Sunday, March 1, 2009
Words, Words, Words.
March begins - the third month of daily blogging. Are you proud of me? You know the hardest part? Coming up with unique, non-lame thread titles, and "until tomorrow" lines... I can breeze through the update, and sometimes I stare at the Title line with my mouth open, at a total loss. Same with the final line...
And yet, somehow, I prevail!
Double-duty Church Sunday, as per usual. Made it through relatively unscathed, methinks. Came to an interesting understanding (or awareness, or what-have-you) this morning as I got up to prepare for church. I hope I can explain it properly.
For the past, oh I'd say two years or so, I've found myself pulling strongly away from "religion". Not from God, mind you, but from religion. It's gotten to the point where listening to someone talk in "that way" we Christians talk really is off-putting to me. It's doubly-galling because I know I lived there quite comfortably for many years, doing the religious thing. I was well-intentioned, as I'm sure most Christians are, but really, for me it boiled down to understanding certain things with my head, realizing I wasn't living up to them, and putting on a happy face in a vain attempt to convince other people that I had my act together far more than I really did. A lot of nice-sounding public prayers, underpinned by Bible studying so that I could sound convincing and doctrinally sound.
I realized how futile it made me feel. So I stopped reading the Bible regularly. I stopped praying out loud if the opportunity presented itself. I slowly severed connections with certain people and slowly stopped participating in certain church-related events. I stopped listening to Christian shows on the radio and TV. I basically came to the conclusion that I was going to strip away all the extra stuff, like shedding a formerly-nice-but-now-grubby set of clothing, and walk away naked, not giving up God, but abandoning religious stuff.
Not coincidentally, this also began a period of my life that was exceptionally difficult on a personal and marital level. I felt like I was disconnecting (or being disconnected) from everything and everyone. Everything was turning to ashes in my hand. Was this a result of my pulling away from religion, or was it all part of the same thing God was doing in me?
My prayers at that time were one-on-one, and very honest and open with God, no BS, no King James English, just a sort of "who cares if school keeps or not, where are you God? If I can't have the real thing, I don't want anything."
Cheeky? Perhaps. Dangerous? Perhaps. Did I choose that path, or was it chosen for me? I don't know. But I was there, and it was hard. I could have walked away from anyone and everyone, leaving absolutely everything that I had ever known and been familiar with on any level, lifted completely out of my life without even a stitch of clothing or a cent to my name and dropped into a completely new environment, or even taken from this earth... and I wouldn't have cared.
It wasn't depression; I wasn't suicidal. I just felt like everything around me was as fake as the religious blather I had grown to despise. Going to church was empty to me. I didn't dislike anyone - these are people I had grown to know and love over the years, and I didn't judge their walks or their hearts at all. I gave/give everyone a lot of mercy, if for no other reason than I would wish the same in return as I crawl along. Same with my family - I didn't grow to dislike anyone; I loved everyone as much as (if not more than) I had ever done. I just felt like it was all built on sand, and therefore destined to crumble, sooner or later, leaving me with nothing.
Inside, I felt it all burn to ashes around me - everything and everyone - or at least my sense of connection to it. And then I felt the ashes get trampled down, and compacted, and crushed as flat as possible. And I didn't know if I would live another day, or what I would face if I did. My prayers were short, to the point, no nonsense. God's response to those prayers was unexpected and heartening.
What had been built before needed to be torched and crushed and compacted down... so that it could become the foundation for the next thing God wanted to build in me. Just like that, it made sense, and hope flared up in me.
I wish I could say everything got better after that, but I still really haven't fully climbed back out of that place yet. The latest piece, as I began to say, has to do with my attitude toward religion, which I've always known was, at least in part, throwing the baby out with the bath water. I came to a realization this morning, as I said, that is hard to explain. I had pulled out of that place where good religious Christians live, and backed away with my hands up. Perhaps it was necessary, to gain a better perspective - on life, on the gospel, on people, on the purpose of the church, the Bible, ministry, etc. Now I need to enter in again, and travel through it and out the other side. Perhaps it's as though I hit an obstacle and backed away from it, to study it for a while, in an attempt, perhaps, to devise a strategy to conquer it. Or perhaps I actually did attempt to flee, and found the path back was blocked as well, and that if I were to progress any further, I would need to move forward.
I believe now the time has come for me to overcome it.
There is good in church, and in religion. I have long thought of religion as a scaffolding around a building - a temporary, ugly, necessary structure that encases a building while it is being built. The time comes when the work is finished, and the scaffolding is dismantled and removed. I think I took down the scaffolding too soon, and got a good look at my unfinished life. I need to put it back up again, and let the work continue.
So I will read the Bible daily again. I will read devotionals again. I will grab my heart by the neck and make it focus on worship and the sermon again, not letting the fact that I'm "working" upstairs in the video room be an excuse to distance my heart. I will seek out fellowship among the men of the church again. I will pray publicly again, and not flee from interaction or sharing. I will take back my Sunday School class (from which I have been taking a break for many months).
And I will set my eyes toward what lay beyond these things, rather than what lay behind/beside me.
I know this is sort of an unorthodox post today, especially compared to my posts of late, but I trust you'll allow me. This type of thing is the main reason I started a blog to begin with - to vent a bit. The problem is, once I start on a line of thought, I never really know where it will lead, or how long it will take to get there. If you've read this far, I hope you got something out of it, even if only a slightly better picture of the man behind the curtain. In all this, I never doubted God's existence, but I did, at one point or another, doubt absolutely everything else.
Well, there's no sense cluttering things up with more words. There's always tomorrow's post...