Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dear God, who are you?

I feel a deep, deep longing to know God, to have a faith, to believe in something. For a number of years I fulfilled this longing through the Christian faith, and it fulfilled it really nicely for awhile there. There was that Book, the one with all the answers. I really loved that Book, the look of it, the feel of it, the turning of the pages and the words within. Umm yes, there were parts of it I had to rationalize away, and there were other parts that lent themselves to the most magnificent spiritualizing. That part about God's people entering the Promised Land, for example. Historical text, maybe, but for me it was a promise that God had a place for me in this world, my own spiritual Promised Land, but that in order to enter it I needed to prepare myself, and to be willing to kill off all that might come between me and God, or cause me to stray from Him. In that respect, it was beautiful. But in its actual black and white text, I have to admit it was pretty horrific, that God's people when they entered the Promised Land were commanded to kill every man, woman and child living there, because if they didn't then they might accidentally be led astray into worshiping those other people's gods. Just doesn't feel right, and yet I was able to make it feel right, as a spiritual lesson rather than a history lesson.

Then there was church. I loved church. My favorite part was the worship. If you are not a churchgoer, you might not be aware of what that means, but basically it is singing. We didn't sing namby pamby organ-led hymns at our church. We sang contemporary worship music, a genre I still adore. Instead of an organ, we had a contemporary band with piano, guitars, drums, and various other instruments, and instead of a choir we had a worship team, blessed with the most amazing voices. They would lead and we would sing along with them, often with hands raised and eyes closed, and so many times it brought me to tears. The pastor of the church I went to, well he didn't seem like the most sincere guy in the world. I think part of it was that he was a really smart guy, and I kept thinking that as a really smart guy he must have doubts about what he was doing from time to time, but he was stuck, it was his job, and so he just kept doing it. I don't know that this was true, just kind of what I felt. Definitely not warm or fuzzy and you didn't get the feeling he really cared all that much about people, but as I said, he was a smart guy, and he taught the Bible in his lectures rather than filling them with emotional exhortations, and that really appealed to my intellect. There was more than enough love to be found there elsewhere.

But, one day in November 2009 I woke up and thought, "Wait, this just doesn't make sense." There was the Old Testament stuff, like the killing off of all the people who lived in the Promised Land, but there was the entire basis of the New Testament beliefs. This was that all the people who believe the story about Jesus dying for their sins and being resurrected will be saved, and all those who don't believe that story, whether for cultural or simply intellectual reasons, will not be. In fact, there is even a threat, depending on linguistics and interpretation, that those people might actually suffer for eternity in a lake of burning fire. 

This is just not my idea of a loving God. 

Now I know these Christian people, and I know that they are absolutely loving people, and they do believe that this God is loving. They will tell you that he sent his very own son to die a horrible death for you, so that you can be saved, and what could be more loving than that? Well, hmm, let me see. A god who is less "holy" maybe, so that we normal people don't need a blood bath in order to be able to enter into his presence? A god who doesn't consider our nature to be sinful maybe? A god who sees us as a work in progress maybe? Because that's what I feel like, a work in progress.

Now understand, I am not trying to denigrate Christianity, because quite honestly I miss it. I wade into the shallow end occasionally, reading Christian books, watching Christian programs, just trying to find a reason to go back. When I left the church, I was very afraid my decision would impact my son. He was very involved in the church, intended to become a youth pastor, and I actually wept to think of the possibility that my decision could derail him. I couldn't help wonder why I was so upset over that. If I thought it was all a bunch of baloney, why would I not want my son to be set free from it? As it turns out, it did impact him. He likes to say it didn't, but I'm pretty sure that if I had stayed in the church, he would have stayed as well. But he did leave shortly after I did, and, well, there were some of the most beautiful chains of the finest, sweetest gold that held him to the church that he had to tear apart on his way out. His exit from the church left a path of devastation, and it truly broke my heart. 

