Feedback is complicated.
Does anyone actually enjoy a performance review? I can think of a few individuals who might be temporarily refreshed by a positive word from the ‘flowing river of progress’ or would become momentarily strengthened with a bite of an ‘improvement sandwich’. For the rest of us, receiving feedback is a clunky dad-dance of pretending to cope with our best efforts being publicly overanalysed and desperately trying not to take any of it personally.
Goals that are agreed upon after a session of bad metaphors and dutiful assurances of behaviour modification aren’t always the most useful guide rails for us. False feedback loops push us to fake it until we make it - pretend until we mend - conform to perform - be quiet so the noise of farce can carry on drowning out the sounds of real life (that last one doesn’t rhyme but you get my point). We do need feedback though. The feedback we need has to set our soul on fire with truth, connect us to outworking peace, and increase our desire for holiness.
Community gives us feedback to our function. People will tell you the condition of your soul. They live with it, they see it in our employment practices, the way we talk to our children, interactions at checkouts and parking spaces, how we talk about, not just to, others. Community is a way that our thoughts and behaviours are checked against the standards of our groups. Is my behaviour appropriate, safe, and benefiting those I am sharing space with? Feedback, real feedback not a KPI, helps us love our neighbour.
In the complication and messiness of life, you might have decided to follow Jesus. Not a nominal ‘hedge my Heaven bet’ but to actually change the way you live to follow The Way. An investment, on earth, in giving your entire life to being apprenticed to Jesus. Obsessed with consuming His words and studying them, emulating His practices and committing yourself to others. Amazing! There is no other way to live life to its fullest than to find and follow Jesus.
That also might feel a long time ago, or a confusing amalgam of some other ideas you’ve melded in along the way. Life might have added some weight and distraction to the original enthusiasm, or maybe bad practice found an easier rhythm and changing behaviours is too hard to engage with. Whatever the reason is, if the idea of a review and the feedback of your adventure with Jesus leaves you cold, embarrassed or looking for somewhere to hide - let’s be brave and think about feedback in life a little differently. How do we know, what is the feedback, we are faithfully and obediently following Jesus? ‘Fruit’!
I am guilty of using overused adages, axioms, epigrams and idioms. HOWEVER! There is nothing quite as leaned upon as a ‘season’ and ‘fruit’ in our world-view. Stay with this, though, as we listen to what maybe we feel is tired and let it speak to us again. Where do we get ‘fruit’ from and what do we mean when we use it? There are many references from cultural Christianity that develop the imagery, symbolism and metaphor of fruit. Let’s focus on the fruit found in Galatians chapter 5. Really quickly - Galatians is a letter from Paul to communities from his first missionary journey. He wants them to know that justification is by faith in Jesus. Not morality. Not ethnicity. Faith. Galatians is Paul’s, and our, declaration of liberation, “For freedom Christ has set us free…”. The promise of God (think of A