Hmm...I had an interesting encounter these past few days with a version of my former self.
I came across Jeremy Myers' blog "Till He Comes" a couple of months ago and have enjoyed reading his thoughts on what "church" maybe should look like. In the last few days, he has been doing a series of posts that are generally about the concept of removing the fences from around churches and let Christ draw people in....and he attracted the attention of a couple of people who vehemently disagree with his whole concept. They made a lot of accusations along the lines of 'heretic' and 'blasphemer' and 'going to hell', etc., etc., etc....and I got drawn into the debate for a few days...and was told I had rejected Jesus and was following Jeremy to hell. Sigh. And I realized a couple of things.
The first was that I really did not have the inclination to argue, which came at about the same time as I realized that there could be no profit in it because I was not going to be heard and they would not be able to pull me back into that thinking....
The second was that I felt no great need to defend myself or justify myself or prove my point. And THIS feels good. :-)
But, this exchange has stirred a lot of thoughts and I am going to try to share them coherently....
In trying to explain my position and why I disagreed with their position, I used specific Bible passages that have come alive in new ways to me recently. After spending a year and a half not even being able to read it without getting pissed off, this is a good thing. Unfortunately, they did not see the verses in the same light I do. After a few exchanges, I realized that because of the lens they view the Bible through, no amount of debate will convince them. I know. I used to see things that way, too.
It's the position that the Institutional Church (IC) promotes. Nearly every IC I've seen does this to some degree. They promote an attitude of, "Our denominational doctrine is the only correct one. You must believe and defend our stance or you are not really one of us." The threat of deception into hell looms large. I remember what it felt like. Hanging your faith hat on one denomination's doctrinal statement is a dangerous and tricky business. Any time someone disagrees, anger and fear rise up in alternating measures. You must correct them - win the argument - prove you are right and they are wrong. Why? Because if you don't, then the foundations of what you think God is all about (what the IC of choice or birth has taught you God is about) begin to shake and crack. And that is scary as hell.
And until God planted me in the middle of an ugly IC situation - let me see it for what it really was, and then led me away from the IC - to a place of learning truth (on so many levels), there was nothing that would have enticed me away from the pseudo-sense-of-security the IC offers.
And it was neither an easy nor fun process. Those of you that have followed my blog through the years have gotten a taste of it. That first year out of the IC was a confusing mix of joyous freedoms and deep anxiety. As I have mentioned in other posts, when I left the IC, I entered into a place where everything I had ever been taught about God and church and religion was shattered with the wrecking ball of reality. Most of what I thought I knew about my childhood and family was also shatter by a series of crashing waves of truth....and frankly, at the time, I wasn't sure I would survive. Honestly, I wasn't sure I wanted to.
Having the illusions and defensive barriers of a lifetime come crashing around your ears is no picnic. (ha!) I spent my days sitting in my car at the park trying to continue reading the Bible and talking to God and talking to my aunt on the phone to try and keep a semblance of sanity. I spent my nights sleeping in my dad's garage on a couch (I was living there and had a bedroom with a bed in it) because it was the only place I felt safe. I spent as many nights as possible at my friend's house. I would lie in bed and just shake. The fear that I was going off the deep end spiritually and mentally dogged me all through this time. I'll never forget in January almost a year after I had left the IC, I was reading the Bible and was in Numbers 5. This chapter has always bothered me. It seems so unfair...and I got angry. I held my Bible up and said, "God, do you see this? This sucks! It's ugly. It doesn't sound like you. Explain this to me." His response sent me in a direction I never expected to go...especially at his leading. He simply said, "Relax. It wasn't written to you." It was at this point I began to quit reading the Bible for a time. At the time, I wasn't sure I ever would again.
Now, you need to understand. Before I left the IC, I read at least 8 chapters a day - every day. I studied the Bible. I wrote papers, led Bible studies, made charts and timelines and....and I don't regret that I did that. It is good to know the Bible.....*grinning* But is also good to know when it's time to lay it down and let God talk to you directly....