Ah well. What's done is done. I may have left Christianity, but I never stopped believing in the spiritual dimension in life. I kind of looked at many other of the paths people have struck through this existence in their desire to find the meaning of our existence. Of course you undoubtedly know that each of the major religious traditions took root in different geographical areas. If you happened to be born in a certain country, you were at least influenced by if not absorbed into one of these faiths. This was not a good thing for any of those faiths, since they all ended up being represented by people who often didn't really represent them. That includes Christianity by the way. I was kind of interested in Buddhism and Hinduism, but I have to admit I balked at the part where you give up the self. I really wanted to make my self as shiny as I could, not get rid of it. Character flaw maybe, but it prevented me from venturing far into these areas. I also find it impossible to meditate. My mind does not like to be still. It wants to absorb stuff, and it wants to spit stuff out. It doesn't not want to be idle. If I am doing something physical and cant' be reading or writing, I generally plug in headphones and listen to an audiobook while I am doing it, because my brain just has got to keep busy. Even while watching TV, I feel as though I have to be doing something else to keep my mind busy, like being on the internet, or playing a game.

Somewhere along the way I kind of reconciled myself with the idea that we human beings can't really know the truth of the universe. Hey, this is one of my lessons in this lifetime, isn't it? Learning to live with the questions, without finding answers? I kind of tend to believe in multiple incarnations. I definitely believe in love, and that includes the right of men to love men and women to love women. I guess I kind of believe in the path of the heart. I believe that my longing for religious attachment comes from having Pluto, the Lord of my chart, in my ninth house. These things kind of exclude me from Christianity. For a long, long, long time I could not say the word God, because it held connotations of mass murders and judgment in the guise of love. But eventually I figured out that God is an unknowable term, but that doesn't prevent my use of it, and it doesn't prevent prayer, whether all this is directed toward a being of any sort, or the energy of the universe. I don't know how a cell phone works. If I stopped to think about it, I'd be pretty darn certain it would be impossible for a cell phone to work at all. But this doesn't prevent me from using it, you know? I don't know who or what my prayers connect to, but I can still pray, and the one thing I know for 100 percent certain and that is that it is not going to hurt anything.

Still, there is this yearning in my heart to know what is true, to believe, and really to worship. I honestly keep wanting someone to tell me that I completely misunderstood the concept of Christianity. I would love to find another explanation, and to find a church with the love and fellowship and certainty, without the judgment and exclusion. Okay, I'm going to sound shallow here, but I have on a couple of occasions attended more liberal services. I went to a Unitarian Church one day to hear Marian Williamson speak. But those people are singing hymns like they are back in the early 1900's. So odd that the more liberal congregations have the more conservative and uninteresting services. Perhaps shallow that I require the experience of music and worship in a church, but I do. The song below, Who Am I by Casting Crowns, is an example of one of my favorite worship songs.


I look at people who believe, and I envy them actually, but I also wonder, have they never thought about these things that make it impossible for me to believe? Have they just rationalized away the answers? Or could they have actually found the answers? Sometimes people will go through and read very old entries on my other blog and comment on them, drawing my attention back to the me who existed several years ago. Recently someone drew my attention to one in which I wrote, "Faith is like an ocean in which I swim, but sometimes I get thrown up on the beach and I sit there for awhile, drying out a bit, asking questions. But the depths call to me, and I plunge back in. I pray for the mind and heart of God, that his thoughts would be my thoughts, his desires would be my desires. I pray for answers and understanding, because I am intellectually driven. And I move forward on the path set out before me, even when it is dark. I know the light will come again."  What does this mean, I wonder? I have tags in my other journal, and I went through and read all the entries I had tagged with "faith," and I was surprised how many of them echoed exactly what I am saying here. The above entry that I quoted was written probably a month before I landed on the beach, got up, turned my back and kept going. I marched up and over the hills, towards the mountains, toward the desert. 

I am sure that there are some people who think that I gave up my faith because of my daughter, Michaela, who was kidnapped and never found. That really isn't the case. It's in my mind, not my heart, that doubt arises. It is my heart that longs to believe, in something. I long to worship to acknowledge the sheer glory and heartbreak that is this life.

