Tagged: Paul

Stream of consciousness

snow angelRandom thoughts as they flowed in a cold, almost-empty church on a November morning, unsorted, unfiltered:

  • Maybe I should just share my outpourings with God rather than trying to share with another person/people? Seems like such a waste. Actually, these are the things I have to offer – these are me – these are what makes me me and special and to stop me, to take them away, is wrong. So how to make it something constructive rather than a bind, a burden?
  • A church with closed doors is no church at all – is worse than no church. It misrepresents the Kingdom, and it damages the children of the family of God. Close the building, or open it: don’t guard it closely, hold on to it, revere it. It is a place. To open a space to God and then shut the door is profoundly wrong.
  • I’m suddenly using much more language of morality, of black and whites. Actually, there seem to be black and whites where there were not – there are firm lines, now, where previously everything was always in question and shadow
  • What can I do? How can I make it better? I have no doubt that I have a ministry of some kind, I just don’t know where to find it
  • “This space is sacred” means “this space is/belongs to/comes closer to/improves access to/is a conduit for God”. That means it has to mean “come in, be welcome, share, and live”. That is what church is. It means come find God here. It is inherently invitational. Or else it is false – without the invitation, God is absent/withdrawn/blocked/resisted.
  • My stream-of-consciousness sometimes (often!) feels like to much for me to live alone. Where does “life in all its abundance” fit in? We are always so much less than we are – we know we use only a tiny portion of our brains, for instance. How do we be more? What’s holding us back? Weakness of the flesh? Brokenness of society? Lack of willingness, courage, urgency? Or overwhelm, perhaps?
  • Where am I bound? To what, to whom, am I bound? Am I bound? Do I bind myself out of choice? Are there responsibilities I must accept?
  • Where is love? What does love mean?
  • Do we simply need to claim our inheritance? To call an angel sister or brother – does that mean I am become kindred with them? Is that what imago dei means – that we are all as close to God as we are willing to allow ourselves to be? That resonates: the more we can forget our fear-driven learning, the closer we can become to our pre-Fall state, as it were, the more freedom there is (and God lives in freedom), the less brokenness there is
  • Is it brokenness that binds, after all? Are we free other than in sin? I think Paul did say something along those lines…!

This blog post belongs after another one that I haven’t written yet. My thoughts are not yet sorted enough, so I’m just posting unsorted for now. I am newly resolute, though, even if I’m not as tidily sorted as I was!

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House of Cards

House of cardsSo, I’ve been asking all these questions. I hit on a few pretty big ones – why did Jesus come? Why did Jesus die? – and so forth, which led me to question the model of atonement that I grew up with, and hadn’t even really noticed before. I was aware that it didn’t work for me, I couldn’t make it make sense, but had never imagined that might be because it wasn’t right, or right for me, I imagine the thought police would rather I said. I hadn’t imagined that there could be other possible models. So, I found myself asking, and questing, as I began to write about here. And then I thought I’d do some reading. I read a lot of blogs, and found some interesting thoughts on the subject, eg. here. I asked someone whose opinion I value and respect, even if I don’t always agree with it. I’d like to ask some other people, too, but haven’t found the right opportunity. Then I came upon an ebook that sounded interesting – not definitive, you understand: I’m not ready to look for answers yet, just for questions. And reading it has been interesting. I’m not yet half way through. This morning, on my commute, I was reading it. I was reading Tony Jones, the author, state categorically things like

what I’m saying is that Jesus (God) really, materially healed people…really, materially died…And Jesus (God) really, materially rose from death

and thinking “of course I agree with that. I’ve always agreed with that…oh, wait, do I?”…

…and I then I thought about other things I’d read previously, like the brilliantly-phrased

a problem with the penal substitutionary understanding of atonement, it seems to me, is that there’s really no reason for the resurrection. It’s little more than Jesus’ ‘Ta-Da! See, I told you I was divine!’

And suddenly, the questions I was asking got harder, got personal. Not “why did this happen?”, but “why do I believe this happened?”, which of course leads to “do I believe this?” – and on, and on, and my paradigms crumbled around me as I realised: the only reason I believe what I believe is because I choose to. Not because I actually believe it at all – I honestly can’t say whether I do or not – but because I wanted to believe those things.

X-files - I Want to Believe poster-8x6

(Why, oh why, did you have to go, Fox? I love you so!)

My faith, my worldview, has developed thus: as a child I was severely and damagingly brainwashed. As a young adult, I stepped casually away from those things – put some distance between me and they, because I didn’t feel safe around them, but neither did I feel safe leaving them behind, so still I took them with me. As an older adult, a “mature” student at university, I suddenly felt I had to reject a lot of what I’d been taught, because it couldn’t be right – the things I was learning showed me that.

