night Dawn, talks about growing up with a governess called dread. Let me tell you what she says. This is, these are her words.
She, dread, kept me alive. I didn’t run out into the street. I didn’t talk to strangers. I didn’t sass. I wiped front to back. Minded my manners and teachers. Stayed on my toes. Did well in school. She that is dread, would have made an excellent character in the Old Testament. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Although my parents were atheist, she would have had to tone down the blood atonement. It was into her arms that I retreated from the emotional landmines, an overwhelming nature of the world and the dining table and from the secret of occasional experience that deep inside me was an infinite, unsatisfied need. My parents did not hire dread to keep me small and obedient, to keep me separate from all of you and all of life and most of me. I hired dread. She was my most reliable companion, always there for me, like God in a bad mood.
Oh, can you experience that or have you experienced that? I know about Anne’s governess, dread is an old friend of mine who is not only like God in a bad mood, she sometimes again like God feels omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. I’m an adult child of an alcoholic, and that fact along with dread, has shaped much of my life. I might say, as Abraham Lincoln said about the horse fly on the rump of his brother’s mule, it’s the only thing that made him go. Dread, fear, I’m in the process, I think you ought to know, of ending my relationship with dread. She still stalks me on occasion, but we are no longer best friends. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m ungrateful for her friendship. Dread has kept me, for instance, from being as bad as I wanted to be. My late friend, the Canadian Christian singer and songwriter Betty McDaniel and I miss her, she’s in heaven now, told me one time that she had not committed the worst of sins, not because she was good and didn’t want to, but because she was afraid. Well, me too. Dread was always there. Dread created my punishment and my perfectionism by always saying that I wasn’t good enough. And I should work harder at it. Dread said, you fail and what will people think? Dread always pointed out my insecurities and urged me to hide them. Dread fanned the flames of my paranoia too. She told me that a good many people dislike me and she was right and she made me a nicer person, so I would be loved. So, I suppose she is responsible in a sense for those who think way too highly of me. Dread prevented me from stupid actions. My sin could have been so much worse than it was, even me to some wise ones. There is a sense in which dread has been responsible for my job. And even the minimal success I have in it. After all, you are listening to a broadcast where I’m the teacher. Dread has kept me from smoking too much and drinking, and even on occasion, she has been the reason I take vitamins and swim laps every day. I dread cancer and I struggle with my weight. I also fear making a fool of myself. So, dread has driven me to say the right things, to read the right books, hang out with the right people, and pretend to be different than I am. But still, I’m doing everything I can to end the friendship and believe it or not, Jesus has been helping me. Do you know why? Because he likes me a lot. And knows that dread and her ugly sisters guilt, shame have kept me up at night. Sometimes made me the phoniest person in the room, have destroyed intimate relationship and have sought me to play the part of a self-righteous Pharisee. And given what I’m teaching you on this broadcast and the book that I wrote, the theme of laughter and lament, they have caused me to smile a sham smile, hide my tears and sadness, and stifle my laughter lest I seem shallow and silly. I’m out of time today and we’re going to talk more about it tomorrow, but if dread is a good friend of yours, if dread haunts you in the middle of the night, if dread and fear is where you are, don’t let her do that. You think about that. Amen.
Thank you Steve. That was Steve Brown and we’ve been working our way through Steve’s latest book, Laughter and Lament, and the Biblical truths that inspired it. More to come tomorrow, hope you will join us for that.
I am not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.
That of course, is Woody Allen’s famous take on death, but I think we often feel the same way about suffering. The Bible clearly tells us, we’ll experience hardships, and we’re like, yeah, fine, as long as they don’t have to be there for it. Well, we are here for it, but guess what? So is Jesus. If you’re going through it right now or know someone who is, we have a gift for you. It’s a mini-book called When Life Falls Apart. In it, Steve writes honestly about his own struggles with suffering, but then also shares the hope he has found in the presence of Christ. Claim your copy by calling us now at 1-800-KEY-LIFE that’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for that mini-book or to mail your request, go to Keylife.org/contact to find our mailing addresses. Just ask for your free copy of the mini-book called When Life Falls Apart. One last thing, would you partner in the work of Key Life through your giving? It’s easy to do. You could charge a gift on your credit card or include a gift in your envelope. Or simply pick up your phone and text Key Life to 28950 that’s Key Life, one word, two words. It doesn’t matter. Text that to 28950. And hey, if you can’t give, do pray for us, would you? It really does help. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And we are a listener supported production of Key Life Network.