Sunday, January 18, 2009

Jamesian Fiction

Karen Burton Mains, in her book You Are What You Say has a chapter entitled "Jamesian Fictions." She talks about the various fictions regarding our lives which we tend to create. She says that "Eve's fiction was that she believed she could be like God." She goes on to describe Adam's, Lot's, Abraham and Sarah's and Isaac's fiction. Each believed something that greatly influenced their actions. Unfortunately, in each case, their belief proved to be false. Lot's fictional belief that he could live in the midst of corruption without being tainted proved false. Abraham and Sarah's fictional belief that they could control the destiny of their family has caused ongoing enmity between Jews and Arabs who look to Isaac and Ishmael as their progenitors. Isaac's assumption that he could play favorites with his sons without affecting the family resulted in deceit. To these examples we can add David with his adulterous affair with Bathsheba, the schemes of Ananias and Sapphira over holding back money, etc. Each held a fictional belief. Mains goes on to add that people who are successful in the church are particularly susceptible to being deluded by fictional beliefs about their own status in the church. Their actions, based on their beliefs, often end up in exposure of sin in their own lives. We have seen this occurring in the lives of several prominent pastors and tele-evangelists over the past several years.

But this problem doesn't only happen to characters in the Bible or to pastors and tele-evangelists. It also happens to us. We are just as likely to be deluded by fictional beliefs. The man or women having an affair often believes it won't affect their family life. The couple who divorce often believe it won't negatively affect their children. The man who is too busy at work to attend his children's school or sporting events doesn't think his lack of involvement will affect them negatively. The boss who thinks that his constant belittling of his employees won't affect their morale is deluding himself. The former drug addict who believes that she can live in her former drug environment without going back to drugs is sadly mistaken. The person who gossips often doesn't think it will affect other's lives. Then there is the man or women who thinks they can commit sins without it having an effect on their relationship with God. We all live with Jamesian fictions. And they all cause great difficulties in our lives. Many times they are little things that we don't even think about. They are not things which are at the forefront of our minds. They often lurk in the background, in the core of our being. But their effects can be extremely powerful. As we have seen from the characters in the Bible, eventually they come to the surface with disastrous consequences.

How can we avoid these fictions? We must begin by taking an honest look at ourselves and how we live. We must examine the results of our actions, particularly as they affect relationships with those around us. Many times it is helpful to practice the Golden Rule - doing unto others what I would want them to do to me. Attempting to look through the eyes of the child whose father never attends his events, the mistreated employee, the recipient of gossip or through the eyes of a holy God will help to destroy the Jamesian fictions in our lives. We all have them to a greater or lesser degree. The question is, what are we going to do about them. On further thought, what Jamesian fictions are you living with?

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