Spirituality

Words Fail Me

I talk… a lot. So much, in fact, that I get tired of hearing my own voice; even in my head. In that rare quiet moment – when I’m not praising, scolding, cajoling, singing to or explaining something to my three-year-old, she is downright confused. “Mommy,” she’ll say, “Why are you not talking?” So when Crystal suggested that we blog on the nature of words, I was game. It’s a subject I think about frequently, but never with very much direction.

I have a difficult time separating my thoughts and feelings from the words I use to express them; but I know they are separate because I often find that the words don’t accurately represent my thoughts and feelings.

I love words. I love to write and read and speak. Sometimes, though, I wonder if there isn’t a better way. They can make us so lazy! Babies can’t speak, but parents know to hold them tightly when they cry, to soothe, feed, change. We become attuned to those needs. But I miss (or ignore) those cues in my adult interactions. I might know something is bothering my husband, but if he says nothing is wrong, I leave it alone. I don’t attend to him as I should.

And of course, while words can build people up, show our hearts and be wonderful tools, they can also get us into loads of trouble. We don’t have great impulse control, we humans. The Bible is full of admonitions against idle or evil talk. James 3:1-12 is quite a passionate disparagement of such talk. And Romans 8:26: “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings to deep for words…” (Forgive me if I overuse this verse. It always speaks to me. So to speak. :))

But another story also came to mind. Genesis 11 gives us the confusing account of the Tower of Babel, wherein God recognizes that the people have united and are creating incredible things.

Genesis 11:6-8: And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.”

Huh. Seems awfully anti-progress. I don’t believe that God fears any threat from us, or even that we can pose a threat (other than perhaps grieving or angering him), so was He in fact protecting people from the detrimental actions they might take? Was it to keep us from hurting ourselves? How many scifi movies are there about very, very smart people making decisions that are ethically questionable or just downright scary? God’s unwillingness for Adam and Eve to know and understand certain things seems like it might stem from a similar concern. I know this isn’t exactly the same thing, but I wonder if our inability to communicate effectively with language could make us a lesser threat to ourselves. It seems counterintuitive that good communication could be a bad thing, but it is an interesting idea to explore. I know that I want the Spirit to continue to “intercede” for me. I never want be so cocky about my skill and sufficiency and mental clarity that I no longer seek His help.

Even if our confused brains and words are somehow a good thing, I don’t think incorporating a little more silence would cancel out any of that positivity :). In fact, I think it could augment it, giving us greater opportunity to notice His presence and seek His will.

Sigh. I’ve just reread this, and I’m arguing my own points. Ah, well. What do you think?

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Looking for an Atheist Perspective

I’ve been reading some Christian-themed blog posts lately and have noticed that sometimes atheists with dissenting viewpoints will comment, at times with honest input but sometimes with hostility and derision. Why is that? Why, indeed, do you read them in the first place? If you don’t believe in life after death… if you believe that death is the end, then what does it matter what I think anyway? Particularly if the results of my faith are things like greater personal honesty and responsibility, kindness and generosity.

I can’t buy the argument that it’s about truth because, again, why does the truth matter if we die and don’t go on? If my way of life brings me fulfillment, why work so hard to destroy that, especially when you can’t prove it wrong?

And if you’ve had a bad experience with people claiming religion as their justification for bad behavior, well… people can pervert ANY cause. I, too, oppose any perpetuation of discrimination, bigotry, cruelty and disease. It IS okay and, in fact, right for each person to discern between what they believe is good and what they believe is evil or wrong. Everyone does it, whether or not they are religious, so the “judgmental” argument falls apart for me, too.

Please don’t think I am trying to be incendiary here. And this really isn’t a rhetorical question. I would love some sincere input to better understand where you’re coming from. Thank you!

Spirituality

Way Over My Head – Please lend me some perspective!

Yesterday, I told you that I would refer to good and evil in the simplest terms. Today, not so much, but I’ll still do my best to be clear. My question is this: What do we mean when we call God “good?” And is it really possible to be objective?

One of the people whom I love and respect most in this world (you know who you are!) forced me to consider a truly frightening question a few years ago and it’s bothered me ever since. We were having a conversation about the existence of God, Heaven and Hell. I can’t quote her exactly, but the gist was this:

         Even if Heaven does exist, I’m not sure it’s a place I want to go. I can’t imagine a               parent who, having the power to stop it, would allow a beloved child to suffer for              eternity in Hell, just for refusing to acknowledge him.