I was desperate for TRUTH. And I began to learn that although facing the truth about church, family, yourself, can feel like it's going to annihilate you - it won't (almost, maybe, but...) - it really will set you free. And over the last few years, as I have grown away from that initial system shock, I have been taught by God some incredible, religion defying truths. Then, after he wrote those truths on my heart, he took me back into the Bible and began showing me, with the fresh eyes of freedom, that this truth was actually written in its pages...but as long as the religious filter of my childhood was over it, I would never have seen it.
Truly, it is amazing to me - he loves me enough to break those chains of bondage that were slowly but surely killing me and set me into a larger place - a freer place - a truer place. And I also recognize (and can now live comfortably with the idea) that I do not have the whole picture. There is far more to God and his plan than I will ever be able to comprehend. For a while, after I began to come out of the shock, I was afraid to write much because I knew that in 6 months - a year...I would probably see it better than I do now and be embarrassed at what I wrote. I am a little embarrassed at some of the things I wrote while in the IC. I actually did a 53 page 'study' on Paul's letter to the Romans. Yikes! I am just about ready - after more than 8 years - to take a look at it and see what I did....could be painful, but there might be a little gold scattered.
So...back to the topic being hotly debated at Jeremy's blog....I think that one of the biggest problems with the IC is that attitude of having a corner on the truth. But they don't. Most have some truth...and a lot of man's ideas. The insistence to the contrary, of necessity, creates an 'us vs. them' mentality. And they don't see that as a problem. In fact, one of the commenters actually said it was was necessary - desirable. The concept put forth was essentially: preach the Law at 'them' until they repent. Then let them in the fence....one actually said that if the Law was not preached, then no one would know they needed to repent and so, without the Law, there could be no real salvation. He demanded to know if I was suggesting that I came to salvation without having the Law teach me I needed it. Sigh. So I will say here, on my own blog, what I chose not to get into on someone else's blog....
As I have recounted often in my posts, I cannot remember when Jesus was not a part of my life. I don't have a 'conversion date'. I have found that I am not the only one. I can tell you places along the way where I have made conscious decisions to reaffirm my love and need and desire for Him. I have moved closer to him - He draws me in. His love is overwhelming and, for one who grew up in the abusive way I did, it is often perplexing. But it doesn't stop. So the answer to the question is: no, I did not have (or need) the Law preached at me to know I needed to turn from 'my way' to 'his way'. In fact, it was the preaching of the Law to me that very nearly destroyed my relationship with him. And I know many will not be able to accept this as valid....
Hmm...one of the passages that was thrown accusingly at me was from Matthew 7 - the one that says there will be those who brag about the wonderful things they did in Jesus' name and he tells them to leave because he never knew them. This is a very familiar passage. He has shown me things from it - it is interesting the wording. He doesn't say they are rejected because they didn't know him....it was because he didn't know them. What he's taught me about this is...a big part of being set free by the truth involves me being honest with him. It involves being naked, bare, nothing hidden before him. It involves not trying to pretend something isn't there - not trying to pretend I believe something I don't. Honest communication with him, sharing everything - joy and sorrows, pains, hurts, fears, doubts, hopes, dreams, everything like he was my best friend - because he is. Brutal honestly. Letting go of the fear of getting it wrong and just being open in his presence.
Knowing about him - even knowing him to some degree that allows working of miracles in his name is not the point. The point is to look inward and know ourselves - let him fully in to know even the bits we can't bear to look at. He is gentle - so gentle. He washes us from the pain of honesty. This is cleansing, freeing pain - like when a wound is cleansed or a broken bone is set. But without that honesty, there really is no relationship. And after all, the relationship is the whole point.
Have I got this all figured out? No. There is still a lot within my own heart I haven't looked at...I am really only able to with his help. And he takes me at the pace I can handle. And I can't even honestly say I always want to be honest. It does hurt. But...I talk to him about it. I want to want to....and he smiles and says that is enough for him to work with.....
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Hmm...I had an interesting encounter these past few days with a version of my former self.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Where Is Your Heart?
