wrestling with the god of collateral damage

So, I haven’t posted on here in a long time. A really long time. All these months (years?) and I still find myself wrestling with the same questions. If I had not been raised with these beliefs would I hold them? Do I still believe them? Which version of God is true? If God is a god who is giving up part of his creation as “collateral damage” do I really want anything to do with him.

I am really struggling with idea that God has created all of creation but that only a select few will be saved and go to heaven. Because that seems wasteful. Why would you make all these extra people just to have them suffer and die. Especially when the world is already full of suffering and hurting. I realize the “why do bad things happen to good people” question is forever old and I have heard dozens of different answers. My hang up comes down to this. (Going on the traditional biblical model) God created the earth. Satan fell from heaven and came to earth. Sin entered. We were separated from God. We could not keep the ways that would bring us to God so there had to be sacrifices. There was a flood. There were chosen people and not chosen people. Things started over and still didn’t work. There was another rescue plan. Jesus came. He died. He was the ultimate sacrifice. People were still horrible to each other. Things were still broken. But some people who found out about Jesus believed in him and had everlasting life. But some people didn’t hear. And died without hearing. Or some people heard but couldn’t make themselves believe. So they are all “not going to heaven” because they didn’t believe in Jesus… but what if it’s not their fault they didn’t hear. What if they wanted to believe but couldn’t. Doesn’t that make them human collateral? Why would a loving God create people who would suffer all through their lives then die and go on to more suffering. That doesn’t make sense. If the great redemption plan is Jesus but not everyone gets redeemed, how is that plan successful? I want to scream, “that’s not a good plan since from the very start it didn’t fully work and if you’re all knowing you knew it wouldn’t!” and “what are you waiting for?” I don’t get it. And his ways being higher than my ways and his thoughts being higher than my thoughts doesn’t assuage my anger and guilt when I can see the horror and unfairness of something, the hopelessness of a plan that was never going to save everyone anyway.

And who the hell am I supposed to ask this? When I’ve been a “Christian” my whole life and so I probably “shouldn’t” be thinking these things.

I’ve come across others who have struggled with this. Who seem to have made peace with God. The version of God they’ve made peace with is a God of grace, graciousness, and compassion. The people who believe in him and are on earth now are people who are supposed to be part of the reconciliation. Part of the redemption plan. These are people who are passionate about social justice. About serving the weak and poor. They are people who speak of an upside down kingdom, a third way. I feel myself drawn to them and the picture that they paint, the stories that they tell. I find myself hurtful and doubting as so often those who I am supposed to look up to as spiritual leaders put them down.

Because these people draw a lot of criticism from the old guard. The traditionalists who say that this shiny happy view of grace is too weak, that it doesn’t focus enough on our sins and wretchedness. (If I am made in the image of God, am I really wretched?) The old guard attacks, hurls accusations of “cherry picking” of scripture. Claim that ancient texts have been perverted. That this orthopraxy is nothing without the orthodoxy that they, the old guard, hold under a lock and key. I have no idea why anyone finds themselves drawn to this “sinners at the hands of an angry god” view of God, why anyone would rather cling to a god of wrath rather than a God of compassion. I find myself boiling with resentment and confusion towards this old guard. It’s because I can’t fathom wanting to have anything to do with this angry god, incapable of being appeased, except by a select few. That’s a kingdom built on fear and while somewhere deep inside the me that heard those stories whimpers, “what if it’s true, I don’t want to suffer” that’s still no longer enough to hold me, to make me believe.  If that’s how god is, hurling damnation, creating human collateral, I don’t want to have anything to do with him. (Cue lightening strike and rumbling of the earth to swallow my heretical self.)

I don’t know why it’s no longer enough for me to hold with the old ways. Because not everyone I know who believes in God believes in this super angry god. More often they are content with a loving and merciful God who is gracious to us once we have “asked Jesus into our hearts.” They want the rest of the world to hear. But once again I’m hung up with thoughts of those who don’t hear. If a child is sold into slavery and dies at the hands of their captors, never having heard “the good news”, never having prayed a sinners prayer, does that child then go on to descend into hell. Unknown and unloved in death as well as life. That is too horrible I can not embrace it. If a person devoutly follows their religion without ever hearing of Jesus but living a life that otherwise brims with the fruits of the spirit, is that not proof of God in them? Are they doomed because they haven’t heard. Rachel Held Evans refers to this as the “cosmic lottery” where those who have the good fortune to be born in a christian country have the golden ticket. Would I believe if I hadn’t been born with a golden ticket?

