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?

Spirituality

Hey, God – You’re Kinda Creeping Me Out

Earlier this week, I was talking to another mother that I know and our conversation very briefly landed on theology. I mentioned Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son as a part of this conversation and she asked me, “So, what do you think of that anyway? If God wanted me to sacrifice my son, I think I’d say ‘Hey, God – you’re kinda creeping out.'” I laughed, but it’s a fair question. Setting aside all the New Testament parallels, what do I think about that? My initial thought was that Abraham’s experiences with God had given way to complete trust. I still think that’s true, but I must admit, I can’t fathom sacrificing my daughter for anything.

And then I started thinking about other reasons God might have used this method to determine the depth of Abraham’s faithfulness. My hunch is that God uses our ideas about society and culture to get through to us or to help us understand certain things. Baptism, for example. Why, when the disciples started baptizing people who were newcomers to the faith did these people not say, “Huh?? You want to do what?” Numerous historical sources tell us that baptism was not originally a Christian practice and had, in fact, been around for a long time before Christ.  Of course, it meant something new when Christians incorporated it. I know that some people will get prickly about this, but why should it be at all diminishing to think that God would use an existing practice to help people identify with and understand the step they were taking?

I also hear people attempt to discredit Christianity based on the fact that the story of Jesus closely parallels stories of pre-Christian religions. But again, it makes sense to me that God would help us to identify with Christ by using familiar elements.

You would have to research further to confirm, but I have heard that even circumcision was a custom prior to God’s instruction to Abraham.

So, back to Abraham and Isaac. I think it is safe to say that at the very least our forefathers had familiarity with polytheism. It is referenced throughout the Old Testament. Indeed God addresses it directly with the commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me.” -Exodus 20:3. (It is interesting to note that God does not say that there are no other gods.) If the culture and religions of the time dictated that the people appease their gods to avoid mayhem and disaster through methods such as sacrifice, God’s order to Abraham to sacrifice his son may not have seemed quite as unbelievable as it does in our current culture. In the end of course, we must remember that God did not actually require such a sacrifice.

Just a few thoughts…

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.