Alignment.

I’ve been encompassed by the idea of alignment lately.  I’m writing my dissertation, so ensuring the alignment of my problem statement, purpose statement, research questions, hypotheses, theoretical framework, etc. has been encompassing my thoughts lately.  One sets the foundation for the next, which defines another, and so on.  When one doesn’t align with the rest, the whole thing goes off course.  But the idea of alignment has been palpable in other ways also.  A recent community issue has me scrambling to define where my priorities and allegiances align—something I must establish before a decision can be made.  I can also recognize that many things that should be better aligned in my life are not.  Like I really want my eating habits of late to better align with my beliefs about health, and I would like my house to better align with my ideas about tidiness, but…they don’t.  And I sense that in the chaos of my brain. 

But more importantly than any of that is my spiritual alignment.  Pastor Derick, my pastor at River Valley Christian Fellowship, killed it in this morning’s sermon by hitting on this exact point.  Not only do we each need to align our every thought and action to our spiritual beliefs (something that I constantly strive…and struggle…to do!), but we must be aligned as the body of Christ.  From John 17: 20-24, Pastor Derick, expounded on Jesus’ prayer, His plea, to His Father, that the people of God be unified. 

Boy are we not unified right now.  Not that we were ever great at it, but we truly suck at it right now, and I’m not excluding myself!  Social media is a great example of Christians eating each other alive.  Mike Pence has a rule that he doesn’t have dinner alone with other women without his wife.  I saw some Christians vehemently defend the importance of such “affair-proofing” measures for a Christian marriage, and others (including me…it’s out there, I can’t deny it) poking fun of the (alleged) absurdity of such a practice.  This morning someone posted wondering if it was okay to wear a Slipknot t-shirt to church.  At least one person said “probably not” while I (had I had the time) would have responded that I think Jesus would really just have wanted him at church, devoting a couple hours just for Him.  We airstrike Syria, and Christians start in with judgment…right to bomb, wrong to spend the money and cut Meals for Wheels, wrong to protect them while simultaneously not allow them into the country.  I am just as guilty as many others for having strong opinions that I share that probably sound divisive and judgmental, and probably are.  It’s meant to present one side of what always turns out to be complicated issues, but in many cases may end up divisive.

But, as Pastor Derick aptly pointed out this morning, unity does not mean uniformity.  We are not required to be one in every behavior, every thought, every opinion.  We are only asked to be one in Spirit.  Like pretty much everything, this starts with each of us.  When I am spiritually aligned in my relationship with Christ, with the scriptures, and it is “well with my soul”, then unity with the body of Christ flows out from that.  My thoughts, beliefs, and actions don’t have to be exactly the same as every other believer, but when I am aligned spiritually, I will know what is right for me, and can display the patience, tolerance, and understanding to respect when others live their aligned lives differently than mine.  And when others don’t appear to be aligned spiritually yet tout spiritual fervor as a justification for their actions?  Well, I guess if I’m to be honest, that’s God’s business and not mine, isn’t it.  (This is hard for me to accept too!!!)

As I was listening to the sermon this morning, I was thinking that alignment is really the foundation of pretty much everything, right?  We need our spines aligned, our brakes, our bookshelves, our paragraphs and margins…things work best when perfectly aligned, right?  But then I realized that this isn’t true in aesthetics—design, photography, floral arrangements, etc.  In other words, in most situations, things not perfectly aligned are more beautiful to us.  As a general rule, you should never have a horizon in the center of a picture, you should have the focal point of a picture or film off to the side, and arrange items on a hearth so the highest point is on one side or the other. 

I was wrong, though.  I was thinking of alignment as tantamount to parallel and straight—the same.  But alignment actually means placing things so they line up…in some purposeful way.  A Pythagoras alignment lines things up like a Pythagorean triangle, not parallel or straight at all!! 

Things can be more beautiful by a non-uniform alignment. 

 WE can and ARE more beautiful as a body of Christ when we accept our non-uniform alignment.

 My job is to keep myself aligned with God, and my alignment within the church will form around me. 

Pastor Derick left us with a challenge: What am I doing to promote unity?  And how can I be part of the answer to Jesus’ prayer that His church, His people, be unified?

Well, for me, writing this is a start.  Now the real work begins…