I meant to write yesterday but was home with a nasty cold. And no matter how sick I am, I just can’t stay in bed if I’m home. So yesterday was filled with bill paying, pumpkin tossing, cat litter scooping, kitchen cleaning, ant poison trapping, and DirecTV attendant assisting. Our main TV now works and is receiving the satellite signal. The only frustrating thing is that I can no longer tape one show while watching another. This is their clever way of getting me interested in the DVR. Can’t do it yet. Maybe at Christmas.
What I wanted to write about is an exchange I had with my brother. Though he is two years younger than I am, (two years to the day! Now that’s family planning.) I have always looked up to him. He is one of the funniest, smartest, and hippest guys I know. He always has been. I used to wish I could be more like him. He always seemed so confident and self assured. He always knew what he liked and popularity be damned. Yet that attitude tended to draw people to him left and right so he always seemed to be pretty popular. Growing up ahead of him and yet feeling in his shadow was hard. He was so sunny and friendly and happy. He was the compliant, uncomplicated one. He was the smart one. He was the athletic one. He didn’t throw tantrums. He knew how to work the system of discipline our parents had set up and worked it well. He could make us laugh at the drop of a hat. He started in comedy early. I remember when he was little more that 1 1/2, waking up and deciding the best way to wake the rest of the family was to crow like a rooster. Did I mention his smarts?
When we were teenagers, our parents experienced a spiritual renewal and changed overnight. They became more conservative. We attended church every time the doors were opened. My dad tried to institute family devotion time at dinner. Through all this, my brother and I did what we could to go along with them without rocking the boat. Eventually I found my own faith and source of peace in Christ. At that time nothing scared me more than the thought that mom, dad, and I would be enjoying the fruits of Heaven and my brother would be left alone in the pit of Hell because he had not professed any kind of faith. In fact, when I asked him about it, he gave me the most honest answer I’ve ever heard to date. He said, “I am not going to become a Christian now because I am not done having fun and I can’t be a Christian AND do what I want to have fun.” During this time, my brother was…finding his own way. It’s his story to tell, but we had reason to worry other than his rejection of Christian things. I never stopped praying for him. He used to say we were hypocrites. Knowing he thought that, I used to pray that God would bring people into his life that could minister to him better than mom, dad, or I could. Eventually, it happened. My brother took a longer road to get there, but he found his way to his own faith and relationship with God.
I only share all of this to say that now the tables have turned. My brother is praying for me. Once again he is the good one, the smart one, the shining example and I am the…opposite of all of that. I am the complicated, overly dramatic, tantrum throwing, depressed, perfectionistic one. He has found his faith. He does not subscribe to the simplistic faith we were taught as teens and is by no means one of the “Christian right”. He is still smart, funny, hip, and a consumer of popular culture. Yet he is passionate in worship and unabashedly in love with Jesus. We had an email exchange the other day that, though reached no consensus, warmed my cold little heart greatly.
Brother’s letter to me:
Relevant magazine is a great resource (IMO.) Their slogan - God-Life-Progressive Culture is spot on. They focus on those three things - - "Christian", as well as "Secular" - from a Christian worldview. A recent print addition featured a spread on the group Jurassic 5 - who shared how their Muslim faith forms their music.... Not that they were condoning pluralism - - but they are not afraid to share other's views. It helps us to understand the culture around us - and to relate.......
I would challenge you to NOT "abstain from all things God" right now - but to dig deeper in to what it means to be a Christ-follower. There are TONS of things "out there" right now that are really helping me to grow and understand what it means to be a child of God's. And not nice, neat three point sermons on how to have a "perfect life'.... I think we were brought up on a theology that was a little watered down, and that made us think that if we say a “sinner's prayer”, we'll have it all figured out.
A couple of suggestions for you -
1.) Read Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. http://www.amazon.com/Velvet-Elvis-Repainting-Christian-Faith/dp/031026345X
2.) Download iTunes when you get your laptop back, and subscribe to the Mosaic Podcasts - http://www.mosaic.org/podcast/ (no iPod needed - you can listen on your computer.) Download and listen to ALL of the message series Life's Toughest Questions by Erwin McManus. And I mean ALL OF THEM.....
Ok - off the soapbox - but I hope you understand I'm not trying to preach to you - - just trying to let you in on a few of the things that have helped shaped me and my faith, and how I approach trying to figure it all out…”
My Reply to brother:
As for avoiding God things right now…I don’t think I can help it. God things are too painful for me right now because…well, because of the dichotomy of what I am feeling in what I read and know to be true in my head and what I feel in true and am experiencing in my life. I know you’ve read it before in my blog, but I lived my life trying to be pure and obedient to God. I thought if I did everything “right” He would honor, reward, and bless me with the things I most longed for; marriage and children. Not to mention that these are things He seems to want for people as well. And yet we know the rest of the story. I didn’t marry until I was 33 and so far children just don’t seem to be in the cards for us. And it hurts. A lot. And we go to the most fertile church in all the land. I have talked with the pastors and asked them if they couldn’t put me in touch with other women struggling with the same things and they have come up empty handed.
Through counseling I am learning that for some reason, I have taken on and internalized a belief that I am bad and therefore am being punished. I am bad and therefore deserve the punishment. I am bad and…well, just add a myriad of other negative stuff to that. 38 years of internalizing this belief does not lead to a happy life at this point. Hence the depression, the anger, the avoidance of God stuff.
I think it is ironic though that we are at a point where you are the one encouraging me to seek the things of God for myself when 20 years ago the shoe was on the other foot, huh? I used to think in terms of black and white. I used to think there was a formula/answer for everything and now I know things aren’t nearly quite so simple. I feel like God is laughing at/mocking/teasing me. When, on the odd occasion, I do pick up the Bible I seem to stumble across the verses lauding parenthood and exalting the blessings of children. Oh, sure God. Tell me these things then with hold them from me when you alone have the power to change things. Whatever.
So, that’s where I am at right now. I never used to think I surrounded myself solely with all things Christian and yet now that all things Christian either hurt or offend me, I am finding I am culturally ignorant. I am experiencing a sort of pop culture rebirth. And yet I do still see things through a filter of faith, so I am not completely torn apart from the basic foundations. I am not rejecting God himself or belief in salvation, redemption, grace, and eternal life. I just don’t know how to reconcile what I’ve been taught about God and what His Word says about him and what I am living right now. Thankfully God is patient and knows my heart and situation. I also have faith that He will allow me to work this out to some kind of reconciliation. I hope so anyway.
Isn’t it nice to know that there are people out there who will accept you as you are and yet pray for positive change? My brother is one of those people. I still want to grow up and be just like him.