Doubt

I do what I am supposed to do. I read the Book, so that I can know God. My reading schedule has taken me recently through Deuteronomy and Joshua. Their contents is not a surprise to me, but it is something I probably try to forget, to close my eyes to when it’s not right before me. It’s a hard thing, reading that my God of love is so jealous that he wanted all the men, women, and children in the land killed just so that their religions wouldn’t influence, wouldn’t call to the nation he had chosen to be his own.

How can this be? I shake my head. I can’t tell you how many times in the last few weeks I have wanted to completely repudiate my faith. I have wanted to come here, to this space, and say, “Look, I am not a Christian. This stuff just doesn’t make any sense. And if I try to convince you at some time in the future that I really am a Christian, don’t listen to me. Just turn me away from your church.”

I come this close. But then I glimpse something. I lie in my bed, and as I get ready to drift off to sleep, I find myself murmuring unknown words, and I almost stop myself, saying no, we don’t believe that, but I allow it. Deep calling unto deep, the Spirit praying what my mind does not know.

I am so tired of this struggle.

I seek the love of God, and the God of love, the one who feeds the poor without questioning whether or not they are worthy, the one who welcomes the homeless and the refugees without counting to see if he has enough, the one who looks on the love of two human hearts for each other and smiles, and it doesn’t matter if it is a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man.

Sometimes I think, why do I try? Why do I allow myself to be pulled back in? It would be so much easier to just let go, so much easier to leave.

God, who are you? Where are you?

Don’t be mad!

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I am a very imperfect person, living an imperfect life, in the company of imperfect people. Am I disappointed? Oh yes. I am very disappointed in many things in life, myself above all! So what should I do with that disappointment? Well, at best I should use it as a motivator to change things for the better. Anybody who has been reading my blogs for awhile, however, is aware of this problem I have with wet cement filling my various body parts. In fact, as I was writing about change, I literally felt that cement start creeping down my spine. I am working on this, really. At the least, I should just be aware of things, which means being aware not only of how things are disappointing, but also of how they are glorious. It’s a trite thing to say, but I have so much to be thankful for just by virtue of living in the time and place I do. Not going to list the rest. You get it.

But what is not a helpful reaction to disappointment is anger. 

Here is what I can tell you. I can love you, even when you are disappointing. I can love you, even when I know you find me disappointing (which is actually harder). There is so much more to you, and to me, and to life, than what is wrong. There is so much that is right. It is not work for me to focus on those things. It is easy. What is hard is blocking out anger from other people.

Even that, I can do.

Being angry doesn’t help anything, as you know. Sulking, storming, yelling, none of it helps. It doesn’t perfect the imperfect — quite the opposite.

When in the presence of anger, I can block it out. But it costs my heart dearly, because my heart really needs to learn to open up and not to shut down. My heart has been hurt so much, so badly, so deeply, that its greatest skill has been learning to close in on itself. But in order to heal, in order to get rid of the wet cement and all else that keeps me from moving forward in life, it needs to open. In seeking peace in an angry world, it closes tighter.

Ultimately, it makes me more disappointing.

Life is what it is. Let’s embrace it, and each other. Let’s keep each other warm in the storms, shelter each other from the heat.When we feel cared for in this way, life will be less disappointing.

When we feel loved unconditionally, our hearts can open, and heal.

And then, who knows, we all just might be less disappointing. Even me.

Let me love

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Part of my daily Bible reading is from a schedule that my church follows. This morning I was supposed to read 1 Corinthians 12, but for some reason I got carried away and kept right on going into chapter 13. Now this is a beautiful chapter, for sure, one of the most beautiful in the Bible. You will find it on posters and greeting cards, coffee cups and plaques. It is regularly read at weddings. And as a result, it has become kind of … well, boring. How many times have I come to this chapter in the Bible and thought, oh no, not again. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging symbol … blah blah blah.” Then what did I do, skim over it? Because I read it this morning, and I can’t believe that I have ever laid eyes on these words without them making their place deep in my heart. And yet I know they haven’t, because they don’t seem to have made a dent in my behavior, or my consciousness of my behavior.

(4) Love is patient and kind; does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant (5) or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; (6) it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. (7) Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13

I had to confess this morning to committing all the “nots” listed here, frequently and with gusto. The good parts, well, I have some of them as well. Bearing, believing, hoping, enduring, yeah I can do that. But not always without dipping into the pool of resentment, or more to the point, not always without feeling like I should be resentful. The world kind of teaches that these days. Or maybe I am misunderstanding something? Especially as women, we don’t want to be doormats. We want to be strong women!

Well, I think it takes a lot more strength to keep on loving, to keep on giving. It takes a hugely strong character to not be envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, irritable or resentful. Or a gossip.

I believe the greatest relationship killer in the word is defensiveness. I can see it so clearly in others. We love each other. We know we love each other. I know you love me, and you know I love you. So why can’t we look for the love in the words spoken to us? Why on earth would I act as though you are out to attack me all the time? Most of the time, those who love us are not attacking us with their words. We just for some stupid reason choose to filter them through this net of, what, self-hatred? We are defensive, so we feel attacked, so we get angry, and then we actually do attack. Then the other person feels (is) attacked, gets defensive, and attacks back. How can relationships survive this kind of thing? Too often they can’t. These incidents build up like poison in the system if they are allowed to continue. And most of the time, no offense was ever even implied to begin with. It’s amazing how we can create offense out of nothing.

If only we could put the above verses into action in our lives. If we love fully and genuinely, without malice, without envy, boasting, arrogance or resentment (i.e., defensiveness!)…. If we learn to receive love instead of being irritable and looking to use the words of those who love us to justify our irritability….

Some people may be naturally like this. I am not one of them. I don’t think it would even be possible to be like this without a supernatural assist from the Lord. So that is exactly what I am praying for.

Lord, let me love!