Saturday, January 5, 2013

Why I Believe

A lot of times when terrible things happen, people doubt the existence of God. It often sounds like, "How could God let this happen?" or "Where is God in all of this?"
Some sad things have happened lately; sad things happen every day. At those times when your blinders come off and you see how fleeting this all is, how fleeting we are, it is scary. I get scared.
I was in one of those funks recently. I saw death and sadness and despair everywhere I looked, and I tried so hard to not see it, but God made me see it. He was working on my heart again... ugh.
But sadness and evil and all things terrible actually reaffirm God for me. I know that may sound odd, so hear me out.
When we hear about horrible things, about babies being gunned down, about cancers and car accidents our minds and bodies reject it. There is some thing, some feeling, that strikes every fiber of our being and screams, "NO! NO! This cannot be!" We just know that this is WRONG in every kind of way. And that is because it is. This isn't the way life is supposed to be; something is broken.
Our God designed our spirits for more than this - for oneness with Him, for a life without death and pain and separation, but then evil came into our world and we let it have control. So now we live with Good and Evil in our world and they are all the time at war.
This world is a preview, I think, nothing is the real thing. We see slices of Good - laughing and babies and good meals with friends and wine and cozy sleeping. But none of that is the Real Good, it is just a reflection of it in a mirror. We also see slices or reflections of Evil. And actually, it is God trying to help us see.

"The human spirit will not even begin to surrender self-will as long as all seems to be well with it. Now error and sin both have this property, that the deeper they are, the less their victim suspects their existence; they are masked evil. Pain is unmasked, unmistakable evil, every man knows that something is wrong when he is being hurt... And the pain is not only recognizable evil, but evil impossible to ignore. We rest contentedly in our sins and stupidities... and can even ignore our pleasures, but pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."
C.S. Lewis, The Problem with Pain
In the name of full disclosure, I have not read this book yet, but I thought this quote was wonderful.

We can't ignore it forever. We have to recognize our situation - we are in the middle of Good and Evil and our experience is us having a chance to choose one. Now, very few people actually choose Evil. I think most who go the way of Evil have chosen a product of it that masquerades as good - money, success, or most potently, themselves. But that is their choice, nonetheless. We all make choices like that, probably everyday. But when we choose The Good, aka God's redemptive love through Christ, it trumps all the times we have chosen Evil in the past and all of the times we will choose it in the future. We still choose ourselves, even in Christ, but it's okay because that is forgiven too. But hopefully we will choose ourselves a little less with His help.
But what hurt and sadness and death and loss teach us, if we allow it, is that one day there will be no Evil. We will live the way our souls were designed to live, in peace and perpetual goodness with God. Not even the goodness that we experience here on Earth, but the Real Good - our worldly good on steroids. God wants that for us, for our hearts, so badly. It is the thing He wants the most. And so he sends bad things to our world to remind us, to awaken us to our current situation. He allows the Evil because He loves us.

And I will leave you with a little more C.S. Lewis, because I think he is wonderful and can say so eloquently the things I cannot.

"If I find in myself desires which nothing in this life can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world... Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country..."
From Mere Christianity, specifically the chapter on Hope. I cannot recommend a book so vital as this one, aside from the Bible, of course :)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Good Testimony

Sitting in church listening to people's testimonies as a little girl, I would always think, "I guess I ought to join a biker gang or spend some time in rehab or something so that I have a good story one day." Little did I know that God gives everyone in this world a story and mine was not going to look like those.
I was raised in a wonderful Christian home with loving and Godly parents. Nothing was perfect or idyllic but it was a home where God resided, so grace love and grace abounded. I was a good girl. I made all As, with an occasional B, I did my homework, followed the rules and aimed to be kind, although I had plenty of "don't talk to me in that tone young lady" moments. I was quite certain I had life figured out by age 13.
But I wanted popularity at school and a boyfriend and a good story for my testimony so that people would take me seriously. I also very much wanted a miraculous experience from God - which I searched for at church camp and by "evangelizing" my school friends (or perfect strangers), but I never got it. I was conflicted. I wandered just a little bit from God, and then a little further and then a little further.
I sort of got more poplar. This also coincided with the shedding of my awkwardness - contacts instead of glasses and braces taken off - so its hard to tell what was the true cause. I got more attention from boys, but not the dreamy romantic boyfriend I had been hoping for. I wouldn't meet him until the age of 23 - an eternity away to a teenager.
And here's the thing, it was fine. I didn't get addicted to drugs, I didn't get tattoos, I didn't become a stripper or drop out of school or anything "dangerous" at all. I kept being good. I was a nice person. I was good at school and double-majored in English and Psychology and graduated from college Magna Cum Laude (holla!). But something in my heart was wanting. I would get closer to God for a while, fail at something "moral", or I would just get bored or forget. And I'd drift back away. But again, things were pretty much fine.
And this is what I have come to realize... being good can be just as much of a hindrance to Godliness as sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I had enough morality and doses of God put into me that I was able to coast by. I believe I was mostly kind and compassionate, I knew all of the Sunday school answers, and I tithed, ya know? But still no miraculous experience. Somewhere in my mind, I just kept thinking that at some point I'd get my shit together and get back to God. I'll definitely be there by the time I'm an adult...nope. By the time I'm married, then... nope. By the time I am a Mom I will most certainly be presentable for God again... nope. I was still a bit of a mess. Why can't I get my act together? Why can't I diligently study the Bible all monk-like? Why do I have no answers for the crazy, messed up ways of the world? I'm a good person - I'm good at this! But why do I suck?
The answer (of course) was right in front of me the whole time. I'd said it, prayed it, sang it, preached it. I just didn't fully see it as it applied to me. God doesn't love the me in a few years who has her act together and is ready to be a serious Christian, he loves me. Me now, me yesterday. Me when I'm gossiping, me when I'm angry, me when I'm selfish and hateful and sad and happy and proud and humble... all of it. That is the me He sent Christ for. There is no asterisk on the cross with fine print reading, "except for Shauna until she is the perfect wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend and has a spotless house and a perfect budget." (Now why God would care about those last things, I have no idea - but that is in my head as to what I should strive to be... ridiculous.) 
The most ironic part is that there is no way to be a "serious Christian" without His help. But my attempt at being good, and being somewhat successful at it, actually stood in the way of God working in my life and changing my heart and perspective. And I'm so glad He has done/is doing those things; that He overcame me for me. And that is, and always was, my miracle. Christ on the cross, God's transforming Love, every breath we take, is really all one big, amazing miracle. Thank you, Jesus!
I am most certainly guilty of various sins, but these are the things that damaged my heart, not just ways for other people to measure my goodness. I think that God's priority is my heart so that was the priority in this story. I never did join a biker gang, but that could have been pretty cool.

"Unless we really try, whatever we say there will always be at the back of our minds the idea that if we try harder next time we shall succeed in being completely good. Thus, in one sense, the road back to God is a road of moral effort, of trying harder and harder. But in another sense it is not trying that is ever going to bring us home. All this trying leads up to the vital moment at which you turn to God and say, 'You must do this. I can't.'...

Christians have often disputed as to whether what leads the Christian home is good actions, or Faith in Christ. I have no right really to speak on such a difficult question, but it does seem to me like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is most necessary. A serious moral effort is the only thing that will bring you to the point where you throw up the sponge. Faith in Christ is the only thing to save you from despair at that point; and out of that Faith in Him good actions must inevitable come."

-C. S. Lewis
Mere Christianity, Book III, Chapter 12