I don’t know if I’ve ever felt further from God. If I’ve ever been more scared. I can’t imagine a life without spirituality. Can’t imagine a world without God, but in my confusion that increasingly feels like where I’m going. Some days. Other days I cling to the hope of this third way, this upside down kingdom. On those days I feel like the Creator of grace and compassion will know and forgive my struggling heart, because he created it. I long to not want to understand every.single.thing. I want to peacefully accept that while I don’t understand the hurt and brokenness I can participate in the redemption. This is what the public me says. This is the image I project waiting for the day it is 100% true with no doubts lurking under the surface.

You might think I would just give up and walk away. Throw my hands up in disgust. But all of “this” is too much a part of who I am. I can’t just walk away. So I wrestle.

blog? what blog?

It has been a super long time since I posted on this blog.

What can I say? Life happens.

It is August. August is a historically hard month for me. I have always had a personality that tends toward anxiety but August 1998 was when my anxiety hit an all time high and became clinical depression and I entered my biggest down hill spiral ever. That prompted group therapy, counseling, and eventually medication. (Side note. I think medication for anxiety/depression is one of the greatest things ever. It does not entirely do away with these things but it “levels the playing field” so you can deal with them like a “regular” person.)

Anyway, it is August once again and that old familiar overwhelming melancholy is calling. August is the hottest month of the year and heat makes me generally unable to cope with things well anyway. It fuels the fires of discontent in my soul. And today they don’t need extra fuel. I’m feeling very incapable of dealing with the demands of parenting a strong willed toddler that is apparently worse for me then anyone else. I try to set down boundaries, I don’t give in, I am firm, I set limits… and I get hit, bit, and screamed at. It makes me feel like I am not a very good mom. So I get impatient with him. And his sister. And my mom confidence drops more.

I have been exercising all summer long. I haven’t lost weight at all. Is it because I’m old? Eating too little? Eating too much? Not eating the right thing? I don’t know. I just know that I’m discouraged. Vacation meant an excuse to deviate from my fairly strict exercise routine and I think I’m missing those endorphins. I feel fat, bloated, pathetic. Meh. If those symptoms sound familiar an invoke thoughts of another monthly woe, well you’re right, that’s here too! Worst cramps ever. Writhing in pain. Short tempered. Wanting to crawl away and hide from everything/everyone but can’t. The hubby is away at a retreat so it’s me and my heat/temper/hormonal/weariness induced mood swings vs the terrible toddler and long suffering diva child.

What am I going to do all weekend?

in good company

I’m reading an article about Mother Theresa. It’s very interesting because while the world often sees her as a saint who surely, surely, must have been so close to God, she was actually tortured with emptiness and struggled with feeling far from God… I am intrigued.

“The more I want him — the less I am wanted,” she (Mother Theresa) wrote Périer in 1955. A year later she sounded desolate: “Such deep longing for God — and … repulsed — empty — no faith — no love — no zeal. — [The saving of] Souls holds no attraction — Heaven means nothing — pray for me please that I keep smiling at Him in spite of everything.”

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1655720,00.html#ixzz1RlGGAtgV

with great challenge comes great opportunity

I love food. Not in a “snobby foodie” way but in a “food is good” way. I like to eat when I’m happy (let’s celebrate), I like to eat when I’m sad (comfort food). I like to eat when I’m bored. I like to eat as entertainment, as a way to spend time with family and friends. I love baking. I even love grocery stores. All that being said, I HATE cooking supper. I hate coming up with the idea of what to eat. What to feed my family. Torture. I’d much rather go out to eat. Things are just so much more pleasant when they’re prepared by someone else, served by someone else, cleaned up by someone else… (happiness) But most of all it’s that whole figuring out what to prepare stumbling block that gets me every time.

My husband recently decided that he is going to lose 100 lbs. He decided it in a “there will be no room for failure” way. He’s generally successful at everything he puts his mind too and he’s decided that now is the time that losing weight is going to be his next success story. I’m incredibly proud of him since I know that for him talking about weight takes him way outside of his comfort zone. I know that he’s undertaking this challenge, not just for himself, but also for me, our children, and our future.

Mindful eating means planning, analyzing recipes, figuring out calories. But with great challenges come great opportunities. This is a great opportunity for me to try to get out of my own comfort zone. I like combing recipes for tasty (calorie laden) treats. Now I’m learning to comb recipes for healthy, filling, satisfying recipes. What I’ve discovered is that there are a lot of people out there who are doing the same thing. I’m feeling good about the challenge. I feel like not only am I making us healthier but we’ll be teaching our children to be healthy as they grown and develop their own eating habits. It’s so much easier to maintain a good habit (say drinking water) then it is to undo a bad habit (soft drinks at every meal). We’re getting over some of our food prejudices (turkey burger- me, vegetables- him). I’ve found great resources online, there are so many websites with delicious, filling, healthy recipes.