As the title & header of my blog may suggest, I have a prophetic bent, so this month's topic definitely grabbed me. The past few months have been full of a lot of challenges - from having to go to church food banks to get through tight places (and that is a horror story unto itself) to becoming involved with a small fellowship of believers burned out on religion but passionate about the felt presence of God.
For those of you who have followed my blog for a while, you know these last 4 years have been full of doubt, pain, healing, frustration, and a passion for finding truth. I think these elements will be with me for a long time to come - I think they are, perhaps, just part of life on this planet - at least mine. So....
Hmm....as I have become involved with this little fellowship, I have been challenged to remember that just as I have tendrils of religious bs still clinging to me in places, so does everyone else who has fled the IC. We probably will always have bits and pieces that trail along - like that annoying bit of toilet paper that gets stuck to our shoe but we don't see...but everyone else does. I am learning to make allowances for that in others and in myself....
I have also been challenged to return to the core of my relationship with Jesus. It is a relationship that goes back as far as I can remember (probably even farther). It is so easy to get to a place where you don't want to offend people by talking about Jesus. But if he is my best friend, someone who has been there for me through every hurt and every victory....
To give perspective, I think about my dear friend that got thrown out of church because she wouldn't lie about what the pastor did to her. I left with her, have stuck with her. She is an awesome friend. And I don't care what people think about me because of my friendship with her. I have been mocked, pitied, condemned, and who knows what else. But it doesn't matter. I know the truth and I am honored to be her friend. And the friendship I have with her is worth every bit of it....
So....if I am willing to take abuse and slander and ridicule for being her friend, why should it be any different with Jesus? The relationship I have with him is more valuable than anything anyone might choose to say or think or do. Truly, I would rather die than live without him in my life. That may seem dramatic, but it is absolute truth. I have never known what it is like to be without him right there, constant, strong, a presence that does not fade. A friend. And honestly, I hope I never do. So I have been challenged to return to that faithfulness to the friendship - a faithfulness that any true friendship deserves.
I have also been challenged, through involvement with this little fellowship, to not let go of the hard won freedoms I have gained in the years since I left the IC. I have become acutely aware of how much condemnation was a part of my daily life. Instilled through abuse from family, from the IC, from twisted doctrine and legalism, from rigid demands of conformity to a specific interpretation of what being a Christian must be. Just last week, I was startled at how easily I fell back into the pressure to 'conform' to old standards of religious correctness - triggered by the religious phrases still used by some in this fellowship (though I also have seen that was not their intent). But as my friend reminded me, I only fell into it for a couple of days before i smelled the bs and dropped it. It has served to remind me that my freedom is mine to keep or relinquish, but it takes a willingness to offend in order to keep it. One of the things Jesus told me very clearly in the last few weeks is that I need to let go of the fear of men (gender neutral). Truly, no matter what someone else may think about it, no one - and I mean NO ONE - has the ability or authority to, in ANY way, affect my standing or relationship with Jesus. Period. That relationship is personal and one on one. To really, finally start to understand that really no one can do that.... is a whole new level of freedom for me. I'm not sure I have words to convey the freedom - the power - this simple truth has for me. I am recognizing that choosing to pursue Jesus outside of the religious boundaries of the IC is beautiful, freeing, scary, challenging... The religious doctrines of the IC offer security - do what we say, how we say, and we guarantee your place in eternity. Breaking away from that is not as easy as I would like. But really, it is an illusory security. That is one of the most damnable aspects of the IC, to me - that false sense of security. I think, for me, the pursuit of truth demands risking that alluring promise of security for a far more real and beautiful place... I have told God I want truth, even if it annihilates me. And I think that is actually a far safer position than the one religion offers.
I am also realizing, through my involvement with this fellowship, that there are still wounds that are sore. My healing is not complete. But it probably won't be this side of death. I am seeing that all of us in this group are wounded in various different ways. We are all being challenged to give each other the space to heal with dignity. And learning to trust is slow, but I am seeing glimmers of hope in this. For the first time in my life, my voice matters to the others in the group. That is, oddly, a bit confusing - overwhelming, even. But it is also healing - new friendships being formed with trust reaching out cautiously, hopefully.
