Friday, March 15, 2013

March 15th

As I wrote the last post, I couldn't help thinking that my readers might be wondering why there was no mention of God in it.

I mean, knowing me, and all. Or at least knowing my blog.

And trust me. Knowing my blog is pretty close to knowing me, except that in person, I'm much less interesting because my writing is far more colorful than my conversation.

When I hung up the phone, after calling Keith the day we got the adoption funds, there was this uncanny moment where I thought, I moved God.

He was listening and moreover, He was orchestrating things in direct, if not immediate, response.

Then the moment passed and it was normal days again.

I'll confess, I don't understand faith. My understanding of it is childlike, laced liberally with dysfunctional religious superstition.

This might sound strange, coming from me, but my relationship with God has very little to do with faith, as I understand faith.

That is, I don't believe that He's there, I observe that He's there, in a way that I can't describe very well. But I've felt it almost all my life, so it just seems completely natural to me.

So I haven't really had to exercise faith, in the way I've understood it.

I've been learning about surrender. That's been my almost continual lesson, over and over again, at deeper and deeper levels. He has taught me how to give in to Him, how rest in Him, how to surrender everything.

But about faith, I do not know.

This is what I think about, when I thinking about having faith:

Closing one's eyes to science, psychology, etc.

Having a positive attitude all the time.

Being afraid of God.

Persistently, passionately pestering God only after having confessed any sins, so that God will hear me.

Never questioning.

Never doubting.

Never being angry.

Thinking the right thoughts.

Holding, holding, holding, holding- it's all in the white-knuckled, narrow-eyed grip.

So, I kind of shy away from the whole mess that is my conception of faith. In fact, my concept of faith and my lessons of surrender seem to be antithetical.

I follow other blogs where people are wrestling with faith and God, and I read along and feel just this incredible admiration for them, for the courage it must take for them to go out on a limb with God the way that they do.

"Thank goodness You're not teaching me those lessons," I told Jesus once, after reading one of those blogs. "I'm not ready for that particular school."

But I knew, eventually, I would begin to unpack, to use a hip phrase, my suitcase on faith, to see what I would keep and what I would discard.

Because Jesus has said some really mind blowing statements about it.

"What do You mean? What are You talking about? How does that really work?" I've asked Him, and though I've felt His tender, personal love of me, I've had no other answer.

Which often makes me angry, because lately, it's been down to the wire.

Lately, I've had to realize I have matriculated into that dreaded school of what the heck is faith and how does it operate and what is it for and what does it mean?

When it's my husband's health and life and my future children on the line, I really need to know.

How does faith work?

If Keith dies, is it because I didn't have enough faith?

If the adoption fails, is it because I didn't have enough faith?

Is the slow, rocky path toward adoption already happening because I haven't had enough faith?

I can't ignore these questions. Not getting the answers makes me angry and resentful.

He set it up! Why won't He explain it?

But if I was to be perfectly honest, He does reply to me, and His answer is: you already know this.

That's what He's said, whispered into my heart late at night, when I'm pouring all this agony and confusion out to Him like a barbwire bundle, like a toxic cocktail.

I didn't understand how that could be, so He encouraged me to think it through.

It's not the first time He's said that, and it always makes me think of the times when He said to people: What do you think? How do you read the law? Who do you say I am?

He seems to be interested in the process of thinking it through for ourselves. He wants our own answer, not somebody else's.

And trust me, I have been thinking it through, but I still don't know what He's talking about.

So that's where I am, lately: without answers, as usual, which, of course, only reinforces the lesson He's always given me, which is to surrender as I am.

Maybe that's what He means.

If faith isn't about specific answers to specific requests, but is instead resting completely in Him no matter what comes up, then, yes. I do already know that.

But doesn't He also answer specific requests? Doesn't He? Isn't it worth our while to ask?

But how do we know what to ask? How do we know what is really best for us? It's too vastly mysterious, the overall picture of Life.

So, around and around I go.

This whole process stirs up a lot of emotion, all the emotion that I was taught negatively impacts faith, with makes me feel guilty and miserable and then I feel resentful and round I go again, so in desperation, yesterday, I said to myself, I'm going to call my dad.

My dad, I said to myself, will be compassionate and insightful. He'll let me pour out all my emotion and validate it. I'll feel heard, safe and relieved.

And immediately, it was as though Jesus nudged me, strongly, into this sudden, good humored but perfectly clear spiritual insight. He did it without words, but if I were to paraphrase what He was communicating to me, with such humor and love, it would this:

Oh I see! I get it! Right! Your human father, he's the one that will have the more compassion and insight into who you are that I would, more patience and love for you, in the struggle. But Me, no! No, I couldn't possibly offer you those things, being God and all, being the One that created you in love, in desire, in perfect understanding of you. I see how it is.

And I just burst out laughing, because it was too funny, when He pointed it out like that. I mean, He had no problem with me calling my dad. I mean, my dad is my dad for a very good reason and God set it up that way.

But there's just no way that any human could possibly love better or with more patience or with more authenticity than God. God is far, far more loving than the most loving person I've ever met. It's beyond understanding, in fact.

Then He said, pass it on. Which He does often say. He says, Comfort ye My people, My poor people all worn out and wrapped up tight in knots. Tell them their warfare is accomplished.

It is finished.

So I am, just in case one of my readers out there might also be struggling with these questions about faith that seem almost taboo by religious belief, exhausted by the merry go round, by the lack of answers, by the hugeness of what's on the line and by the shallowness and pain of the old conceptions and how they contradict and disappoint and even sometimes seem to reward.

I don't have any answers myself, but what I do know is that God is more than loving enough to hold any of us in the entire struggle, no matter what is coming up, no matter what seems to be breaking apart.

Every time that I have allowed myself to be emotionally authentic with God, I have felt a rush of intimate and personal love from Him, no matter how mixed up or negative or intense my emotions were.

It has taught me, over and over again, just how much He values authenticity, or spiritual nakedness, or our ability to be completely vulnerable with Him.

It is safe and, in the end, incredibly valuable, to be real with God, even if that means being angry at Him, ranting and raving, being fearful, questioning, demanding.

How could He want less from us than who we really are? How could He be less loving, less patient, than any one of us?

I didn't learn this by being strong and self willed, I didn't learn this through success and a better attitude and five steps to more effective prayer.

I didn't learn this by hiding behind rigid religious beliefs, like a cut out poster board image of myself, behind which I am cowering, ashamed and afraid, as if I am saying, look, God, at all these wonderful, correct things that I am saying, doing, thinking! Isn't it lovely, isn't it correct, isn't it acceptable!

I used to do that.

I learned to be intimate with God by tossing the poster board image away, spreading my arms open, fingers trembling, heart pounding with the terror of it, the hope of it, and saying, here I am. This is me, nothing more, nothing less. This is all I am, right here and now.