I'm going to end with another video, another of my favorite songs, also by Casting Crowns. When I had a myspace page for Michaela, this song played when it was opened. Gotta love it, always. Sorry for the ads, and if you have too much trouble playing these videos let me know. I think you might have to click on the youtube link to watch them, but it is too confusing to go through youtube searching for one that will play in the blog, because the only way to know is to embed it.

I am really happy to receive your messages regarding this post. I may not print them all, but I will read them. Thank you, and I love you all.



9 comments:

  1. I love this blog, Sharon, and I love you, too. I believe there are many paths to God. I would LOVE to attend a service at Agape in L.A. Until then, I occasionally stream their services and love it. www.agapelive.com if you are interested. It streams live on Sundays and you can watch the previous Sunday's service any time.

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  2. The photo is beautiful, the 2 songs terrific, and the shared spiritual journey special and important. This reminds me of your posted quote:"Most of the important things in the world
    have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying
    when there seemed to be no hope at all."
    — Dale Carnegie

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  3. I’m wondering if when you were experiencing Christianity if you welcomed being led fully by the indwelling Holy Spirit ? : Meaning: Did the Spirit of the Living God, during every day humble worship, press people on your heart to pray for? Did you share your faith comfortably & often in casual conversation what God meant to you/or what texts you were studying with neighbors, co-workers, extended family & friends ? When you prayed for hurting people did you witness miracles?- See profound physical/emotional healings in people’s lives?-Were you an enthusiastic willing vessel for a special spiritual outreach? When you studied the Bible often were you in awe of the Holy Spirit author’s willingness to teach you how the specific studied text applies to life today? Was your specific “gift of the Spirit” to contribute to the building of the body known by you? And pursued to it’s full extent? (1 corn 12:4 &7-Biblegateway>” 4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b] 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”

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  4. It is impossible for humans to have all of the answers to our questions. It requires faith, like that of a child. You don't understand why, but trust in God who knows everything - who sees the whole picture while we, even the oldest among us, see only a small portion or reflection... a lot of the killing of children and seemingly "innocents" ordered by God I wonder about too - but then I also remember that God says not to fear those who can kill the flesh, but rather the One who can kill your soul (Matthew 10:28). I just have faith that God sees the whole picture. We are like toddlers who see the world from a limited perspective. As a parent, you would take sharp instruments away so they do not harm themselves. They do not understand so they may throw a tantrum because they don't realize the danger. I believe that we humans are like that as well, and won't understand until we are in heaven... then everything will be revealed to us and we will totally understand. Keep seeking Him, Sharon. You will find Him. God bless!

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  5. I too had walked away for numerous reasons. Like the 9 of ten lepers I took my blessings and didn’t look back. One day like the 1 who came back to thank God I too was embraced with an open Divine heart & blessed. Lovely Creator God gives the moment to moment gift of free-will to choose worship or not, to leave-seek another or abide in relationship, to say thank You or never bother. Because of this my love returned is so much more now…. During difficult times I still weep and yet am strengthened enough, following genuine turning over of burdens in prayer, to praise in the storms.

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  6. Two people’s short testimonies, from different spiritual meetings, are still remembered a decade later:
    One said “I believe my God REALLLLLLLY likes me… and wants the best for me”
    The other chocked up mid-way and said “ He told me to take up my matt….and I did”
    (JN 5:6-9> http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/John-5-6_5-9/

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  7. Since you have a luv for music and a good sense of humor I thought I’d share this cute story:
    Right b4 song service a Minister called on the oldest member to come up the front and pick 3 hymns. The woman slowly made her way up front and stood silent. Gently the Minister asked her to” Please pick 3 hymns.” Smiling she said it was a hard decision but thought she might be ready. Then looking at the front row of people she pointed and said “Okay I pick him, him and him !”

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  8. "Praise You In This Storm" (When my unbelief is Divinely helped & I believe this promise includes me <3
    "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you ,yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with My righteous right hand"
    ( nkjv Isaiah 41:10) Best to you.

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