If you’ve been following me at all on social media, you’ve probably noticed my use of the words “life as liturgy.” Honestly, I am certain I’ve shoehorned those words into posts more often than not, but I hope you’re able to look past my shortcoming there. I feel like it’s about time to explain what I mean by those words as I attempt to dedicate this next year (and maybe more years to come) of my life to them.
Liturgy, according to Merriam-Webster, is: “a customary repertoire of ideas, phrases, or observances” for public worship. In other words, liturgy forms the set of thoughts, words, and actions that makes up the collection of how one or a group reveres or celebrates a deity. In my case, it is the set of actions, words, and thoughts that encompass my love for and worship of the trinitarian God found in the pages of the Christian Bible.
And [Jesus] said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
– Mark 7:20–23
My actions are the greatest indication of what I believe at my core. What I do, what I don’t do, is a tremendous body of evidence of who I believe Jesus to be than anyhing I may write, post, or think. My actions are the visible manifestation of what I truly believe. I can say and write whatever I may want, but where the ideal meets reality is in my actions.
My words are incredibly important. According to Proverbs 18:21, the tongue has the power of both life and death. While actions are the most visible, the power of words should never be understated. I admit, I’ve been guilty of this underestimation most of my life. I can build up those around me; I can tear them down. My ability in either capacity is equal and great. I can’t overstate how often and how grossly I have and continue to undervalue the effect of words in this life.
The weight my thoughts carry terrifies me. Why? Both my words and actions are informed by my thought life. And my thought life is directly correlated with my ongoing internal dialogue. I will get into this in a second, but suffice it to say that I am increasingly aware of just how influential this is in life. My thoughts are like the rudder to both my actions and words, and my thought life has been far less than sterling.
My internal dialogue should be a prisitine example of how Jesus has enabled me to extend love and compassion. In my experience, it’s been a way that I’ve used to perpetuate the shame and resultant insecurity I learned as a young child. It’s just you and yourself; there is no tangible risk in the relationship; even the internal dialogue is not to be taken for granted as a safe space. And you are the one you talk to the most! This shame has poisoned so much of what should be a safe space. I have resorted to a fight for self-preservation…against myself! It’s baffling, but the power of shame is real. The damage unhealthy internal dialogue can create is encompassing, crippling.
Words. Communication is a topic fraught with such conflict nowadays. I feel we’ve seen such division created by simple words. We all have examples of times we recall people cutting us down personally. In my experience, I’ve carried around many of these wounds for years. Similarly, I think we can all recall experiences where people have used words to build us up, and I’ve carried around some of these for a long time. I’ve had conversations where I’ve been confronted with my own words that have been damaging long after the fact; I’ve had conversations where my words have continued to build months and years later. Words are powerful, friend; look no further than Creation.
What claims am I making with my thoughts, words, and actions?
What gospel do I proclaim?
Do I bring life into the little world around me, or am I bringing death?
Honestly, I’ve brought far too much death. Those are hard words to write, even harder to read back to myself. The challenge is not to reread those words continuously, allowing them to seep in beneath the surface until they become me, and I them. This is the challenge for each of us.
Each thought, each word, each action is the gift of God to choose to tell a more beautiful story. Each moment is an opportunity to plant a seed of life. But we have to let go of the moment before it. We can’t hold on to the shortcomings of the past Jesus bought forgiveness for so long ago. In other words, living daily as the liturgy of our lives requires us to accept the Love offered to us and gives us in turn the freedom to love; living life as the liturgy of our faith is, I believe, the true freedom for which we were freed.
Take each thought, each word, each action captive, and set them — like yourself — free. Let love fly.