What is the result? I am finally starting to make steps in the direction of actually walking out the visions I have seen. It is exciting and a little scary. But really, there is no other thing to do. I cannot go backward without giving up my integrity - to go back would be to lie about what I have seen and experienced.
On the practical level, the challenges continue. I have been on unemployment for 13 months - so many job applications - so few interviews..... and things are getting pretty tight. But above all, I am learning that the fundamental element of faith is to simply keep moving and not give up.
Joy Wilson at Solacetree: The Blessing Of Losing Your Faith
Jeremy Myers at Till He Comes: I Have A Dream
Glenn Hager at Breathe: Uncomfortably Numb
Linda at Kingdom Grace: On Earth As It Is In Heaven
Sally at Eternal Echoes: Where Are The True Prophets?
Tammy Carter at Blessing the Beloved: No Compromise
Alan Knox at The Assembling of Church: My Word of Prophecy: Quit Listening to Prophetic Voices
Liz at Grace Rules: Listen
Christine Sine at Godspace: Surrounded by Prophetic Voices - Clouds of Witnesses that Call Us Out of Numbness
Amy Martin: The Window of Suffering, the Beginning of Hope
Kathy Escobar at The Carnival in My Head: Rising Up From Below
K. W. Leslie at More Christ: What Is God Challenging You To Do?
Steve Hayes at Khanya: Murder of the Cathedral
Leah Chang at Desert Spirit's Fire: Wall Street, Our Street
Bobby Aunder at Deconstructing Neverland: Shift
Minnow at Minnowspeaks: Day of Dialogue
Saturday, March 5, 2011
What is WIlderness?
Hmm... this is an interesting topic for me. I'm not sure where to begin. I know that most people in Christian circles think of this as those times when God seems distant and we have to press on without 'feeling' His presence. I had initially thought I would just talk along those lines in connection with the last four years away from church, but as I begin to write, I realize that this is a much broader topic for me. And I find I want to go back even further.
I guess for me right now, wilderness feels like exile - separation - aloneness. And that began when I was very young. As anyone who has read my blog knows, I have spent the last few years digging into my past so I can unearth the roots of the things that have so plagued and bound me. And for the last while, I have been camped on unraveling the mystery of what happened when I was 2 years old. Hmm...I recognize that this is where that feeling of being outside started. The basics that I have come to at this point are that a 17 year-old shirt-tail cousin by marriage that we lived next to molested me and his mother caught him in the act and my mother punished me and swore me to secrecy - haven't been able to remember the words she used - but I am beginning to see the effect they had. I have heard the phrase "Don't you EVER do that again. That is BAD!" And I believe she whipped me with a belt, which was a fairly standard form of punishment.
To understand what this has to do with being in a wilderness place, I need to explain that prior to this incident (at approximately 29 months old), I already knew Jesus. He was a part of my life and I loved Him very much. What happened and my mother's response to it, and consequent teaching in the church concerning sex, placed me in an exile that no one but me ever knew about. Subsequent sexual abuse from others between the ages of 7 and 12 (and again when I was 27), placed me in a state of perpetual exile - wilderness - from which I could not seem to escape.
Throughout my life, there have been attempts to 'fit in' and conform to what I was taught. And I would feel okay for a time, but the aloneness never went away. I never fit. I didn't know how. I understand from this vantage point that God was always with me. But through those years.... I remember at 7 years old going to the altar after service on Sunday nights and just breaking down and sobbing, begging God to please, please, please make me okay. But the exile continued. Through years of walking away from religion and thinking that meant I was not right with God, through years submersed in the cult called a church I became a leader in, the exile remained no matter how devoted I tried to be. I would sometimes, after church, just sit in my car and cry because I felt so alone and 'outside' and unaccepted. During this time, I was a church leader, lead a Bible study...tried SO fucking hard to get it right.
And throughout my life, I have heard His voice. I have prayed - we have talked. I don't want it to sound like He never talked to me or I never knew His presence at all. If that was the case, I suspect by now I would be crazy or dead. But even with His talking to me and being there for me, there was still a barrier - I was still outside looking in....
