Wednesday, August 29, 2007

270. a layman's theology

As of late, I've obviously been a very reluctant writer. And while I'd like to feign ignorance, I know exactly why I've been silent. There are ideas I want to write and think about but they're big ideas that will take up a lot of time and words so let me be plain about it: I'm lazy.

But over the past few days, I found a link to an article on Mother Teresa from three different places, and it's this article that has (finally) put me back to working at words. It's a fascinating, challenging article about letters that Mother Teresa wrote to confidants about years of not feeling the presence of God as she ministered to the impoverished in Calcutta - an absence that "seems to have started at almost precisely the time she began tending the poor and dying in Calcutta, and -- except for a five-week break in 1959 -- never abated."

This article resonated with me because I'm one who can't really remember any kind of personal experience with God. Well, I take that back. Something about the gospel presentations I heard back when I was a Sophomore in high school touched a fundamental (poor word choice, sorry...if you don't get it, don't worry about it) part of me such that I decided to...well, looking back now, I'm not sure what it was I was deciding to do, but I knew that I felt a calling to something larger than myself and so I signed on.

What followed were years of trying to figure out how to do this thing called Christianity. I joined Christian clubs, I read Christian books, I (unfortunately) listened to Christian music, I went to church where I helped out in whatever ways I could, I did my best to read my Bible and pray in the morning. Basically, I did all the things that the sermons and the books I was reading told me were the things to do to be a good Christian.

But I never found anything that I would call a relationship.

For a long time this troubled me because talk of "relationship with God" was ubiquitous in Christian circles (at least the ones that I found myself in). It seemed like everybody was chatting it up with God, kicking it with Jesus. I kept trying to figure out what it was I wasn't doing, what it was that I didn't get. There were lots of times when I wondered if I wasn't good enough for God or if he didn't converse with me because of some innate character flaw.

Well, after years of feeling this way, wondering about this whole relationship with God thing and why it was that I wasn't in the loop, I finally just accepted that God does indeed commune with some people in an intimate manner and I wasn't one of them. I suppose I could have come to the conclusion that people who talked about their relationship with God were deluding themselves or that they were using a metaphor in a way that seemed far to literal, but I'd been around too many amazing, sincere Christians who really did seem in tune with something of the divine and I refused to discount their experiences just because I wasn't having them.

My coming to grips with the whole relationship bit is just one of the issues with Christianity that I've made my own peace with. Anyone who's been reading this blog for a while knows that I've asked a lot of questions about Christianity and how I understand it versus the way it was explained to me in the churches I attend years ago. Most of these questions were written in times of great frustration (see blog 179 and blog 201 for examples) but you know, another reason I haven't been writing as much lately is because I've made a kind of peace with all of those old questions.

I don't go so far as to say I have the answers to questions like, "what is the role of the church?" or "what is the Kingdom of God that Jesus keeps refering to?" or even "what is salvation - what are we saved from or saved into?" I mean, there are the shallow, Sunday school answers that go something like, "the role of the church is to worship God," and "the Kingdom of God is what heaven will be like," and "salvation is what keeps us from going to hell," but I was never satisfied with those answers and so I pushed and probed and I blogged and I read books and ever so slowly, I started to find my own answers.

What I hope to do in the coming weeks/months is to share my newfound thoughts on Christianity - how I made peace with the questions that used to plague me. I don't have any format in mind and I don't know what topics I'll cover in which order. Basically I'm going to shoot from the hip and share what comes to mind first and then go from there. It'll probably be a bit wooly and rough around the edges, but I'll do my best.

My hope is that I'll be able to offer some insight for those who are asking the same sorts of questions. I don't claim any kind of authority and I certainly don't have the academic credentials to be taken too seriously but at the same time, I think the gospel that Jesus preached is available to all people - not just those who went to seminary. I guess you could call what I'm trying to do a kind of layman's attempt at constructing a theology that works for him.

Sounds like fun, no?

....don't answer that.

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