I just got home from work. Apparently Super Bowl Sunday isn’t the busiest time of year for us. I spent the last two hours walking around, cleaning things, then walking around only to clean them a second time.
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.
So I had a revelation yesterday. Nice is boring.
I had a brief conversation with someone the other day—none of you fine folks, so don’t panic—and I was struck by how banal the conversation was. Just… blah. I contributed a little, but spent most of the time just nodding my head. The weather, kids, pets, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t even remember what it was about. Continue reading Bland Is Nice
Remember on Monday, when I said this would be a good, good week? Well, I’ve been right so far!
Despite a small earthquake interrupting the latter part of the day yesterday, we spent a lot of family time at the orthodontist, then out to dinner with the boys (I had an excellent walnut-crusted chicken, surprisingly, at a sp0rts bar). I watched my kids eat. Then we went shopping for Daniel’s birthday, and came home, where I relaxed and read. A point of fact: a couple different earthquakes have happened in my life this week. As Ted “Theodore” Logan once said in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, “Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.” (this is possibly the best line Keanu Reeves has ever delivered in a film.)
From the age of six, I grew up in the Church. I found it hard to sit through the adult sermons, and as soon as I was able, began helping out in the sound booth (recording sermons on cassette tape), and in the Children’s Church, playing piano and enjoying the company of kids 10 years younger then me. I enjoyed the kids much more than the adults in our little Assemblies of God domain. They loved, and believed in, and lived their lives freely. In tiny ways, you could change a small life, and watch them proudly as they grew up. I even considered several times in my adolescent and adult life becoming a kindergarten teacher.
I feel a lecture coming on… Run away while you still can.
Recently, I was browsing a debate on Facebook about the place of Darwin’s theory of evolution within the Christian paradigm. One final thought on the matter (and I’m paraphrasing) was by a colleague named Rod White, who said “Well, Christianity has been around for 2000 years. Let’s see how science stands up 2000 years from now.”
It immediately struck me as an odd proposition, that Christianity and Science are like those Rock’em Sock’em boxers I played with as children.
Remember these? No? Well good. You shouldn’t have been playing with violent toys like these, and cap pistols and GI Joes. I played with them all, and look how I turned out.
At any rate, the idea that Christianity and Science are mutually incompatible ideas really, really bothered me. I’m not saying Rod meant this, by the way. He probably didn’t. But that’s the thought that stayed with me after reading, and something I feel I can contribute a thousand words about. I’ll spend the rest of this blog trying to explain why.
I used to sit in “heresy row” in chapel, with a few of the doubting brethren and sistern. It became something of a joke to guess how much of any prophecy would be based on the following words: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) Continue reading Prophet vs. Sage, in an Epic Rap Battle