Christian Pointillism



What if the night before Ferris, Sloane, and Cameron had visited the museum, the Seurat points started a debate?  We remember it, the scene where Cameron—a high-school kid clad in a Red Wings Jersey, one who knew nothing of the majesty of art—stands mesmerized by the precision of pointillism.  But what if the scene had been different?

What if the greens, claiming to be the substance of the picnic scene, had squeezed against the blues, pinks, and yellows until the non-green dots jumped suicidally from the canvas?  What would Cameron have seen?  If the painting was relegated to dull green, homogenous points, would it have taken center stage in that scene of the iconic 80’s movie?

Isn’t it true that the greatest desire of the body of Christ ought to be to point to the Majestic, one and only true God? All glory and honor?

“I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:23)

Yes, some of us feel but a flaky piece of skin on your elbow, Lord, and yet the world is watching.

Lately I wonder what the world sees of us in the blog world. It’s beautiful, yes, to know what we believe and why we believe it, but some crusades make believers into glory hounds.

If we were a great painting, today I’d be a dot on the underside of the dog’s belly, and you might be the brightest spot in reflecting waters, but even then, each part makes the whole a masterpiece that points to the Great Original Artist.

Let us not elevate the banners of Sunday-dress wearing, housecleaning, tongue-speaking, orphan-caring, or any other (well-intentioned) gong-clanging thing above the Banner of Love that Christ has put over us. Let us wave it first, and then those other things won’t be nauseating gongs but rather reflections of GOD, and let us not paint by numbers, petting our points,and negatively confuse the graceful for “liberals” or the doctrinal for the “dogmatic.”

amberhaines
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30 Comments

Kelly Langner Sauer
Reply July 1, 2010

*sigh* there is rest here. relief. yes.

Amber
Reply July 1, 2010

Can I sneak back in here and say that I feel like this came out rough. I don't want to make a side that says I'm against people who take sides. THAT IS NOT WHAT I"M TRYING TO DO!!!!!

Y'all I just hope that we're really really careful. I want help to be careful. I want your accountability to not marginalize others.

Now. Do I believe that Christ is the only way to Heaven? I do indeed. I'm actually pretty cut, dry, and outlined on most of what I believe, and I believe I get evidence for my beliefs from the Bible, the inerrant word of God. I'm one of those.

But I know what it feels like, too, to be pointed out, outcast because I understand something differently. This is hard stuff. It was on our hearts. So we wrote it. That's what my blog's for. (Seth actually wrote the Ferris Bueller half of this! Isn't he awesome?)

Is there any body out there who has ever recognized that you're the weaker sister? I've been the weaker one more often than not. And the people who cared for me in my weak position are the people who have taught me what it means to lead - what very little I know.

Seth
Reply July 1, 2010

I love Kelly's comment, seriously. Because rest is supposed to be our evidence (among some other things), not holy wars.

I want a brief chime here. There is a place for apologetics and difficult discussions. Sometimes Amber and I disagree theologically, and we hash it out right there in the living room. She mostly wins because, well, she's generally right, but that's beside the point.

The question is, though, when those who struggle with belief--those Keller calls "skeptics"--look at our life's work, do they see apologetic principals and foundational rules, or do they see *rest*, God's glory? I think the question should affect the ways in which we marshall scripture (or don't) in the public sphere where many don't care about marshalling scripture.

And that's not meant to be pluralistic; that's just meant to be grace.

Beth
Reply July 1, 2010

I don't think this came out rough at all. Far too often our soapboxes push Jesus to the side, and we want to be right just for the sake of being right, of winning. This post comes at a time for me when I have been praying, praying, praying about an issue very close to my heart and wondering if I should post about it. It also comes on the heels of reading several blogs that seem to exist for the sole purpose of thrashing the other side. There is no edification in that. No drawing a weaker sister (or brother) in. No following Scripture in that.

