Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Structure

Everyone has different needs when it comes to ordering one's life. Some could literally not get through the day without having everything planned out and scheduled in advance, while others feel suffocated by even the slightest constraint on their ability to be spontaneous. Most of us fall somewhere between those two extremes, and a person's inclinations can shift over the years.

Similar principles apply in other areas of life as well. I took piano lessons all the way through my elementary and high school years and became a reasonably good musician as a result, but I stuck almost exclusively to classical music. I could master relatively advanced piano sonatas, but would have been hard pressed to improvise so much as a grace note to save my life. With the proper training and a strong dose of determination I no doubt could have become competent at more free-form styles of music like jazz, but it most likely never would have been my forte.

Along the same lines, I get no enjoyment from the types of dancing that go on at most dance clubs. I know full well that it's just a matter of "letting loose" and going with the flow and not worrying about what I look like, but I still find it tedious at best; my mind just doesn't work like that. Teach me a dance with actual steps, on the other hand, and I can have fun with it for hours. Hence I can enjoy line dancing even though I've never been much of a country music fan.

Such a structured approach doesn't work as well for me when it comes to writing, however. An outline can be a useful starting point for longer pieces, and even for shorter essays like the ones on this blog I'll begin with a mental picture of where I want to go, but the end result often looks very different from my original plan. More often than not whatever I'm writing takes on a life of its own and heads in directions I hadn't even thought of at the start, and somehow the finished piece still works - usually better than what I'd first envisioned.

Within the church, different people prefer different worship styles. For some, the rich structure and imagery of a liturgical service is a source of meaning and life that draws them closer to God, while for others the experience quickly becomes a deadening routine. For my part, while I can appreciate the meaning in liturgical readings, I fall into the latter category; I'm much more likely to encounter God within the looser structure found in most evangelical and emergent churches.

Simply put, each of us is unique in thousands of different ways, and the systems that best account for those differences when addressing our various needs enable the greatest number of people to thrive. Many highly intelligent individuals do poorly in school and even drop out entirely, not because of any real deficiency on their part but because their learning style was incompatible with the methods employed by the schools they attended.

Where the church is concerned, that extends beyond the way services are organized to the different ways we relate to God and to each other. Some people feel lost if they don't have rules to follow and authority figures to tell them what to believe, while others see such a system as oppressive and even overtly abusive.

In truth there is room within Christianity for both approaches, though it may often seem otherwise as churches - and even entire denominations - heap condemnation on those who simply have different spiritual needs. But now I'm getting into differences that are largely developmental as opposed to temperamental, so I'll save the rest of that line of thought for a separate post. I know, I know, I hate seeing the words "to be continued" too...

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

hey, im new to blogspot. We seem to be in pretty similar spots. I'd like to develop a little dialogue there!

E said...

Pomoprophet,

I'd be happy to. Thanks for visiting.