June 18, 2021

Spiritual Tailgating

In defining the purpose of Opiso we acknowledge a tension that exists in the spiritual growth process: “Rock solid truths are in the Scriptures, but people need time, space and a process to integrate them into their lives.”  A seeker/new believer recently shared with me how someone had trespassed the “need time, space and a process” part of the equation and had forced him in a direction in which he was not ready to go (yet?). He had a great metaphor for this; he felt like he was being spiritually tailgated.We all know what it feels like to be tailgated. You are not in a particular hurry, you’re minding your own business, enjoying the process of going from one place to the next when, all the sudden, someone is on your tail and driving hard. You can see him right there in the rear view mirror. You can see the bugs on his windshield, even the plaque on the teeth of his grimacing smile. Now your drive has completely changed. What was a joyful journey of discovery has suddenly become a tense and defensive competition.The same thing happens in the spiritual realm. People need space, time and a process to develop their beliefs. In the end, the beliefs we discuss have to become theirs for there to be anything of substance taking place. Hearing about what someone else believes is an important part of the process but it is not the end goal. When people substitute other’s beliefs for theirs without personalizing them, the result is a fragile faith and inevitable problems down the road.If you feel like someone is tailgating, a simple phrase will suffice. “Hey, I’m really enjoying our discussion but I’m not ready to tackle that issue yet. Can we come back to it another time?” If you are tailgating, back off! Remember how long it has taken you to put together the pieces of your belief system (and how far you still have to go!).Some tailgater will object, “shouldn’t we just boldly declare what we believe?” Absolutely. There are moments when “the thing” needs to be said. In my latest conversation with this particular friend, we tackled one of the toughest issues around. I didn’t hold back. But in God’s orchestration, the timing was right. Helping each other find and follow Jesus requires that we remain sensitive to the space, time and process that each person needs.