Spirituality

Spiritual VS Tangible?

I am no religious scholar. I know very little about religion, but it seems to me that a common thread in the some of the world’s largest religions is the concept that the physical world isn’t what’s important. Rather, we should concentrate on our spiritual existence; the things that, presumably, last. The adage “you can’t take it with you” comes to mind as a to-the-point paraphrase of this idea.

But is this physical world just a distraction from what really matters? Is it necessarily at odds with the spiritual world? My inclination is that God would not have given us physicality without a reason. I don’t pretend to understand His motivation (even using words like “motivation” and “reason” when I refer to God seems like a presumptuous personification) but I would like to explore the ways in which these two facets of our existence come together.

As I sit here trying to decide which direction to go with this post, I’m looking around at the home I’ve decorated. The wood, the pottery, the jute coffee sacks on my wall, the dusky colors all come together to bring me a measure of peace and fulfillment. I know not everyone likes to decorate, but in general, I think when we choose objects and give them a central place in our lives we’re usually trying to capture some ideal. There is yearning behind our choices. In that way I suppose our physical world spurs and encourages the search for the one thing that really can fulfill us and gives us a tiny glimpse of perfect peace and happiness.

Or maybe the tangible world really has become simply a roadblock. Depending on your belief about the foreknowledge of God (see previous post entitled “Addressing a Root Question”) one might argue that when God gave us physicality, He intended for His creation to live forever in perfect harmony with Him and part of that creation was the physical world. When we made the decision to separate ourselves from God, we tried to use our physical world in ways that it shouldn’t be used. That’s sounding a little cryptic. Let’s see… for example, if we had remained in Eden, we would not have to use nature, or sex, or human creativity as paths to happiness or to be closer to God. We polluted those things. Oh boy, my brain is now straddling a whole bunch of other questions and I’m losing focus. 🙂 Okay, staying en pointe.

Long story short, I think it’s possible we are missing something when we try to overcome our physical world (our desires, our bodies, our surroundings) in favor of the spiritual. Maybe instead we can use it to better understand the divine. That is not to say that it is easy to keep our priorities straight. Many times we do allow our physical world to corrupt us. I think the line between worldly attachment and appreciation or enhancement of our human experience is an incredibly fine one. Admittedly, I don’t know how to walk it. But after all, even heaven is described in a physical way. And if our ultimate symbol of serenity – our paradise – incorporates palpability, maybe we should, too.

What do you think? Any supporting or contradicting scripture welcome!

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Spirituality

Prayer, Passion and Poetry

Unfortunately, I am someone who has a hard time shaking a bad feeling. Things eat at me. I sometimes feel “off,” like something is somehow not quite right. I might feel a worry in the pit of my stomach that I can’t tie to any specific thing. But out of such moments are born some of my most sincere prayers. Romans 8:26 is a verse I find beautiful first for what it says and the deep feeling it communicates and second for the language Paul uses; for its poetry.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

Prayer is such a beautiful thing. A direct line of communication with God that might be desperately honest, quiet, joyful, yearning, painful… a moment to acknowledge and really feel our blessings. But it can be confusing, too. The verse above really speaks to a problem I face: I sometimes am not sure what I should pray for. I find myself trying to discern the will of God as I make my requests. My intention is good (I think we should absolutely search our hearts and come to God with the purest possible intention) but I do appreciate the reminder and confirmation that God knows my heart and my need as well as the hearts and needs of everyone else. I can simply say, for example, “God, this is what’s weighing on my mind and heart. I don’t know what your will is for this situation, but this is my hope,” or even, “God, this is what I’m feeling, but I have no idea what should happen here. Please intercede for me.”

Prayer is, of course, extremely personal. I tend to have ongoing, quite casual conversations with God. This is what has always worked for me, but I’m going to make an effort to reserve a specific time every day and dedicate it to prayer. Not that I won’t still blabber in my head while I’m doing the dishes or driving to Target. 🙂

And now I’m rambling a bit, but as I write these words about prayer and understanding God’s will for our lives, I begin to think about conviction. It’s a whole different topic that I’ll save for a different day, but sometimes I have a hard time feeling conviction about anything. I try so hard not to be presumptuous that I wind up not taking a stand on very many things. I want to be confident in what I believe but it’s tough to strike a balance when there’s so much information to sift through! I feel very under-educated most of the time.