So then I wandered about in the wilderness, of course. Then, as a grown-up (supposedly), I found myself working in the church. And I listened, and watched, and felt love. So eventually I felt safe enough to begin looking, questing. I read the New Testament, and somewhere in Romans something clicked. Something made sense that hadn’t before (funnily enough, I’m no longer sure what it was, but it felt important at the time), enough that I could allow myself to step into the world of church, religion, faith. A personal faith journey –  I can’t deny that I was on one, but I would have struggled to accept it as such during those early stages.

Since then, I’ve listened to things, sought out teaching and preaching and text and subtext; have questioned, listened, challenged, read; have brought myself to the front of the wave and crashed myself onto the beach over and over again. I have learned some things, but I have been taking baby steps, or not even that: tiptoeing around the edges of what might matter. Why?

Because I couldn’t, wouldn’t, let the idols fall. I could not let go of the false teachings I grew up with, even though I knew them to be destructive and painful for me. So I had sorted through them, picked up the bits that I could stomach, greyed out the rest, and mashed them up into some kind of personal religion. Eww. This is not a good thing. It’s an interesting thing, and I shall very much enjoy unpicking it. What I need to do now is to explore the real questions; to find out what I actually can and do believe, if anything. This is very scary. I have a lot to let go of. I may well duck out sometimes, pretend it’s all ok again, clutch on to those strands of before. But now I can no longer deny that I’m on a personal faith journey – I am journeying to find my faith, because at this stage I have no idea what, or if, I believe.

Although the road is scary-looking, I’m not scared. I’m excited. As a journeymate for this beginning, for just now, I am taking Karl Barth, whose writing I have fallen in love with, regardless of what he’s saying (what can I say? I’m a wordgeek – and I’m not even sorry!).

I like to think that I’m adult enough to be able to explore and enjoy things not just because I agree with them but sometimes because I don’t. I don’t yet even know which things I will or won’t agree with – that’s the whole adventure!

Love, begun

LoveCan’t quite believe I’m doing this, but tonight I’m working with 1 Corinthians chapter 13.
Cripes.
This post reflects a change I’ve found myself in: it is a change which is both personal and public, both sacred and secular, both emotional and spiritual. It is about my relationships; with people, with God, with me. This post was born out of an uncomfortable conversation about trust, an conversation which afterwards, I felt to be a clear marker in my personal journey, to represent my death throes and my labour pains as I embark on the next phase of me.
….
Something is happening to me. Something terribly grown-up, and very different, as well as releasing and enlightening.
Gee, I am so resentful for how this sounds, but that isn’t because of what it is, but because of what it has been twisted to seem – what it is is very different to how it the expression been used:
I am reborn.
1 Corinthians 13:11
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.

I am learning something new.

I couldn’t answer the question because I didn’t understand it.
I couldn’t feel love because I didn’t understand what love is.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

I am learning to love. I have never knowingly done it before properly. I have no idea what I’m letting myself in for. It looks huge, and hazy.

1 Corinthians 13:12
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.

What I have done, and felt, before now has not been love. It has been dependency; co-dependency, actually. It has been based (on both sides) on fear. It has been about being protected and scared and needy and lonely. Love is different. Love gives, love lets go, love is safe and free (and patient and kind), not jealous or selfish (or arrogant or rude). It does not insist on its own way. It doesn’t need me to be perfect. It allows me to be perfect, despite my myriad flaws.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
My only real guides until recently have been my maternal instincts. Those, I allowed to grow and live, but incorrectly identified as all sorts of different, mostly negative things – as weaknesses, failings, brokenness – things I must accept responsibility for.
This is different.
I have been busy doing some serious clanging. I have been giving all things away and handing over my body, and prophesying and understanding and believing, but it has all been so…shallow.
Shallow: of little depth; not deep

Now, I trust (or am beginning to), rather than seek. Now, I enjoy, rather than want. Now, I belong, rather than need. Now, I share rather than offer.

These things I am beginning to see:
1 Corinthians 13:12
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.

I don’t know about ever fully knowing. I don’t need to, either. I shall explore. I shall discover. I shall be. It is all, and everything, I can be and do. It is me, known.

I am grateful to those who have endeavoured to show me ‘a still more excellent way’.
I see now that it all integrates. Faith is empty without love. Knowledge is meaningless. Relationship is lonely. Humanity is dead without love, no matter what else we might get right.
1 Corinthians 13:13
And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
I am just beginning. I will make mistakes. I will forget what this means, from time to time. But that is going to be ok, because people, God, and I, love me – and love…
1 Corinthians 13:7
… bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.