Thursday, July 16, 2015

Illusion and Denial

I am a shade-tree mechanic, and occasionally wrench a little on my motorcycle and old BMW convertible. My first car was a 1967 VW Beetle, and it was easy to work on: a flat-blade screwdriver and an adjustable crescent wrench would take care of 85% of the repairs needed. One day I was driving it and the accelerator cable snapped near the pedal. I didn't have what I needed to repair it, so I looked and found an old flashlight on the shoulder of the road. I took a battery out of it and propped the throttle open with it in the engine. While I burned some of the clutch out of the car, I managed to get home, where I fixed it easily.

Today, there's no such thing as an accelerator cable. It's been replaced with electronic throttle control (ETC). There's no mechanical connection between your accelerator pedal and the throttle in the engine. Even my motorcycle has ETC. Your pedal (or on a motorcycle, the throttle handle) has a sensor module, which sends a signal to an electronic control module (ECM) that has a computer chip in it, which then, after going thru several algorithms taking in consideration temperature, altitude/barometric pressure, oxygen, and how much load is being pulled, finally sends a signal to the throttle valve to open and close.

The illusion is that when you press down on the gas pedal, it pulls some cable that goes straight to the engine and speeds the car up. But in actuality, a control module does all that. We are not as in control as we think we are.

I recently watched one of the most interesting movies: "Pieces of April." A wayward daughter (Katie Holmes) invites her dying mother (Patricia Clarkson) and estranged, dysfunctional family to her Lower East Side of Manhattan apartment. It's a short movie, premiered at the Sundance Festival in 2003, and filmed on a budget of $300k... with an all-star cast. It's earthy and not for the faint-of-heart, but it does not disappoint. I won't ruin the movie for you, but in short: it's about a dysfunctional family and estranged daughter who's trying to redeem her life and relationships amidst long memories and short tempers. It was a strong reminder to me that all families and relationships have elements of dysfunction and scarring. Perfect families, perfect churches, perfect denominations, perfect governments - all an illusion. To think otherwise is denial.

It might be a good idea for all of us to be reminded of this from time. We're all dysfunctional. Our
families, our churches, our relationships - none immune from dysfunction. And to compensate, we tend to live in various states of illusion and denial. The cure for a hurting world isn't critique and bashing - it's the love, grace, and peace of Jesus Christ. It may not always be returned, but it must always be given. You don't have to compromise your beliefs to live charitably and lovingly.

One of the things I've learned through spiritual direction and counsel is this: you've finally grown up when you can love - and forgive - your parents and family. God knows we probably need their love and forgiveness for stuff we did and do. What would it hurt to extend such to the family of God?
I mean, Lastly, love me not in word only, but in deed and in truth. So far as in conscience you can (retaining still your own opinions, and your own manner of worshipping God), join with me in the work of God, and let us go on hand in hand. And you may certainly go at least this far, that you speak honorably wherever you are of the work of God by whomever he works, and kindly of his messengers. And, if it be in your power, not only sympathize with them when they are in any difficulty or distress, but give them a cheerful and effectual assistance, that they may glorify God on your behalf. - John Wesley, Sermon, "On a Catholic Spirit," 1771.

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