Chrysalis

Following is a personal response to Chrysalis by Alan Jamieson. It has taken me forever to post this:

 
I approached this book as a student, interested in learning about my journey and transformation but more interested in learning how to prepare to help pilgrims with whom I will interact in the coming years in ministry. I admit I am left with some misgivings. Some passages resonated with my own personal journey more than others. But there is much food for thought as well – more than I can discuss here. I would like to address five key verbs and then summarize action items for my present preparation for future ministry.
 
How to accompany travelers on the journey of faith? Partial answer: they need ongoing conversation one-on-one or in safe small groups. Key verbs are respect, validate, hear, hope, and understand.
 
The process of being turned to goo and then morphed is disorienting. Others will misunderstand, misjudge. We need to respect and validate the traveler in his or her journey – questions and doubts included.
 
For many people, to be loved is to be heard. We need to deeply hear travelers in an empathetic way. We do not need to defend God or his people from all doubts and questions. We need to take stories and feelings at face value, valuing the person’s perspective at this point in time. Further, we need to “hear” the non-verbals; look for non-verbal cues to pursue a feeling or question more deeply. “Skilled listening” means knowing when to refer a person to a trained professional with needed resources. Important to note that medication for depression will not invalidate the journey of faith.
Also, as “people raise their doubts, anxieties, past hurts and abuses,  it is helpful if they can be listened to by someone who represents, at least to some degree, the church, the faith, and even the God whom they are questioning, railing against, and attacking.” (70) This was one aspect that did resonate with my personal journey. I needed the validation of knowing my hurts were understood and cared for by those in the same sort of office as those who originally caused the wounds and confusion.
Unhelpful are sound-bites of advice. Instead, communicate with images and metaphors that relate to the journey. (Jamieson follows his own advice: I count an average of roughly one metaphor per four pages.)
 
We need to hope and to lend hope. Hope, not wistfully but confidently, in the good God has for this person. (Google result for “Borrowed Hope” poem: http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/3233.htm, a multi-media here: http://www.lendmeyourhope.com/view-presentation.html)
 
Understand the language and vocabulary the person is using at this stage of his or her journey. The book does not go into depth with practical examples, other than to offer an example of “cross-stage static.” I am interested to learn more about the vocabulary common to the stages of faith.
To prepare for accompanying those in journey, I need to practice loving listening, notice and record helpful metaphors and images, cultivate hope, and learn various languages of faith.

——

Further comments:

To be honest, in the end, I was somewhat disappointed with the book. It is an important point that butterflies lay eggs. The whole reproduction cycle is an essentail part of the butterfly life-cycle. The image I am left with from the book is that the transformation happens for the person’s own benefit, or for the benefit of unity in general. However, if one truly goes undergo a transformational “dark night of the soul,” it would seem to me the biggest triumph would be spiritual reproduction – they would be able to disciple and help others in a whole new way. That is an aspect of the journey of faith which I thought was missing from Jamieson’s handling of the chrysalis metaphor.

I was left scratching my head about some of his exegesis as well. I realize that I still have a dangerous combination of ignorance and pickiness so I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. Still, there were places where he seemed to purposely read Scripture through an individualistic existential hermeneutic. I am opposed to this. I believe we are obligated to start with what we can best perceive the original author saying to the original audience, and what the original audience would have heard and understood. The original audience would not have comprehended such individualistic existential readings, methinks.

Final point, leaving on a positive note: the author seems to enjoy metaphors. Many are employed, many effectively so. The images so limned are a high point of the book.

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