And then the last four years, having walked away from that church/cult and beginning to recognize that religion is mostly just man-made bs. And walking away from what I had poured myself into because I discovered the 'pastor' was a sexual predator that used and discarded certain women in the church and then the church covered his ass and shoved the women aside with no care as to what happened to them. With this walking away has come a new form of exile and shunning.... but it is familiar.
However, something new has happened these past few years that is different. God gently led me into therapy. And I have begun to tell my story. And I have learned that the exile was not from God. My wilderness was created as a defense against the pain of my life. This a huge discovery. Hmm... a few years ago, when I was in morning prayer with other leaders at the church I was at, we were praying for a little girl in the hospital and I saw Jesus. I won't go into details here, but the relevant thing to this discussion is that I felt immense power flowing out of Him - an energy that was more powerful than anything I had ever sensed - and then realizing that that energy was His love. I was thinking about this a few days ago and Jesus told me that he was not then nor has He ever been withholding His love from me. There is a barrier preventing it from reaching me. And I finally think I understand. That barrier was placed there at 2 1/2 years old (and subsequently built up) to protect myself from the terrible pain of the events of my life. The thing about emotional barriers is that they do not discriminate. They block the receipt of all emotions, not just the 'bad' ones.
And I am excited and scared, because I know I am getting very close to the place of deconstructing that wall. Excited because I will finally be able to receive love....scared because I don't know what to expect - I am not sure I can handle it, because I know that it will also mean feeling the pain that has been blocked, as well.
So to me right now, wilderness = exile and I realize I have spent nearly 46 years in a wilderness, an exile, from receiving love - even understanding it. A dear friend has helped me walk through this (you know who you are - THANK YOU!), continuing to give love, even when it is not received, understanding why. And I know she will continue to.
This is part of a syncroblog: During the season of Lent we are reminded that all of us experience wilderness times in our lives – times of searching, of mourning, of anticipating, of waiting, of watching, of unknowing, of struggling, of preparation. Join us during the season of Lent for this month’s synchroblog as we reflect and share insights and thoughts about “Experiences In The Wilderness”.
Others participating in synchroblog:
Patrick Oden - Musings Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four
Wendy McCaig - A Voice Calling In The Wilderness
Emma Nadine - Life In The Wilderness
Tammy Carter - Put Down The Axe
Jeremy Myers - The Gaping Chasm Of Suicide
Kathy Escobar - Belonging
Steve Hayes - Anatomy Of Exile
Marta Layton - On Sabbaths, Mountain Tops...And Brothers' Keepers
Liz Dyer - Beauty In The Wilderness
Christen Hansel - Snapshots Of The Desert
Friday, February 11, 2011
Hmm.... this may be a difficult post. I've read two things tonight and both have moved me deeply. Hmm... and oddly, the topics are very closely connected although the sources have no connection at all.
This first is the 2nd piece in a series that Kathy Escobar is doing on the beautitudes called blessed are those who mourn.
This second is a 4,000 word suicide letter written by Bill Zeller telling (for the first time) about being raped as a child and how that affected him.
They both made me cry. At first, I thought it was for different reasons, but really, they are the same seen from a little different angle.
They are both about the pain of abuse and our need to examine that pain and let it out. In reading Kathy's post, I was reminded of the point I reached, 4 years ago, when I finally started giving a voice to the memories, the images, and they started to form a pattern... and I told someone, for the first time, what was actually done to me. It was like poison being drawn out. I am in debt to the friend who was willing to listen - who understood what was going on.... and for the next two days, I laid on her couch and cried...and slept....and cried.... and she let me. And that was the beginning of letting that incredible pain out.
And then I read Mr. Zeller's suicide note. And as I type this, I am crying. The words he wrote are very familiar. Very. And my heart breaks because he didn't find someone to tell.... and I went back 23 years ago when I tried to take my life. And I thought some of the same things. I really believed that people might feel a little bad for a couple of weeks and then get over it and be better off.... And I took a bottle of Darvon.... and told God I was sorry as I started to fade.... and woke up 24 hours later.... and I know that God had intervened. And, at the time, I was disappointed. Now, I'm not. I am glad I am still here. But then....
