Wednesday, December 21, 2011

more than a policy

I was reading Looking for Alaska (which I completely recommend by the way) when I ran across this quote:

‘I am going to take this bucket of water and pour it on the flames of hell, and then I am going to use this torch to burn down the gates of paradise so that people will not love God for want of heaven or fear of hell, but because He is God.’
I loved this because this year I've been thinking a lot about what drives me to believe in God and to be a Christian. Is it just because that is the way I was raised? Because I truly believe in the God of the Bible? Or is it really because I fear eternal damnation? 

I remember the first time I thought about heaven and hell. My grandfather had died and my grandmother, Catholic through and through, had told me I needed to pray for him every night to help him get out of purgatory. I had no idea at the time what that meant but I did what she asked because I loved my grandfather. However, that is when the fear started. It told me there was clearly something bad that could happen to you when you died and I took to begging God not to let anything happen to me, not to let me go to hell. 

I would be lying if avoidance of hell and wanting to feel secure in my belief that heaven was what waited on the other death wasn't my main motivation the day I "got saved." Even now, in the middle of the night when my brain is sifting through all the thoughts jumbled in my head, I imagine something happening- a vein bursting in my brain, my heart stuttering to a stop, that last frightened breath and.... what? What is next? And I find myself praying, God, have mercy on my soul.

But I don't want my motive for loving God to center around a "life insurance policy." I don't want my life to be centered around avoiding punishment. In Love Wins Rob Bell talks about living our lives here and now to create heaven here on earth. Love now. Change the world here to be the best it can be. Don't just count on the flames of hell and the gates of heaven. I want to love God because I believe he loves us. Unchecked love. Real love. Love that can make you angry because it doesn't make sense. Love for us all. Love because he is love. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

You Can't Take That Away from Me

This weekend I was sitting at my Christmas party discussing God with my Jewish friend, M. Both she and my atheist friend, J, have honestly been the two people who have made me feel like I can still be a Christian in light of my adjusted beliefs. This weekend, as M and I were talking about the religious aspects of our respective December holidays I found myself confessing to her how I had felt this year that if I told people some of the things I'd been thinking- that LGBT people are exactly who they should be, that maybe there are more paths to God than we'd suspected- I wouldn't be allowed to be a Christian anymore. That my religion, my beliefs would be taken away from me. "I want to believe in God," I told M and she said that no one could take God from me.

What I told her is the truth. In spite of all the confusion, upheaval, frustration with the church, etc. I want and I do believe in God. I believe that "God is love and He loves everyone." I believe that my highest duty in life is to love God with my heart, mind and strength and to love my neighbor as myself. I believe God is here with me and I believe that the miracles around me are the work of his hands.

I also believe that we are capable of really screwing things up. And that the world is broken and evil. And that there are questions I can't answer. That the hatred of the world can deeply wound people. That there are many people dying and suffering and I can't say why that should happen to them. I don't blame people who reject the idea of God, I understand why they feel that way. But I can't. I don't want to. I want to believe there's something after this life. I want to believe in the Summer Lands and the world CS Lewis describes in The Last Battle where justice is served and it gets bigger and better and more glorious the further you go in. Where love reigns.

So that's where I stand this Christmas season. I quietly sang Christmas hymns all the way home from work last week in thankfulness when the shooting at Virginia Tech didn't turn into another terrible massacre. I lit the candle that illuminates our holy family nativity and smiled. I prayed for peace and comfort for a family that lost their teenage daughter this weekend. I hoped that I could reclaim and hold onto a God and Savior that has meant so much to me.

I basked in the glow of friendships that have blessed and comforted me this year.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

World Weary

is a phrase my friend Andrea and I used to describe days we felt life was out of our control and oppressively hopeless. I have had a world weary week - which is in direct contrast to the joyous hopefulness of my counterpart. I love you for having joyful hopefulness - it means I'll be up again too.
The downside to all this "wrestling with one's salvation" is it gets messy. You see everything in grey and sometimes it's the same shade of grey. There isn't even the benefit of dark gloomy grays versus cheery warm light greys with hints of blue, green, or yellow. It's days like this that make me feel like I'm losing, I'm lost, I have lost. And I'm not even talking about my faith - I'm talking about the effects we have on each other - the every day decisions that we all make that either fuck someone else over or bring happiness. Even my examples tend to the black and white, which apparently I want more of today.
Ben and I had a Huge Discussion this morning in a brand new diner (new to us) by our house, and over french toast and omelettes we...or moreso, I, talked about how overwhelmed I felt with every decision that had to be made, and how, in the course of making this most recent decision, I remembered alllll the other past decisions wherein I had to suck it to get through life. I had to take the proverbial slaps to my face to just be able to move on and live because people suck. People are Awful. I want in my little cave with my comfort people and that's it.
As most of our conversations go, we morphed into how our faith comes in to play - I was raised to not question tradition, or the people in charge - Unless of course, those people in charge disagreed with my father, when, well, naturally, we'd be able to disagree with them. Of course! I was raised to be the biblical sheep - needing protection, needing a shepherd. Ben was raised to be the shepherd - he was taught to be the leader, the protector, the one who questioned and critiqued. Those two differences were never so more apparent than today, because part of my growth as an adult has been to Trust in my decisions - even if they are against the group and I am made unpopular by them. (SO HARD) I've also had to learn when the fight is worth fighting and when it isn't, and Folks, It's easier to NOT fight. It's easier to take the slap, and deal with the post-traumatic stress syndrome later. You know what's hard? Knowing you have to fight, and finding that resolve to carry through and know you're doing what's right.
Because doing what's right and being thoughtful and determined about Life means constantly being on edge and aware and thinking. This is why people want to be led - they don't want to bear the responsibility of being aware. I can't Not be aware anymore, but some days I just want a little assurance. Some days I just want to win. I just want my voice to be acknowledged.
Which is the absolute last thing that will happen, because it isn't a win or lose scenario. It's a work it out and pursue what you know is right scenario. It's something my therapist told me I need to work on, and it's SO TRUE. Life isn't winning or losing, I just haven't figured out what it is. I am still so emotionally stunted in this one (hopefully just one) GLARING inconsistency that it affects everything.
To sum up:
I am learning how to lead....myself.
I get so upset because I still think it's a win/lose/black/white world. It's not.
I have to figure out WHAT that means and how to own it. I can't even formalize in words how to define that.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Something that made me smile

I've spent a lot of time on this blog thus far working through angst, doubts and questions I have about the church. I can be pretty critical of Christians and Christianity on the whole though I really try not to get so cynical. That's why I wanted to share this photo that I found here. I wish I could give the photographer credit but there weren't any photo credits listed for this picture. It was simply captioned "Christians protect Muslims during prayer in Cairo, Egypt." That makes me so happy. That is what I think Jesus would want us to do.