Friday, March 31, 2006

More Wrestling

In my last post, I voiced my displeasure with any view of redemption and eternal life in which "the chips fall based on what you've done."

Lately, there has been a feeling of disillusionment among many of my friends at church. Part of this is self-inflicted. We grew up, got busy, and took our spiritual lives for granted. Like most of our generation, we wanted our parent's lifestyle right out of the gate. We left ourselves vulnerable to the inevitable questions. Some are, perhaps, in the process of convincing themselves that these questions have no answers.

When faced with these doubts, the simplest reaction is to ignore them and do, do, do. We endeavor toward a series of Godly accomplishments in an effort assuage any doubt regarding our eternal status. Eventually, all the doing loses its meaning, and we begin to feel guilty that we are not doing enough to love God.

Unfortunately, there are a number of figures in the Christian world eager to exploit this guilt. We have James Dobson imploring parents to suppress early signs of homosexuality in their sons and daughters. We have Jim Wallis urging us to oppose Social Security reform, lest we break one of the ten commandments. Do this, do that, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

God is the man behind the curtain? In a sense, no. He is the real Oz, all powerful, all-knowing etc... But does that begin to describe the relationship he wants to have with us? I don't think so. If we peek behind the curtain, behind the threats of hell and promises of heaven, there is a God who takes the time to count the hairs on our head. He loves us, died for us, and would like nothing more than to enjoy our love.

While we are consumed with questions about Personal Retirement Accounts and our son's troublesome interest in ballet, God waits for us, wanting to be understood, loved and, yes, feared and respected.

To the complicated questions of heaven and hell, I say this. A worldview based on loving Jesus grants us an eternal understanding, and allows us to experience a unique and powerful grace. If we are constantly expecting more of ourselves, obsessing over our salvation, we have no time for grace.

Perhaps it helps not to see it as an expectation, but rather as an opportunity. Wisdom and life have but one conduit, and our hearts were built to experience love through that channel.

With this opportunity comes responsibility, but we do well to remember that the opposite holds true. If we fret over our responsibilities, without taking the time to experience his joy, then what is the point? What could we possibly look forward to after we die? An increased workload? More guilt? A constant, eternal scolding about being behind in our one-year Bibles?

We need to fear God, yes. But part of fearing means enjoying, giving thanks, loving each other and him. Leave the Godspeak and gloom-and-doom to the seminarians. They dig that stuff anyway.

See? It's easy. Now go do it.


Anonymous Thom said...

Very good post.

"See? It's easy. Now go do it."

And if it does not seem to work? Keep doing it until it does.

I have friends that went through tremendous struggles, and in the end left their churches and spiritual life in general. I found most of them got the same advice mantra "keep praying, reading you Bible and going to out Church"...butjust keep doing these things, and eventually the struggles will fade. Ignore, suppress.

11:45 AM  
Anonymous Jon D said...

Following Christ isn't easy, but it IS simple. It's choosing to believe what God promises, and that He desires what's best for us, regardless of what we see or feel or think (of course there's more to it, but I think that's a good base to have). That's good enough for me.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Kevin Sawyer said...

And sometimes it is difficult to keep it that simple. Christianity is so powerful that mankind has been eager to get its hands all over it. We want Christ to be everything except for what he says he is.

1:39 PM  
Blogger Adam Omelianchuk said...

Kevin, I applaud you for thinking through this stuff.

I think though, the tension between warnings and promises can be overwhelming. The reason why is because start to think we DON'T know what God REALLy thinks of us. Onces this gets in our heads our spiritual anxieties shoot through the roof, our disillusionment with others skyrockets, and our faith erodes into an unimaginable bitterness. Unbelief becomes comforting.

1:41 PM  
Blogger mrs. r said...

I like what you said Adam, about thinking that we don't know what God really thinks of us.
So often my anxieties and guilt come from thinking that God is upset at me, disappointed in me, frustrated with me because of what I'm doing, or more often what I'm not doing (quiet time? what's that?)
I've been trying to focus on grace lately, even to the point of NOT doing things on purpose because I wanted to make myself remember that even though I'm acting like a lazy punk, God still loves me and he's crazy about me and is right there waiting for me when I start moving toward him again. It's actually helped me be more eager because I'm not dragging myself back into God's presence, waiting to be scolded. I can walk into his presence ready to worship and spend time with him because I've missed him and I know he misses me.

12:09 PM  
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