Pendulum Swing

Erik Cooper —  February 3, 2010 — 5 Comments

I have an uncanny ability to over-correct. Like a car that’s lazily drifted onto the beveled sing-song concrete of a highway median, I can jerk the vehicle across three lanes of traffic in an emotional panic (somebody must have been texting while driving).

I grew up in a charismatic church movement (yes, there is therapy available). My particular church didn’t fit the stereotype to a tee, but I was definitely absorbed in a culture that embraced a pentecostal perspective. The good and the…uh…interesting aspects as well (I’ll leave the details to your imagination).

Over time, I began to resent some of what I felt were cheap and shallow explanations of the Gospel. Burying the unexplainable realities of life in cheap, spiritual catch-phrases (that usually rhymed). Defining an encounter with God solely as an event-driven, emotional experience. I became a bit disillusioned.

So I swung the pendulum.

I began to pursue God intellectually. To ask and wrestle with hard questions. To become more cerebral with my faith. And some of that was very healthy and healing.

Until it wasn’t. Until I over-corrected and jerked the car hard to the right.

I turned God solely into a logical pursuit, a concept or philosophy to be figured out. I eliminated the supernatural and the unexplainable aspects of my Creator.

I missed the median and headed straight for the ditch.

“While Jews clamor for miraculous demonstration and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the crucified…Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one.” (1 Cor. 1:22-25 MSG)

I hate to admit it, but I want a God that makes sense to me. So I form him in my image. I teeter back and forth between aspects of His character that appeal to my current circumstances or explain my past hurts. I swing the pendulum in an attempt to find peace, and in the process miss the Prince of Peace standing right there in front of me.

Jesus is not a philosophy to be embraced (Pentecostal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Catholic, Baptist, Anglican, non-denominational…pick your poison) He’s a person to be encountered. Daily. In the reality of my every moment.

I’m off the teeter totter. How about you? Do you ever swing the pendulum?

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5 responses to Pendulum Swing

  1. I swung the pendulum a time or two, or maybe the pendulum swung me, I’m not sure.

    I agree, He is to be encountered, every day, every moment. Living with Jesus, moment by moment, constantly guided by His Spirit. That’s where I long to be. That’s where life is truly lived.

  2. Melanye Wrighton February 3, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    Wowowowowowow, preach it, bro’! and just give me Jesus (to use a trite and overused phrase)


  3. I may be a slow learner at times, but one thing I’ve learned in over four decades as a Christian is the importance of balance. Over the years I’ve heard – and probably even espoused a few of these myself – many characteristics of the gospel highlighted as the key point. To name a few: Love, grace, prosperity, prophesy, intercession, divine healing, fullness of the Spirit, justice, mercy, evangelism, discipleship, missions … you get the picture.

    Reality is that each of these is a legitimate expression and element of the gospel. Each has its place. Reality is also that no one of these is – in and of itself – is the singular fulfillment of the gospel. In fact, when taken to extreme and out of balance, the case can be made that any of these may become harmful to the gospel in its totality. (Think of a chair with one leg too long; it’s uncomfortable and unsuitable for its purpose because it doesn’t function well.) So, it rankles me when I read an article or book, listen to a podcast or sermon and someone is lauding and applauding the latest fad as the “one thing” that’s the totality of the gospel.

    While whining about this to my wife a while back, she made the very helpful observation that generations typically over-compensate for the errors of the previous generation. My generation, the Boomers – in general – have gone overboard on the prosperity thing, and the Busters have (in my opinion) over-compensated with justice and mercy. Another example would be the over-compensation from legalism to grace. Each swing of the pendulum brings another out of balance over-emphasis to the detriment of the Body.

    So, how might we stay balanced in our belief and practice? Here are a few ideas.
    • Study and seek to understand the Word in its totality. Compare so called “proof texts” with the full body of scripture.
    • Find a mentor or “reverse mentor”. Seek out someone from another generation to offer a different perspective of the gospel story.
    • Read Christian classics written before our lifetime, even centuries ago. Study some Church history. We learn with Solomon that there’s truly “nothing new under the sun”.
    • Avoid a steady diet of the same teaching / preaching / reading themes. Just like healthy bodies need balanced, nutritious intake, so it is with our spirit.
    • Avoid “itching ears”. Just because something sounds pleasant and what we’d like to hear doesn’t make it good for us. Similarly, a difficult message to receive may be just what’s needed.
    • Engage your brain! Think critically yet with an open mind. We need to ask good questions about what we see, hear or read. Think things through to their natural conclusion or outcome.
    • Pray for wisdom and discernment; it’s God’s desire to provide these.

    • Good thoughts Chuck…I agree that sometimes it’s a pendulum swing between expressions, philosophies, “legs of the chair,” as you said. That’s what I’m definitely diagnosing and fighting in my life.

      Sometimes, though…I think it can be a swing between truth and lies. Maybe those swings are more necessary.

  4. Erik I’m the same way. I was raised in a similar church. Ever pull out the snakes? j/k

    I swing the pendulum all the time. Trying to stay focused and grow!

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