Tuesday, January 17, 2006

148. my mood and my faith

Odd thing ("we expect nothing less from you, Randall"): I've been in a good mood lately. And I can't point to a reason, and I really don't care. If I'm in a good mood, I don't care if it's because circadian rhythms are lining up in a positive way for me or if the anti-oxidants in my smoothies (see blog 146) are keeping me from rusting from the inside out or if it's just because I'm so happy to have survived Christmas (see blog 125). Whatever it is, I'm in a better mood lately and I'll just take it as it comes.

But still, I say it's an odd thing because my better mood (I refrain from calling it happiness because that would be overstating it a bit) isn't attached to anything. That is, it's not like I'm in love or like my Yahoo Chess rating hit 1300 (it's still in the mid 1100s...blah, I suck). And there are still things that weigh heavily on my mind. The other night I had a really long conversation with a friend about the problems I see in the contemporary American Christian church (and they are legion, for they are many) and I get so mad when I start thinking about those things. And more and more, I'm unable to listen to conservative radio talk shows, not because I disagree with what they're saying as much as I disagree with the way they're saying it - it's so childish, it's all just so much name-calling and mud slinging, and I just can't stand it anymore (and yeah, the Left can be just as bad, if not worse, so pox on both sides). Oh, and I'm still as single as ever, if not more so .

In other words, the world I live in and the things I think about are pretty much the same between when I'm in a bad mood (the last few months) and when I'm in a good mood (the last few weeks, knock on wood). And...that's confusing, and it kind of sucks because I wish I could put my finger on something because then I could return to that something the next time I get in a funk.

Here's the bit that confuses me the most. How does my relationship with God fit into all of this? I don't talk a lot about my Christianity in my blog, and it's not because I'm ashamed of my faith (although I am ashamed of what people like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell say) or because I'm trying to be seeker-sensitive or because I don't want to lose my street cred ("you're what?"). In all honesty (and this could get me banned from certain church circles, but I'm trying to keep it real here) my Christianity isn't something that's fueling my life.

What I mean is, there are some people who talk about Christ like they're talking about the blood flowing through their veins, it permeates their life that much. Me? I've aspired to that kind of faith and I've read books (yes, including the Bible) and prayed and been prayed for and I've gone on retreats (both with churches and on my own) and mission trips and I've fasted...I've jumped through all kinds of hoops but I'm basically a spiritual illiterate.

This used to trouble me. I used to wonder why some people had this deep, intimate relationship with God and why I always felt like I went home with the broken iPod - the faith that didn't work like everyone else's. After a while, I accepted that if there are people who sense God and things of the spiritual realm in a deeper way (and I've hung around some of these people enough to know that they really are in touch with something real and relevant), then there must also be people who are less attuned to those same things, and I just happen to be one of them.

And that doesn't upset me. And that doesn't mean that I don't believe in God - to the contrary, I believe that God is even more real than my ability to know him. No, that doesn't upset me. What does upset me is the thought of all the other Christians out there who've either given up on their faith or who hide their lack of spiritual sensitivity under religious sounding words and cliches (aka Christianese). It wasn't easy making my way through my Christianity with this lack of spiritual awareness, but I made it through because I found the truth claims of Christianity compelling. I felt that they explained the human condition better than anything else I'd been exposed to. More than that, I found in the person of Jesus Christ, a complex person struggling to squeeze eternity into finite words, phrases, and sentences - a man who frequently resorted to story and imagery and analogy.

But I know there are other Christians who weren't as lucky as I. They saw the people around them in church saying all these spiritual things, about how they heard from the Lord, how the check arrived in the mail and for just the right amount, how their father's cancer was there in all the scans but disappeared the night before the surgery. They heard all of these things and they didn't have those experiences and they couldn't figure out why and so they started thinking that Christianity was a con or even worse, they thought that Christianity was real but that they were beyond redemption. And so they gave up and just stopped going to church and stopped praying and maybe even stopped believing there ever was a God.

All because the church doesn't seem to have room or air time for the spiritually numb.

Now from a marketing standpoint, I understand. I mean, why not let the guy with the miraculous healing story share it in front of everybody else? Why not give a mic to the person who says they have a word of prophesy? That's the kind of stuff people want to hear, that will show those non-christians that God is real, and that will pack the pews.

But the problem is, we're not marketing a product. We're building a community, we're ushering in the Kingdom of God, and to those ends, we would do well to make all who name Christ as Lord and Savior feel accepted regardless of their sensitivity to things of the spirit. I think this is why Jesus's first point in his first public sermon was, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:3 NIV). I think when he says, "the poor in spirit," he's talking about people like me, people who feel spiritually disenfranchised. He made it a point to speak to those people first because they are usually the most neglected, the least ministered to segment of believers.

Whoa, how did I end up here? I started talking about being in a good mood and next thing I know, I'm going on about the spiritual poverty.

Anyway, I'd like to talk more about my faith as I see it because I don't hear many other people talking about it the way I want to. Maybe I'm off my rocker. Maybe I'm causing some people to stumble in their faith. I'm sure there are some Christians who would label me a heretic or a blasphemer for writing what I do. So be it. They can judge me now, but they're not the final judge and that's ultimately who I'm writing for.

Stay tuned for more. And pray that God doesn't decide to use me as a human lightning rod in the mean time.

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