Thank you for taking the time to read today’s somewhat disorganized post! 🙂  I hope everyone has a wonderful week!

 

Spirituality

Addressing a Root Question

Recently, I started a Bible study led by a fantastic couple. Last week they acquainted me with a really interesting idea. It was completely new to me, and while I can’t do it justice, I do want to give you a brief summary of this idea as I understand it. I’m still mulling it over myself, but I find it really exciting. I won’t be offended if anyone knows this idea better than I do and wants to correct me. 🙂 This is the abridged version of the abridged version.

At the root of so many of my questions are a couple of very basic ones that I know baffle a lot of us: If everything is a foregone conclusion, if God knows exactly what is going to happen and it all fits neatly into a “plan” then where is the meaning in our lives (how to reconcile free will and God’s will)? And how could a loving and all-powerful God create people that He knows will not choose Him – that He knows will suffer eternally?

Well, what if God doesn’t know, exactly, what will happen? Not possible, given God’s omniscience, right? Omniscient = all knowing. But consider this viewpoint: The future doesn’t yet exist. There is nothing there to know. Now, I have always taken it for granted that God is beyond time – but why?? Where did I get such an idea? I’ve done a little research this last week, and haven’t found definite scriptural support for it. If you DO have such support, I would love to hear it.

My study leaders cited the story of Jonah. God sent Jonah to Nineveh, a city behaving badly, and Jonah told them that God would destroy it in 40 days. The people of Nineveh repented and God did not destroy the city. Why would God send Jonah to warn them and threaten to destroy the city if He already knew what they would do and what He would do? It would be a deception, which the Bible tells us is impossible. “…it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18).

I found another example in Genesis. Abraham prepares to sacrifice his only son to God at God’s command. At the last minute, God sends an angel to stay Abraham’s hand. Genesis 22:12: He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” The interesting word in that verse is “now.” The implication is that God didn’t know what Abraham would do.

So, let’s say for the sake of this argument that God does not “see the future.” He has infinite wisdom, knows all things, including our hearts and minds and can see our intentions, desires, faults. Sure, he can affect the future. He can tell us, “this is going to happen” and He can bring it to pass. What are the implications of such an argument? I think there are a great many, and I will let you ponder them or research them further on your own, but the biggest one for me so far is a feeling of release from what I kind of felt was a…loaded love, if you will. A God that loves us but creates us knowing that such and such of us is going to Hell is… confusing. And somewhat contrary to the way I understand love.

I am open to the idea that this argument is incorrect. Even if it is, I will have gained something I really needed through exploring it: A reminder that there are a million ways to understand things and look at them; that it is worthwhile to dig deeper, to discover where my ideas come from and evaluate their truth; that the second I think I understand something, even subconsciously, something new might reveal itself to challenge my mind and heart.

I’ll close with another couple of verses my Bible study leaders pointed out to me when I was seeking reassurance that God created all of us with the capacity to love and know Him: 1 Timothy 2: 3-4: This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Spirituality

That Which is Good

Ever since I was old enough to have questions about God and religion, I’ve had people telling me that some things I just have to “take on faith.” That there are some mysteries to which we don’t have the answers, and that’s okay. I agree. I do not, however, think that we should accept things, believe things, without a reason. And most of us don’t; even if that reason is simply, “I feel in my soul that this is right.” I would also challenge those who think that faith is blind trust or obedience. I think most people would agree that you shouldn’t give yourself wholly to something without first knowing that it is right and good. The Bible even instructs us:

  • 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise prophecies, 21but test everything; hold fast what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21

I believe in God. I guess to be totally frank, I need to work through these questions to be sure that Christianity is, well, good. I’m tempted to delete that and reword it in a more abstract way, but I won’t. 🙂 I am not going to apologize for that. I don’t think it is wrong to take a good hard look at what you believe and and why you believe it. And there are some tough things in the Bible! While I know not everyone is driven to that kind of searching, I find that I am. I want to know my God as fully as possible and this is one of the ways I’m going about it. Enjoy!!! ….Or don’t…. 🙂 But thanks for reading, regardless.