I have, like you, been (and am) the weaker sister in my own legalism and pride, in my elder brother ways, and it was the prayers and gentleness of sisters, younger in Christ than I but clearly stronger, who brought me to understand more of grace.

joann
Reply July 1, 2010

I love this. IT does sound a bit militant, but in a loving, tongue in cheek way.
I've been thinking about this today. Thinking about me, and my mess. Sometimes I feel like a Christian can't have a blog unless they have it all together...I feel like I can't join the "Christian Blog Club" (I made it up in my head) unless I'm perfect, loving, holy and wise. Um. Not really ANY of those things. So why am I blogging?
Because. I. like. to.
And because there is the Jesus standard that all Christians are called to. And we ALL fall on our faces. We just don't publicize that part usually because we forget that when we are weak he is strong.
It's freaking me out to be weak. It also freaks me out to love the weak. There's a part of me that has been yelling, "DIE SELF DIE!", but it wont. I need GRACE! in heavy doses.
I like looking good. I don't like pointillism, I try to be more of a cubist with ME as the giant cube in a painting about cubes (It's insights like these that make me think the world needs my voice)(ha).
Sincerely,
Elbow skin that thinks it's the Brain

Elizabeth @claritychaos
Reply July 1, 2010

First of all, beautiful metaphor.

Important message, as well. I think I may not read the same blogs as you because I am not sure what (specifically) you're referring to, however I can get the gist of it from what you've written.

Beautiful, as always, you two.

Adventures In Babywearing
Reply July 1, 2010

I always feel like the weaker sister, like the Christian that doesn't know enough, like everyone else says all the right words when they pray and I stumble and fumble and don't sound all that eloquent, but it's about intentions, and heart. Right?

And yes, pointing to Him.

Also, I find myself drawn to other Christians that are embarrassingly honest and humble, not puffed up and look what book I'm studying but rather, I am struggling through this in my life right now and this is how God's moving in my life, or how He has changed me, or how He is changing me. Still have the accountability, but not the "accountants" (of all the things I am doing wrong or not good enough or not how they are doing it.)

Not sure if any of this makes sense with what you wrote, but like art, that's how I interpreted it.

Steph

Adventures In Babywearing
Reply July 1, 2010

Oh, P.S. I know every word to Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Steph

Heather of the EO
Reply July 1, 2010

Friends, our random twitter conversation led me here and it's no coincidence. Oh, God is so weird in the best possible way. I finally decided to write a book. I HAVE to because the words hit me while shopping for raspberries and now they are begging to be shared. I'm not even sure why, but I know He knows why.

I share that because the theme of the book, I hope, will be what you are saying here. So yeah...wow. Maybe I shall plagiarize :)

I struggle to be the in-between without apologizing for what I believe all.the.time. It can be confusing and sometimes I feel like I'm failing both "ways."

An Internet friend once sent me an email and jokingly said that I'm the cross-over Christian of blogging. I do not share that to toot my own horn...it's just that it was probably the best compliment I've ever received about this important, yet not important, world of Internet writing. If I can be a Christian that does not force away people who don't believe what I believe because I love them, I am at rest. And when that strikes up conversations, I don't come at it with the motivation of "saving people from hell." No. I relate to people, talk with people and live in this world with people because I see them for who they are-so amazing and gifted and lovely. That is a gift from God, it is NOT of me. I want to be truly interested in a person's story, to really HEAR them and accept them simply because I love them.

I'm preaching to the choir here, and I truly hope I don't sound like I'm saying I've got it all together. NO. I don't. I hope that was clear.

This conversation reminds me of that post of yours, Amber, about sitting outside at a table with a young man nearby-a black-wearing-cigarette-smoking-looking-up-to-no-good guy, and how his grandmother came and was so interested and open and full of grace and acceptance. I cried reading that. I want to be her.

Heather of the EO
Reply July 1, 2010

P.S. Just saw Steph's comment and I want to scream how much I love you people (including her).

one more thought (shocking). Being an alcoholic has saved my faith. To make a really long explanation short...the principles of AA, TO ME, are Christianity at its core-broken down, simplified, with absolutely no puffing or mask-wearing or complicating of things. This may sound strange, but drinking the AA water is the greatest gift of my life. I will not describe it fully here, that's for the book. oooooh, so mysterious. :)

    Amber
    Reply July 1, 2010

    I flippin' love you people.