I think of Mr. Zeller and what he went through and I wish like hell I would have had a chance to talk to him - eye to eye - and tell him there is a way to get that fucking darkness out of the driver's seat. There is only one way. Shine the freakin' light of day on it and TALK ABOUT IT. It is the most difficult barrier I have ever broken through - when i went to my first counseling session after I had started to really remember details, my hands shook as I filled out the form. When I called a local hot-line to get numbers of counselors, I took the cordless phone and hid in my bedroom, scrunched up on the bed and could not speak above a whisper. I was scared. But I had had a taste of what it was like for the pain to bleed out and that gave me strength - motivation. And I had someone who cared - and who needed me. I had a reason to try. I had gotten a glimpse of an idea that maybe I wasn't just fundamentally bad....
It's funny. I was just talking to that friend this week about new details that have surfaced - I had come to the realization that at the age of three years old, I was faced with this dilemma.... at 2, I had been molested and told to forget it, never tell, big trouble.....and at 3, I saw a Billy Graham movie about teenage sex with a message of - at least the one that yelled at me was - REPENT! And at 3, how do you repent for something when you can't talk about it? I know, I know, I didn't do anything wrong - but that 3 year old didn't know that. And man, has that dilemma messed with me my whole life.... and I want to take that little girl and hold her and tell her she is not bad and that I am so sorry that happened.... And as I read Mr. Zeller's letter, I wished I could have done the same for him. Just held him and told him he was not bad. Hold on and talk about it and it will almost annihilate you - almost. But then, it will start to get better and the darkness will abate and lose it's power and the dark days will start to be outnumbered by the good days.... just don't give up.
But I also understand the soul weariness that says, "I'm done. I can't do this anymore." Bill Zeller, may God gather you in his arms and give you the true comfort and peace you deserve.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Don't Give Up & Other Random Thoughts.....
Hmm.... what a roller-coaster ride life can be.
I have been desiring for some time, to have clarity about the events that happened when I was 2. Last fall, I got a 'gut feeling' concerning the gist of it and touched on that in my post from October. But last night, while having an imaginary argument with my mom....
Me: Don't you understand how what you said to me - what you did affected my whole perception of God - made me feel like it was all my fault?
Mom: Well, it was your fault...
Me: What do you mean it was my fault? I was 2 freakin' years old! How was it my fault? I just toddled in on him while he was jacking off...
Then my brain shut down and I felt like I had been kicked. But the image of that moment was there as those words tumbled out and it is still with me. And I feel a little sick. I know there is more... but I have hope now that I will reach a place of clarity and resolve with this, even if I never actually talk to my mother again.
And then I wake up this morning to a debt collector calling.... and my car is in serious need of help.... and I still don't have a job... and unemployment benefits run out in about 10 weeks.....
And it is all very heavy. And yet, even writing about it, a little peace is seeping in. But the old familiar pain - the pain I haven't felt this intensely for a long time - is back, like a weight on my chest - ebbing and surging in waves.
Hmm... and through this, a steady conversation with God. And learning to relax in his peace and quit trying to "DO" something. Hmm... and that makes me think about how I have gotten to where I am with Him. It is definitely still a work in progress, but I realize that the past few years have not been about me trying to redefine who God is (Kripes, THAT is a tall and futile order). It has been about learning to let Him define Himself to me - not destroying what I thought I knew and building something else... It has been more a precess of peeling away the layers of definition piled on by Religion, family, society and getting back to what I knew as a very small child - getting back to WHO I knew as that small child.
And that has been a journey that requires willingness to look at my own history with honesty that alienates family and even friends (or so-called). It requires wanting to know what my mother said to me when I was 2 that twisted up that knowledge.
And I still struggle with GUILT, and FEAR and SHAME and all the usual suspects. After the phone call this morning, I had to fight through shear panic just to get showered and dressed and OUT OF THE HOUSE. Got some oil for my car and off to Starbucks to get online and look for a job and check in on friends and write....
