Zadie Smith is brilliant. And she’s British, so when she opens her mouth and releases those wise and eloquent words, she sounds so, so smart.
It’s really not fair.
A good friend introduced me to her writing a few years ago and I was reminded of the depth of the gift of this introduction on Friday night at the Festival of Faith and Writing.
She had so many good things to say as she issued a prophetic call to resist becoming part of the market-inspired creative class. Instead, like a preacher who refused to be moved off the truth that would not let her go, she challenged us to pursue the radical act of crafting good sentences born out of lives of integrity, intelligence and conviction.
After all, she reminded us, writers care about forming sentences. That is what we do. Although there were plenty of good ones to take in, one particular arrangement of words has been taking root and messing with me this week.
“Thinking differently necessitates some kind of resistance.”
Those words remind me that although we want to see ourselves as individuals who act on our own terms, most of us live and move and have our being as part of systems that push us towards a bland, anonymous sameness.
And unless we fight it, seriously and with everything we have, our lives will become tragically less about living into our God-given uniqueness and inevitably more about being jammed into pre-determined systems and processes with very little concern for who God is making us to be.
We know this so well that we’ve stopped being bothered by it. We know it in the places that matter most.
You and I desperately want a rich and joy-filled family life chock full of meaning and purpose. Instead, most of us settle for a desperate and panic-filled rush to get everything done and everybody taken care of in just enough time to watch a few minutes of TV before we sprint to bed so we can get enough sleep to hop on the wheel again tomorrow.
You know exactly why resistance matters. But there’s just one problem – I have a really hard time seeing myself as a resister.
When I think of resisters I think of the protestors who force us to consider the gap between our ideals and the way we actually live. Even more I think of the kids we all knew in high school – you know, the ones who batted aside our need to claim status from an expensive label by mocking us with their smirks and tweed jackets littered with pins of conscience.
But the reality is, whether I like it or not, that in order to live the life I want to live – a life as a conscious and committed Christian – I have to become a resister.
Becoming a person of Christian faith – a person who lives by a different code and makes decisions rooted in the identity of one trying to be faithful to the way and life of Jesus – both implies and demands a lifestyle of committed and continual resistance.
Instead of allowing my mind and body to be shaped by the best marketers and most creative advertising campaigns, I am called to resist by making intentional decisions about the sources and people who get the privilege to influence my thoughts, and therefore, my life.
Instead of blindly accepting the slogans peddled by politicians and preachers, I am called to resist by examining every would be truth under the light of the One who is the way, the truth and the life – and that always involves resistance.
Instead of believing the lies that tempt us – that our value and worth can only be defined by the size of our family, the title on our business card or the security of our bank accounts, I am called to resist by living in the truth that, regardless of the numbers, my identity comes from God and is always secure.
Instead of believing that our response to injustice is limited to to either praying without doing or to acting apart from the work and presence of God, I am called to resist by living out my belief that the work of prayer and the work of justice are always bound together.
I’ve learned the most about the necessity of resistance in trying to seek and find a life of prayer and presence. Maybe part of the reason prayer often feels like it comes in fits and starts is that it is, or at least feels like it is, impossible to nurture an actual relationship and real connection with God while racing to meet a never-ending list of demands that insist upon being checked off.
Instead of believing that every single moment of my life has to be productive because we are what we produce, the practice of pursuing this kind of life with God while sometimes doing nothing and making nothing – that is a serious act of resistance to and rebellion against the culture at hand and the powers and principalities.
Resistance is ultimately rebellion. Because if you want to live differently – you begin by thinking differently.
Be not conformed but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.
It begins by paying attention and making choices based on the ideals you strive for and the values you hold dear.
So, regardless of whether you look like you belong in the Sons of Anarchy or the Brooks Brothers catalogue, this life is always forged by resistance.