    1. For knowing and loving Bueller. Bueller. Bueller. Bueller.
    2. For hearing my heart, even when my Southern militia voice comes out.
    3. For being weak with me and Seth. (And boy are we weak today. Just telling y'all.)

    Heather, think of the leper that Jesus healed, the Samaritan who came back to him to say Thank you. Isn't it always the ones whose skin has made life a living hell that are the ones giving glory?

    Sometimes we forget that we're all living in dying skin. Every slap one of us.

    I want to be this old lady, too.
    http://amberchaines.com/2009/07/07/on-listening-and-the-hard-core/

misty
Reply July 1, 2010

He does seem to work in themes, doesn't he? just this week at my counseling appointment we talked about how it's Big Picture...how it's not the end of the world if a piece of my past is ugly, b/cs it's one dot in the painting, or one strand in the tapestry, and when you step back w/ an eternal eye/perspective, you see HIM. and that is enough.
but we live in the dots and that's where our short-sightedness can cause heartache, for ourselves or others. it's hard, but as anne lamott requotes in one of her books: grace is the glue of God. it holds us all together. and i am beginning to see the truth in that.

Sara Sophia
Reply July 1, 2010

A. Bueller wins.
B. So do you.

I grew up hearing everyone yell at each other about what we should be and what true godliness was. I know what it is to be thrown out with the bathwater because of a failure to embrace a fundamentalist principle.

I eaten pie made with a hefty dose of rejection and equated that as HIS rejection and sunk low down into the quick of the sand.

There isn't any room for anything but love.
And I seal my lips and I tape up my tongue lest I say anything else.

Because I am the sister-weak and the brother-broken.
And you'll never find someone more scared.
Or stupid.
Or deaf and dumb.

But I love you.
And I know HE loves you.
And I really believe those boiled down soup bones of
Love ME
Love MY CHILDREN

are the only sustenance we need.

Sara Sophia
Reply July 1, 2010

And also? I giggle at the sheer amount of grammatical error in the above comment. I've never written so fast.

HadToGetItOut.

joann
Reply July 1, 2010

I've also been thrown out with the bathwater, not for fundamental principal failure, but for sin. My sin.
Owey.
Then I come back all nice and shiny and throw someone else out. Playground rules: the bullied becomes the bully.

Cassie Boorn
Reply July 1, 2010

AMEN sister!

To Think Is To Create
Reply July 1, 2010

I just love Heather's comment:

"I struggle to be the in-between without apologizing for what I believe all.the.time."

It's so hard, isn't it? It's even harder when it's among Christians.

Amber, you so eloquently throw up that umbrella of Love back into the air, to cover us all. The weaker sister ? -- oh yes. I wrote once that I crawl dirty and ravenous to merely touch His cloak, because it feels that desperate most of the time. I long to be winnowed, knowing it will take a lifetime.

Sarah Markley
Reply July 1, 2010

wow - a collection of all of us who feel like we are in the in-between.
i'm there so much of the time. i feel like i "fit" nowhere.
maybe here i fit.
so thank you amber for you eloquent and artful words.

bekah
Reply July 2, 2010

"Sometimes we forget that we’re all living in dying skin. Every slap one of us."

-that, right there, beautiful.
thank you, Amber (and Seth!).

I often feel like its the ones who know their skin is dying (to use your words) that don't so much care anymore about this or that outside of Jesus, because their skin is dying. Nothing else matters. Nothing matters, but that He breathes life each day and is there, is Present in each moment. It doens't matter anymore if we raise hands to praise, or we keep them to our side, it doesn't matter... because we feel the skin dying and all we want is to be with the One we love and who loves us. Forget everything else....

and I think I could watch Farris every day and never grow tired!

Heather of the EO
Reply July 2, 2010

I'm baaaaack. I was just thinking (again, shocking) about dogs. They are so unconditional, right? They just keep coming back for more, begging for love. They don't focus on all they've done wrong over and over and over and sulk and sit in guilt. As a friend said to me, they bump your hand, the hand of their master, with their nose, nuzzling in for more love. They never tire of it or doubt that it will be there. They beg for love all the time. Now, I realize that people are not dogs...but I think we can learn from this. Dogs are open to being loved by their master. Are we? Can we beg because we know the love is there, endless...and not because we think we're awful? Yes. We need to know that we've screwed up, we need to learn and experience consequences...but can we come back, nosing that hand with no shame in doing so? Because we know so fully we are loved. And then when the love is given, as it always will be, can we let it transform us without so much worry about what we do,do,do and don't do right or wrong. Living inside that love will take care of all things-transform our screwed-upedness. Think think thinking on our screwed-upedness will not.

