My New Year’s Resolutions always fail, simply because I set such high expectations for how everyday of the brand new year will be another day I realize my bigger better dreams for my smarter, brighter life. One trip up in that line leads to a stagger, then a stumble, then a fall, and then me all curled up in a corner sobbing about my inability to be constant or to improve myself.
Let’s skip over the inherent issues that I just revealed about my life and my OCD-type perfectionist aims, and focus on the fact that this momentous year, in which I turn 30, I’m scrapping some 12 Months of Grand Redesign list of goals and am focusing on one: My Christianity.
For years, I’ve treated my Christianity like a slightly embarrassing condition that you don’t really want to talk about, but if someone notices a symptom or two and confronts me about it, I shyly acknowledge that there’s a good chance I’m suffering from a low grade case. Conversely, I may be persuaded to talk about it openly among the similarly stricken, treating cell groups and such like one would a support group for the convalescing. All the reasons for that may be explored in another post- maybe!- but one of the reasons was my crippling ability to truly see things from both sides. In my flower-power, world-peace mind, if both parties have some level of rightness, how does one choose an absolute?? I also didn’t always agree with the way I saw the churches around me approaching things, but nor could I cut them off; I was always absolutely convinced in God and salvation and Heaven. Also Hell. Utter conundrum.
I listened, I talked, I prayed. Some of those things I did with far more consistency and passion than others, but out of the clear blue sky amidst the thundering argument I was having with some (other) Christians came an epiphany: Church isn’t God! Whoa now, lady….don’t get carried away, you say. Listen, follow me for a minute before thou gatherest the beating stones: I understand how very dearly God loves The Church- that is, His earthly representation on earth. In an ideal situation, despite our doctrinal highlights and denominational preferences, Christ-professing, Bible-teaching, Jesus following churches SHOULD- theoretically speaking- be able to recognize and appreciate each other as diverse expressions of the same Jesus Christ. (Please note the three disclaimers/criteria included). Somehow though, we seem to get whipped up into a dogmatic frenzy over whose vision of The Church and her role is right. Or righter. Or loudest. We draw hard lines in the sand, and in the newspapers and on the radio and in videos, and we dare hell-bound fakers to summon forth their fiery end by disagreeing with us.
As a kid, debates used to send me clambering into a dark space and humming happy songs until they died down. I hate arguments. I hate the way the people a involved could seem to feel that having anyone disagree with their point was tantamount to having that person obliterate their worth upon the earth. To this day, watching people argue is simultaneously fascinating and terrifying for me and somehow whenever I find myself in the midst of a Christian-themed argument, it just gets even worse. I’m more bewildered by the bulge-eyed arm waving because all I can think is: aren’t we supposed to be following (therefore setting) better examples of how to do everything? Including handle disputes?
Oh many an emo-rant I have raved about the lack of Love and the lack of God in the God-spaces of our societies. I have moaned the way my church and the churches with which I have interacted seemed to have misplaced crucial Christ DNA. At one point, I found myself sitting outside of “The Church” zone because I felt they had compromised their Jesus flavor, and I couldn’t support what I felt could sometimes appear to be love-less, draconian doctrines. Yet I was also sitting (just barely) outside of the Secular Sections of my life, because in my heart I knew whatever God wanted for me was what I wanted for myself , despite how (extremely) very frequently I tripped up. It left me confused and constantly running from one side of my choices to another.
Things begin to make sense around the moment I realized that: in fact, I’m not supposed to have all the answers! It’s not up to me and my amazing mind or instincts to listen to all the arguments in the world and make a ruling. My ‘job’ is to follow God. He’s pretty clear about what He wants and doesn’t want. And if something I read (in the Bible or anywhere else doctrine & doctrine based arguments can be found) confuses me, I can ask Him for clarity or ask Him who to go to for some help. Boom. Life makes more sense. Christianity-shamecloud lifting.
I no longer feel utterly torn between Church vs World. Because you see, it’s NOT a Church vs World battle. The Church (which btw is broader that ‘the churches I myself have personally seen’, and yet smaller than “God of the Universe and all within”) can fall victim of its human congregation, which can wreak all kinds of havocs on hearts and homes, even with the best of intentions and especially with the worst ones. It’s what humans do. The World is a victim of its inhabitants, no matter the race or religion. We wreak havoc. We hurt people, places, the planet. It’s what we do. It’s more like hmmm…. God’s Plan For Me vs Everything Else, Especially The Stuff That May Look Sparklier, More Spectacular Or More Sensible. Add in some ‘powers and principalities’ and you got trouble- the kind I’m certainly not going to be trying to resolve on my own anymore.
So instead of spinning in circles trying to choose a side, this year I will learn to take a breath, take a minute and find out God’s opinion on the matter(s). Sometimes I will find allies in the church body around me. Sometimes I will make enemies. Sometimes some of my non-Christian friends will be proud of me. Sometimes they’ll feel disappointed. I have lived so long priding myself on being ‘the kind of Christian who isn’t like the others’, that the thought of disappointing some of my friends with my newly dusted off perspectives fills me with anxiety. But still… I can no longer afford to be guided primarily by those 4 outcomes. I will listen to God, who does have a jaw-droppingly customized plan for every single soul out there. He knows what parts of my outlooks to preserve, which to polish and which to purge. And I figure it’s taken me nearly 30 years to realize this, so starting now I’m going to do my darndest to catch up on that plan, and stick with it this time.
My Jesus Life (Take 30) is officially on. Bring it, 2012. I’m ready this time.