Well, to be honest, I can’t quite reconcile that, either. I know the free-will argument; that God allows His children to make a choice, that He doesn’t force our commitment. But drawing the only parallel I can, which is the earthly parent/child relationship, it just doesn’t make sense to me.  I can understand it a little better from the standpoint that we all have God within us and to actively choose to Deny that is to submit to a self-imposed suffering.

The other problem I have with the free will argument is that God created all things, including our concept of good and evil. So, can there be any objectivity about the goodness of God? If He had created a world where the rules were different, where stealing and lying were considered “right” we would, presumably, still follow Him.  I’m not stating this very well. I know it sounds blasphemous, but it really is an honest question. Let me put it another way.

If God created this world and everything in it, including our concepts of good and evil, does it actually matter if He is “good” or not? Should we accept him simply by virtue of His being The Creator? I know that scripture says that God is love and reveals a number of other attributes of God, but again, He could have created the world to understand love in a completely different way.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading! I know this is one of those irritating questions that might simply be something I have to take on faith, but I really do feel compelled to ask it. Let me close by saying that regardless of my questions, when I look at the world around me – the human capacity for thought and feeling,the incredible variety and color, the beauty of nature, our bodies, the incomprehensible enormity of time and space – I feel God and I feel that God is good, as I understand goodness. I’m incredibly grateful for the life I’ve been given. Thanks again,

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Spiritual Sherpa Time

Recently, I picked up Not God’s Type (Holly Ordway).

Ordway is a self-described academic and atheist who begins exploring the idea that God and Christianity are true things. As she researches and delves into these concepts, their implications and the feelings they provoke in her, she describes an excitement and clarity that I related to quite strongly.

I have had an awareness of and personal connection to God from the time I was 11 years old. Most of the time, I think writing is a fantastic way to communicate. However, words simply don’t do some things justice. Or at any rate, my words don’t! They can make an experience that felt powerful and electric seem… benign or cliché or boring… in short, like less than it was. Therefore, I won’t relate that extremely personal memory here. Anyway, for a few years after discovering this connection, I approached life differently. I was, it seems to me now, constantly in prayer and I thought deeply and ceaselessly about life’s mysteries. Apart from these few months that I’ve been a mother, that was the most fulfilling period in my life. I seldom make the effort to consider things deeply anymore, and I’m a little ashamed of that.

I’ve always been intensely interested in theology, but have never studied it with any consistency or discipline. Particularly now that I have a daughter, I feel the need to be able to state my beliefs concisely and, as much as possible, back them up with objective arguments. I know myself well enough to know that independent study would not be the best way to achieve this, so my first step is finding a guide.

I haven’t been to church in years, and I know that going back will be difficult, but I feel like it’s time. My biggest mental road block when it comes to church is inflexible doctrine. The challenge for me now is going to be approaching those tenets from an objective standpoint.  In other words – whether I like a specific tenet isn’t important. The question I should be asking is – “Is there truth in this?” I know that by choosing to study led by a specific church, I won’t get an unbiased education, but I’m okay with that. I already believe in God, I just need some help sorting out the details.

Now to find the right guide…

Spirituality

Honest Exploration

This blog is meant to reflect my honest exploration of spiritual and Christian concepts. I decided to put my thoughts out there in this format for a few different reasons:

  • I have so many questions! Writing helps me to solidify and organize those wispy, fleeting thoughts that can be so hard to articulate.
  • I’m hoping that feedback from readers will lead me to greater clarity and keep me thinking.
  • Bonus if this blog provokes thought and conversation for others.

Before I start – a few things about what I believe (and don’t believe) – so that you know what you’re getting into. 🙂

  • I absolutely do not believe that my way is the only right way and everyone else is wrong – or worse yet – damned. It feels incredibly presumptuous to me to assume that anyone can, without error, know and understand what God intends. Even if the Bible is the unpolluted Word of God, there are vastly different takes, translations and interpretations (I will further explore the question of “the only way” in later posts). I can only be open, honest and persevering in my personal search for goodness and truth.
  • For me, Christianity is decidedly NOT an easy, comforting thing. It means greater responsibility and obligation. It means making a constant effort to interpret the world and live honestly. It means facing frightening things and being humble enough to rely on God for guidance and strength.
  • Despite the challenges, I believe that seeking, acknowledging and doing one’s best to obey (I know that word is touchy for a lot of people) God can lead to a much deeper, more joyful life experience. As for after-life- I don’t doubt it, but I also don’t understand the biblical accounts and implications of eternal life. I’m hoping to gain some insight!

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think. I know these issues can be emotionally loaded, and I welcome different opinions, but please be respectful if you decide to comment.