The End.

To Think Is To Create
Reply July 2, 2010

That is so good Heather. We can't forget that He is not ashamed that we call Him our God.

Joy
Reply July 2, 2010

You and Seth are the cool, dry, breezy air that I needed after the humid lightning-charged storm of the last week or so. I'm in the in-between, in the armpit, sometimes doubting, often-sickened by so-called Christians. Finding people like you gives me hope that there is life and rest in Jesus after all. Thank you for sharing this.

Elizabeth @claritychaos
Reply July 2, 2010

(I wish I had just sat with the beauty of what you wrote here instead of gong off to look for the blogs that stirred up dissension. Now I'm trying to breathe slowly and deeply instead of getting riled up. Why did I do that??)

    Seth
    Reply July 2, 2010

    Dear Elizabeth @claritychaos,

    That was my first reaction. Honestly, that comprised reactions 2-25 also and I'm still struggling with reaction. I think our main concern here is how the world views the discussion. It seems like there are certain areas of Christian debate that are better left to "family" discussion, if you know what I mean. Perhaps some topics do not demand a broadcast to the entire blessed webbernets type of approach. But that's my opinion. And by way of confession, I'll admit to broadcast a controversial topic or two to broad audiences before (eek-gads).

    Instead of reacting, Amber reminds me to pray. She reminds me to pray that hearts would be alligned with glory instead of soapboxes and if glory necessitates the discussion, then I should be okay with it. But, if glory demands the burning of the soapbox, we pray God would strike the match but that he would remove his child before doing so. Because that's how grace works itself out. Many of the soapboxes on which I stood when I was twenty have been relegated to ash, and I escaped by God's grace. I suspect a few of my 32 year old soapboxes will be relegated to ash by the time I'm 42.

    It's the way life works.

Sarah@EmergingMummy
Reply July 2, 2010

Thank you for sharing this. I struggle sometimes because so many people label me and my writings and then all show up to have a go, now and then.

Then I hear from everyone else and they are just sad and confused. And so am I, half the time.

I don't know, I don't know, I don't know.

(But I do know I love Bueller.)

This is why I try to be authentic even when sometimes I'm just a big authentic mess and know-it-all.

Thank you.

Gretchen
Reply July 2, 2010

I found this post through some blog and Twitter hopping. I honestly haven't a clue what movie (?) all y'all are talking about. And I haven't even read any of the debates that have been going on lately.

But I know I love the message of the rest of your post. Especially that last paragraph. Definitely quotable.

So thank you. For waving the right banner. The only banner.

MainlineMom
Reply July 2, 2010

Rest indeed. Relief. I supposed I need to add this to my little list of links in my poorly-written post related to this discussion this week, because I love this so very much. I am trying so hard to react more eloquently, more gracefully. I guess I just wanted to feel like I "fit" in the Christian blogosphere. And suddenly I don't...at least not where I thought I did. Thank you for this. Pointillism and Bueller :)

deb
Reply July 2, 2010

had to add my thanks .
and admiration.

Dana @ Mrs. Moneysaver
Reply July 2, 2010

I felt at home as I read your words and those of the comments. Thank you.

Jennifer
Reply July 12, 2010

Hi, Amber. I actually heard about your website when I was reading through the comments of another post during the crusades of the other week and then saw a twitter reference to you today. I, too, wrote a response and called it "Losing Jesus" because I feel that when Christians argue back and forth over these non-essential to the faith issues, Jesus gets pushed aside. I love how you and Seth used the Pointillism analogy--it's perfect. Thank you for a beautiful post; now if we could all just do what you wrote! I know I've been just as guilty as anyone of focusing on my own little pet issues in the past, and I hope to not continue that behavior in the future.

I am glad I found your site; I love what I am reading! I can't wait to see more.

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