And the only thing I am really sure of at this point is that, on a deep knowing level, God is real and the things I need will be on that path when I need them... and the only thing that is required of me is that I don't give up, don't quit - and to be clear, not quitting isn't about beliefs or religion - it is about living. Don't give up on moving down the path....
Saturday, January 22, 2011
On Religion and Stuff...
Hmm... some of you may have noticed that I made a slight change to the banner - the subtitle. I think it more accurately reflects what my blog has evolved into.
Hmm.... I've been thinking a lot lately about religion and what it represents to me. It has been a process of 4+ years - letting go of religion. It started with letting go of the particular teaching I was getting at the cult (church) I was a leader in. But over time, I have let go of more and more of religion itself.
I guess I need to define what religion is to me. Well, first, maybe what it used to be. It used to be "the right way to be in God's favor." Really, although I didn't recognize this at the time, religion (what the church I grew up in and even more what my Mother said about God) and God were interchangeable. It took me a long time to realize that God and religion were two totally different things. When I began to see it, I was both relived and angry. Hmm.... angry at the deception and manipulation - relieved that God was not that.
Now, I see religion as a construct by and for men with the purpose of controlling men and of trying to define and control God and how He is viewed. And I also recognize that that is a bit of a simplistic and generalized statement. I realize that religion can serve a valuable purpose if it is kept in it's proper perspective and not worshiped as the beginning and end all of who and what God is. God is in religion. But He does not confine Himself to that.
It is interesting to me as I dismantle the religious beliefs I have held, to realize how nonreligious God is even in the Old Testament. An area that has been a mental camping spot lately is Job. The way religion interprets and defines what the Book of Job is all about really misses some points. We all try to find what it was that Job did that 'brought this suffering on him' so we might learn and avoid it - show me what not to do.... but, um, the text says that in everything Job said (including all the complaining) Job did not sin.... (I don't think sin is even the point). Even now, I am tempted to try and come up with an impressive reason why Job went through what he did. But in the end, I don't think that question is answered in the text. In the end, God showed up in person to answer Job's demands for an answer. And God challenged Job to understand who God was and in doing so caused Job to see more clearly that what was going on was not about crime and punishment....hmm....
And then there are Job's friends. There were actually 4 of them. Three older and a younger. They all came and sat with Job in silence for 7 days. Wow, that's is actually pretty amazing. I don't know many who would do that.... But then the 3 older ones took it in turns trying to get Job to admit that the reason he was in the mess he was in was because of some sin that he was hiding and not admitting to because God did not punish people without cause. Again, assuming it was about crime and punishment.... Job stood his ground that there was nothing he was hiding from them. Then the youngest one spoke and called the others out (including Job) for trying to speak as though they understood who God was.
And after God talked to Job, he turned His attention to the friends. He didn't say anything to or about the youngest one. But the 3 older ones... He told them they had lied on Him, misrepresented Him, disrespected Job... and they needed to ask Job to forgive them if they wanted to be forgiven. Hmmm.... interesting that He put that ball in Job's court. And I see Job's three friends as religious pillars who insist that their interpretation of God must be the correct one and if your life doesn't fit that, then YOU are the problem. Religion and those who are steeped in it haven't changed much.
Something else I see here.... for those that insist that every verse of the Bible is the "Word of God".... well, according to the text of Job, what those three friends said was NOT the Word of God and was, in fact, contrary to the truth about God. That being said, should we take the words those three friends said and put them forward as truth? Just some things I've been pondering....
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Who Is God?
Hmm.... I've never participated in a synchroblog before, but this topic grabbed me. I've been on an interesting journey out of religion these last four years. It's funny how personal lives and religious beliefs are all intertwined and it requires untangling both to make sense of either.
I grew up in a Pentecostal home/church - a 'good Christian' home. Appearances, appearances. An emotionally, physically and sexually abusive home where it was an 'Event' if we missed a church service. Church doctrine was the Law (unless my mom disagreed with it, then HER opinion was the voice of God and trumped theirs in our home). Between the abuse and the church teachings, I was so afraid of God that... well, I really haven't found words yet to express the fear and even terror I felt when I was 7 or 8 or 9....
