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Christmas: God the slow learner, but thank Jesus, God learns!

Posted: December 20, 2014 by Rob Voyle

We get one choice in life and it has two options: To live in fear or to live in love.

According to neuro-biologists we have many more neurons looking for dangerous stuff (ie things we should be afraid of) than we have looking for good stuff that brings love and joy.
This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. Miserable people can reproduce but dead people can't.

This is why the default position is to live in fear. This biological reality is expressed wonderfully in the Genesis fall narrative. All of humanity (Adam) lives in fear and wants to hide from God. And every theophany in the Scriptures begins with words like: "do not be afraid," or "fear not."

Its also interesting to note that those admonishments to not be afraid are useless. Find some one who is really afraid and try telling them not to be afraid. Or just remember a time when you were afraid and someone told you not to be afraid.

When someone tells you to "not be" something that you are they are telling you to be inauthentic and deny your reality, and because most of you are too polite you probably won't say anything but a big part of you is likely to want to scream "You don't understand!"

There are many ways to understand the relationship of the Old and New Testament. One way I think of them is that in the Old Testament God is a slow learner or the People of God are slow learners, not sure which, but clearly sending burning bushes and other messengers and telling people not to be afraid, just didn't work.

With anxious people what is done after you tell them not to be afaid is what will calm them down. Somehow you have to join with them, and help them know that you do understand, that you have trod this scary path called life as well and while your circumstances may be different you do know what it is like to have all your anxious neurons wound up and energized. And, this is what really works, from that shared experience you offer part of your humanity, perhaps a hand or a hug, or a soothing voice, or presence, to calm them down.

So back to the beginning of the New Testament. Finally, God figures it out, that telling people to not be afraid just isn't working. So what does God do? God sends his son to live as one of us. Now we have a God who does understand what it is to be human. Now God knows what it is like to be hungry, thirsty, rejected, beaten, and once again in a garden knows existential dread, and the following day, death. Bottom line: In Jesus, God understands.

And this Jesus who today offers us his hand of friendship tells us that in his presence we need never be terrified to meet God face to face for we have become like him a child of God, who was born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of human will, but of God.

Now we can live into that other option, to live in love. While it may be contrary to much of our biology, and therefore it may often feel counter intuitive, it is part of our biology to live in love. We no longer need die, hiding in a garden of fear, but live in the garden of love with the One who is Love.

I wish you and your families much love this Christmas and in the year to come.

Rob Voyle

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The Appreciative Way

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About the Author

Rob Voyle

Rob Voyle

The Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle is a leader in the development and use of appreciative inquiry in church and coaching settings.

Rob's Approach to Training

  • Helpful: Training must provide practical, sustainable solutions for today's challenges.
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  • Healing: I create opportunities for people to experience transformational insights that lead to new ways of living, working, and being in the world.

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