When he started this endeavor I believe he was probably thinking of it as “his journey”, but I’m thinking of it as “our journey”. I’m excited about where it is going to take us. If you’d like to follow his journey you can do it at http://www.businessoflosingweight.com . I’m going to be cheering him on every step of the way and you can too.

What if…

The other day I was presented with the question, “what if, instead of considering it a matter of us ‘asking Jesus into our hearts’ it became a matter of Jesus saying ‘come and walk with me in my kingdom’?”

I love that. It shifts the paradigm. All the sudden it’s not about you or your control of the situation. It’s not a solitary act that can be done once then checked off on a “to do” list. It becomes an active way of life in a new place. “Come and walk with me in my kingdom. Come be part of my mission.” Cede your control to me. Stop relying on yourself.

It makes faith less of a self centered thing and more of a let me die to myself and my desires thing. And that is a very unusual thing in the the world of American Christianity which has become a religion of “living your best life now” and largely ceased to be about doing unto others and more about how much “God” can bless “me”. Financial security and prosperity are seen as measures of God’s favor.  All in all it bears little resemblance to the faith represented in the New Testament.

So, when that paradigm shifts and all the sudden you find yourself leaving behind your path in order to join Jesus in walking in his kingdom and choosing to serve now and reorder your priorities now that can be a very exciting thing.

That is a journey worth taking.

Awesome Donald Miller Book!

I loved this book about the stories we tell with our lives. Let’s be purposeful with our stories!

What story are you telling? from Rhetorik Creative on Vimeo.

You can even get a copy of the paperback here:
http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9781400202980-0

“No”maste

I was recently at the NC Aquarium with my family/extended family. It was a fun day, except for one incident, which stands out to me like a scratch on a record. I’ve been dwelling on it quite a bit. While standing looking at one particular exhibit we saw a fish that can breathe through it’s skin and survive out of water for a short amount of time.  The person beside me, a person I love deeply, made the comment, “that must be one of our ancestors”.

The more I think about it the more I am bothered by this statement and I want to tear my hair and yell “If we are just walking fish there is no namaste!” I love the concept of “namaste”. Namaste is a Hindi greeting and I’ve heard multiple interpretations of what it means.

Here are a few (from Wikipedia)

“I honor the Spirit in you which is also in me.” — attributed to but not claimed by author Deepak Chopra

“I honor the place in you in which the entire Universe dwells, I honor the place in you which is of Love, of Integrity, of Wisdom and of Peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are One.”

“That which is of God in me greets that which is of God in you.”

“The Divinity within me perceives and adores the Divinity within you.”

To me it means “The God breathed life within me recognizes that there is God breathed life within you.” It means acknowledging the mystery and miracle that is life. It represents the value in human life. And if we are evolved from some fish that crawled out of the water one day and that’s it then there is no namaste.  Because fish don’t really acknowledge the value of other fish. There’s no mystery and miracle, nothing more then birth a stretch of time and then nothing. And really,  if there is nothing more then this moment, then it doesn’t matter how you treat others, how you live. Because it’s not going to matter anyway. Because it’s meaningless. So why not abuse your body for your own pleasure, be greedy, be selfish. Get what you can for the moment you are in because when the moment is gone, it’s gone, and so are you… Sounds like a horrible, shallow, depressing way to live.

However, there is something in us that does respect life, that does cause us to want to help others, to give of ourselves.  I believe that something is God’s breath in us.  I have seen that “something” show strongly in the lives of those who say they don’t believe in God and I have, sadly, seen it missing in the lives of those who say they do believe in God. (But that , I suspect, is the fodder for another blog post.) I believe, whether we acknowledge it or not, that the acknowledgment of the sacredness and mystery that we hold within us is what we were created for by who we were created by.  There is something within us that sees the value in others. That acknowledges the humanity, the relationship that exists because we call this planet home. It’s what we see when there’s a natural disaster and help pours in from around the world. It’s why we see comfort poured out when their is tragedy. It’s why we gasp and recoil when we hear about atrocities committed against other humans. Yesterday was the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday. All day long I saw friends posting things he had said, things that affirmed the value and dignity of every human life. Dr. King was an amazing man who saw the namaste within others and would not be silent until he had done all he could to make sure that everyone around him could see it to. He worked tirelessly to reverse hatred, repair wrongs, to open eyes and hearts. Slowly people heard his message and picked up his call… because they too could see they value in the life of others. We are still sounding his call today because there was value in it.

It is because of things like this that I have to  believe that something in us hears the echoes of God’s breath that comes through me, and through you, and through every other being and that when we hear it we are moved to say “namaste”.