The language of my religion is buried so deeply in the society and culture of our church that we often don’t examine what we’re talking about, or what it means in everyday terms. I’ve struggled with this for years and tried writing about it a few other times and I don’t think my confusion will go away just by writing about this again. But Recently I’ve been seeing Twitter feeds and Facebook status updates from old school friends, now pastors or actively-involved laity. They speak a language I’ve mostly forgotten. This leaves me confused, feeling a bit guilty, and sometimes extremely uncomfortable.
My confusion usually arises when I take a phrase, and try to apply it to my life. Here’s an example: “Just give it over to God.”
Immediately, my brain reviews few songs and Scriptures that affirm this thought: (1) They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31). (2) the poem Footprints in the Sand (3) Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6). (4) the Gospel standard What a Friend We Have in Jesus.
We “pray through.” We Wait for God to move.” God reaches us where we are. And my personal struggle: we strive for More of Christ.
So, they confuse me. It is not because the words are difficult, or I can’t understand them, but because living by the words makes no sense to me, and it hasn’t for many years. For example, what hurdles do you climb through, to have “More of Him”? Let’s assume you’re already a Christian; and a “good” one who cares about their personal standing with God, and you do everything you can to live a Christlike lifestyle. What fiery hoops do you jump through to get More? Do you pray more? Does that action give you more of him? Maybe you fast. Does not eating give you more than a dyspeptic ulcer? And most of all: how do you know when you’ve reached the state of Moreness? I recently browsed a post on Facebook, where a friend of mine said “Don’t settle for what you have of Christ. You can always have more.” I disagree.
I spent the first few years of my adult life trying to focus on Christ, and Him alone. I tried to pray without ceasing. I tried to do this every moment, of every second of the day. I’d make it probably five resentfully timed and urgent minutes, followed by ten guilty minutes, where I realized I had forgotten to remember Christ. And amid all these experiments to achieve this state, I never once felt more. Sometimes I’d feel better for awhile. These feelings are transient. I tried, like the Apostle Paul, to deny the flesh. I wouldn’t eat. I’d sacrifice other things for prayer. In point of fact, all I managed was the early stages of religious delirium, and realized the pressing sense that it’s truly impossible to be an ascetic and drive a car at the same time.
In my life, all this thirst for More can be traced to something I wrote in the “Important Events” section of my New Children’s Living Bible when I was 10: “I felt Jesus the Most. 11/5/78.” I remember my 10-year-old self sitting in a pew at New Life Center Assembly of God, in Gold Beach, Oregon. My eyes were shut tight, and I gritted my teeth trying to feel something—anything, really—so I could match what all the others were doing. I had to Feel Jesus the Most. I wrote it down in the Word of God, as if to affirm some kind of covenant to myself. I felt guilty because I knew immediately it was a lie. I couldn’t feel God like, say, Pastor Honey, or Brother Fred, or Sister Lydia. I even knew it was somehow wrong to worry that I was comparing what I feel. Why did it matter if I felt Jesus more than someone else? And how does it help Christ?
I came to realize that The Feeling More of God is for us, pure and simple. But my concern was how it helped anyone but me? If it helped nobody but myself, why did it matter? Did it make the deeds for the rest of the week any more focused, or Godly somehow? I still had to go to school, eat the same PBJ out of the same Dukes of Hazzard lunchbox (ohh I was a fan of Roscoe and Enos back then…) But why would God give us the gift of Feelgood? If that feeling was the entire focus of a church, and I contend that it seems to be quite important in most Charismatic/Pentecostal churches., what does it give us? How long does a “worship high” usually last, and what good does it do for the Kingdom, if that’s 70% of what they’re doing…?
About Once a week I get that twinge when I talk about church. I read “God really moved during the service” or “So-and-so really knows how to worship.” I wonder about that. Is More of God like an automotive tune-up? You need the tune-up before the healing and miracles come spurting forth from the fingers of the blessed? I’d say no, mostly (and YES I believe in Miracles) because such blessed events occur when GOD wants them to, not when we’re well-tempered claviers or something.
I’m not angry, by the way, if I sound like I’m attacking anyone or anything. I’m not. It’s something I really genuinely struggle with, ya know? Sometimes it hurts to not see the point of “feeling” anymore. It used to all make sense. Now it just… doesn’t … anymore. Why do I want More just means a momentary blast of happiness or ecstasy? The real value in Christianity lies somewhere deeper.
Just my two bits.