And this was all what people told me about God - who He was and how He thought and what He expected.... and it scared the hell out of me because I knew I was already disqualified by virtue of the things I had already done (translation: the things that had already been done to me).
And if this was all I had of God, I would not have survived. I'm smiling as I write this. The God I know is so much different than the one they teach us about in church. And He introduced Himself to me when I was very little - too little to even speak. Deep in my bones, I knew Him, even if I didn't understand what that was yet. When I was 1 and 2 years old, I loved Jesus....and He loved me back. And then life proceeded down a hellish path. I've struggled with the fact that He allowed this and where I have come to on this is a whole other post. But through the journey that my life has been - through every evil encounter and choices made out of pain and despair, He has never NOT been there. There were times that I couldn't conceive of Him being there, but I can see, now, that He was always there.
Something else that I see, now, is that the main thing that clouded my vision of His presence in my life was not the abuse that I endured in my family.... it was the teaching I received in the church. And through the process of disentangling from the familial abuse, I also have had to disentangle from the religious abuse. I have had to take everything I have been taught about God and throw it in a pile and sort through it and begin throwing away those things that do not fit with the knowledge of Him deep inside. Everything I thought I knew was reduced to a pile of rubble and ash. And that was a good thing - a VERY good thing. Because what I was left with was the necessity of examining what I really believe - and why.
And that brings me to the subject of the synchroblog. I don't believe that Jesus is real and alive and ever present because the church says so. In fact, I went to a 'women's meeting' with a friend a couple of days ago and got good and angry at some of the things that were being taught - things I used to believe because the 'people in charge' said so. And I was not confrontational. I was just able to listen to the teaching and hear what I heard growing up and say, emphatically, to my own heart, 'no! that is not what is true.'
The reason I believe that Jesus is alive and God is real and active is because of the ways He shows Himself in the details of my life - in unexpected and beautiful ways. He really is the father to me that I never had. And it is not just the way things always seem to work out (often at the last minute and in ways that defy logic) - it is also because I have seen Him. And that survives all doctrine and deconstruction of doctrine. It is where life is. It is where things are real and not theoretical. It has nothing to do with what any church teaches - many of them teach as if they have never met Him. It has to do with personal and close experience with the reality that is Him - a reality that is alive and ongoing with new epiphanies regularly. And nothing can take that away from me. And I think that is the point.
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This post is part of a synchroblog: This month’s synchroblog’s theme is inspired by the season of Epiphany which begins on January 6 and ends the day before Ash Wednesday. The word “epiphany” is rich in meaning. Epiphany is derived from the Greek epiphaneia and means manifestation, shining forth, revelation or appearance. In a religious context, the term describes the appearance of an invisible divine being in a visible form. It can also indicate a sudden realization or comprehension of the (larger) essence or meaning of something. An “epiphany” might refer to those times in life when something becomes manifest, a deep realization, a sudden recognition that changes one’s view of themselves or their social condition and often sparks a reversal or change of heart. In the spirit of Epiphany we invite you to share stories, experiences and/or thoughts about “The Manifestation of God”
Others participating in this synchroblog:
Mike Victorino - What To Do?
Beth Patterson - A Robust Universe Includes the Botched and Bungled
Jeff Goins - The Manifestations of God
Jeremy Myers - Pagan Prophecies of Christ
Mark Smith - Manifestations of God
Minnow - When God Shows Up
Alan Knox - A Day I Saw Jesus
Ellen Haroutunian - Stories of Epiphany
Liz Dyer - God Breaking Through Moments
Kathy Escobar - Orphans
Josh Morgan - The Manifestations Of God
Steve Hayes - Theophany: The Manifestation of God
Sarah Bessey - In Which Annie Opens the Door of Her Heart
Christine Sine - Eve of Epiphany - We Have Come, We Have Seen Now We Must Follow
Tammy Carter - Paralysis In His Presence
Peter Walker - Epiphany Outside Theophany (Outside Christianity)
Annie Bullock - God With Us
Jacob Boelman - Where God Shows Up