Cleverness

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- Jeff Gentry

Perhaps it makes me a questionable protestant, but crucifixions have always transfixed me.

Folk Art Jesus, Gothic Jesus, International Style Jesus, and, in one very unfortunate rendering at the Nice Museum of Modern Art, Cabbage Patch Jesus is suspended. Racked between the appalling generosity of divinity and stretched out by humanity.

So are we. Touched by the creator who recreatively condescends to us. Stretched out by our humanity. Others pulling, now us pushing, our very selves apart.

Today I wrote an email. It was a response to someone else’s frustrated accusation. I stepped on their territory. I broke the unwritten rules.

I often do that. Mission can make us no respecter of boundaries. Of course, so can ego.

I responded with cleverness. I stroked the keys with skill. My paragraphs dripped with sweetness more characteristic of strychnine than saccharine. 

By other parties who were CC’d I was not condemned, but praised for cleverness. How gifted I am at getting my way!

Then the Convictor called. As I held my daughter, joy of my life in the warm evening light, the question came. 

What if that was the last email you ever sent? What testimony would be rendered about the content of your character? 

Are you comfortable with your epitaph being “He Was Clever?”

I am not. I am stretched out by a world best rendered by The Onion, where cleverness is its own reward and my ego is only too eager to flippantly unfold.

Yet the Word comes. Faith, hope, and charity. Remember your grounding. Without that your unfolding is nothing but a tired joke in a world that has heard them all.

Maybe it isn’t too bad to think of every email, interaction, phone call, or prayer as a potential epitaph. Did our words, expressions, or intentions leave the receiver surprised by love? Or did our cleverness direct the recipient to yet another dead end?

Maybe thinking of every interaction as an epitaph is a totally neurotic revelation of my current fixation.  But maybe it’s worth pondering.

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Jeff Gentry is Christian, father, pastor, and provocateur who lives in Beverly, Massachusetts. During the week Jeff serves as the Community Relations Director for Triangle, an organization that provides infinite possibilities for people with disabilities. Jeff also serves on the U.S. Board of Directors for Kupenda, a Christian organization that provides educational access, advocacy, and access to medical care for youth with disabilities in western Kenya. In recent years Jeff has served as a homechurch pastor and an associate pastor at The Gathering in Salem. He currently worships with his family at Christ Church of Hamilton Wenham and serves as a facilitator for the Greater Boston Emergent Cohort. A fourth generation St. Louis Cardinals fan, Jeff lives in fear that his children will root for the Boston Red Sox. Jeff and a couple of conspirators infrequently blog at The Inconsistent Adopted. You can follow him on twitter @jeffgentry13.