Spirituality · Uncategorized

What difference does it make?

Some time back, someone whom I love and respect whose spiritual views are very different from mine asked me what difference my faith made to me. I gave her an inadequate and inarticulate answer about hope. Once in a while that conversation comes to mind and irritates me. I’m not promising a magical answer here, either, but I want to address a few things that I failed to convey then.

A lot of people claim that God makes their life better without qualifying the statement. Others seem to work really hard to qualify it, pointing to his supernatural influence as the thing that got them a new job, perhaps, or a clean bill of health after an illness. I am not here to disagree with them; I’m not in their shoes. Usually, though, that’s not how I feel about my interactions with the divine.

So, how does my faith enrich my life?

  • The most important thing I can say is that it doesn’t fix my life in the short term. I can’t objectively judge what God has effected in my life because his hand is not always visible to me. So maybe he has made my life easier and better in ways I’m not aware of, but I still struggle to not let depression get the better of me, to motivate myself to do the stuff of daily living, to build relationships and show love. Bad things happen and will continue to happen. But you know that desperate feeling that life is not as it should be? That restless, almost angry stirring that says you should be feeling another way that you try really hard to suppress with worldly distractions? I still have that feeling a lot and still occasionally try to buy or exercise or plan or volunteer my way out of it. But I know that it won’t work. And this is where I find comfort: I believe that I DO know where that feeling comes from and what will ultimately fix it. I will continue to experience it here, but I don’t seek its resolution in the same unhealthy ways I might if I didn’t believe the way I do. I’m also not destroyed when I recognize the futility of those efforts because I already knew they were futile, but I believe that the thing I’m missing IS obtainable after death. Waiting still stinks, though. 🙂
  • This seems off-subject, but to relate the meaning that faith holds for me, I need to address two things about Christianity which often concern people: the biblical assertion that Christ is the only way and the related concept of Hell. I understand why these topics upset people – they absolutely ARE upsetting. My view of faith is dependent on God’s goodness and I don’t believe these apparent hang-ups are obstacles to that goodness. These views likely won’t sway people who don’t already have Christian sympathies and they aren’t unique or revolutionary, but maybe they will be another perspective for someone struggling to reconcile these facets of the religion with their faith. To be clear, though, I may be way off-base. I am not the one who defines goodness, so while I seek truth and have feelings on the matter, I’m no authority.
    • Many of my more conservative friends will passionately disagree with me, but while I believe Christ is the only way, I don’t believe that looks the same to all people. I think it entirely probable that acknowledgment and acceptance of Christ can even happen when the person doesn’t know him by that name. This is not a post-modern or universalist assertion. But I think Christ affects us all individually, quite outside of human religious constructs. I think it is presumptuous to assume that Christ couldn’t reveal himself in a completely different way to someone whose life experience and soul is different from mine. Bottom line: I don’t know, but I do trust God’s goodness.
    • Hell is one of those things that is still largely mysterious to me. I haven’t read anything in the Bible that gives me a solid grasp. What I do believe is that God created humanity and the world we live in. I believe that he cares about that creation and hates what hurts it. I trust that if my soul is so polluted that it would threaten the goodness of his creation, he won’t allow me to continue beyond this life. I also believe that separation from God would be unbearably painful.

Thank you for letting me define the fruits of my faith in a small way. Feel free to weigh in, disagree, agree, whatever floats your boat – as long as you keep it kind. Happy Tuesday!


Giving it a go with the Methodists

This morning we visited a Methodist church. When you don’t know a whole lot of people who can give you recommendations (my husband and I are both pretty asocial), it can be tough to choose a church. So, we defaulted to proximity. This one is approximately three minutes from our front door. Definitely a perk. Actually, there are quite a few pros on the list here. Nice people who weren’t pushy, a pastor that seems to have a really interesting perspective (I also read a few of her sermons online) and a relaxed environment. I looked up Methodist doctrine before I went and can get on board with most of it.

There are a few hang-ups for me, though. Deep breath. Please don’t be offended by the question I’m going to raise, and please feel free to weigh in. I know there are many things I’m just never going to understand, but I feel like I need to gain further understanding before making any kind of absolute statement about what I believe on this matter. My biggest question is about salvation. There are myriad verses in the New Testament that state that only through acceptance of Jesus Christ can a person be forgiven and saved. I personally believe that Jesus was divine, and have accepted him and yet this concept still troubles me deeply. Even apart from the argument that there are still many people without access to Christianity -what happened to all of those people in the years between Jesus’ death and widespread knowledge of his life and death? Were they condemned to eternal suffering?

I’m not saying that’s false, but it doesn’t seem right, either. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post – I’m trying to approach religious questions from a standpoint of truth and not from a “do I personally like this?” standpoint. But the only way that I can reconcile this with the idea of a “loving” God (which seems so prevalent today), is by assuming that one can, on some deep internal level, “accept Jesus” and have knowledge of Him without having actually learned about Him – without even knowing His name. Does that make sense? At any rate, I’m praying about it and am planning to e-mail the pastor of the church I visited and ask for her insight on this question. I’ll let you know what she says, if she’s comfortable with that.

Look for a future post on the way our culture interprets “love” of God and and love FROM God. Hope everyone had a fabulous weekend. Take care!


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…