Apologetics, and making disciples.

A reply to a comment that I made several years ago on UnkleE’s blog popped up in my email the other day, concerning a debate about the existence of God and the argument that rejecting god is an act of faith in itself. I wrote;

“… I was always exaspected (sic) by the argument that the position I was taking was one of faith or belief in itself. Someone had invented an imaginary idea and I thought that they were delusional. If I came to visit you in Sydney and said ‘look, I’ve brought my gold and sparky unicorn with me, here she is’, You would say ‘Eva, there is no unicorn there but would you like a coffee and a scone?’ And we would have a nice afternoon. Your denial of my pet would not constitute a whole belief system on your part- it would just be a simple ‘no it’s not’.

Now I felt this before I officially identified as a Christian, and I still firmly believe it. I don’t think that not believing in God is a belief system. Not believing in something is just that… the absence of something.

But I guess this essentially sums up my feeling for most apologetics arguments. I just don’t find them very persuasive. Has anyone ever been argued into faith? Maybe this suits some personality types. Not me though. For me faith was and is a matter of personal experience. It’s not about logic, or reason, it’s a heart movement; both unpredictable and god-led.

So, where does this leave me in regards to the Great Commission? Making disciples of all nations?

Well, it leaves me in a pretty ordinary position, really, if it actually means arguing with people until they see your point of view. Because that always works so well, doesn’t it? People love being told that you don’t agree with them, and that you should take on their world view.

Maybe though it’s not about debate and countering arguments. Maybe it’s about putting our faith into action. How we live rather than what we say.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.

And I think that one of the best places to practice loving your neighbor as yourself is in a high school. My GOD teenagers test you. And now, just to add some interest to my year, we have…holocaust deniers.

I actually can’t think of another world view that I find more reprehensible that holocaust denial. As my readers would know, I’m particularly passionate about teaching teenagers about the holocaust. I avoided the topic for years myself, refusing to even read the details about what happened, in an effort to shield my own heart. But eventually I realised that I needed to fully interact with the stories and the evidence of the holocaust in order to be able to teach it in a way that comes even close to doing it justice.

So I got into the topic deeply. Too deeply, I guess. It’s often one of the things that keeps me awake at night. And I feel the pressure of really, really making 15-16 year old understand it; how poisonous the beliefs were behind it, how eagerly a people took on its tenants and how utterly and totally the world must be alert to the mindsets that caused it to grow in the first place.

And I always teach holocaust denial as part of the unit, because those people are so fucking clever, with their seemingly rational arguments and their flash websites. I can see why a kid with a chip on his shoulder and an internet connection could believe all the toxicity.

This year, for the first time, I teach students who profess to be holocaust deniers.

And I have to love them. Because they are confused kids who need someone to hate because their lives aren’t that great. And after one told me that the Jews have exaggerated it all to get attention, was I temped to tell him that his name is pretty much as Jewish as you can get? Yes I was but I didn’t. And when the 16 year old who is taller than me and often under the influence of drugs yelled out in my class while I was teaching that 6 million Jews didn’t die, that it was a holohoax and that he was a fascist, I treated him calmly and with respect because first. that is my job and secondly, if I had made fun of him or sent him out of the class then what would he have remembered? And what would the class have remembered?

(What I actually did was offer him the floor to state his arguments. As I said, I teach the deniers arguments anyway so I asked him  if he would like to present them rather than me. He declined, but the offer was genuine. I would have rebutted them thoroughly mind you)

Last week one of my students sat down to have a chat with me. There are a lot of kids with a lot of different issues at my school, and it’s not uncommon to make someone breakfast because they have slept in their car, or that someone will come to school stoned after pulling 6 cones to start the day. And if that’s what your life is like? Well you’re not going to arrive at 9 am with a sharpened pencil and a mind ready to study the Schlieffen Plan. So sometimes a chat to start the day is the way to go. And this was one of those occasions.

Anyway, we were talking and he asked me what else I would do if I wasn’t a teacher. I said that I’d probably like to be a chaplain. And of course we ended up on the familiar ‘you don’t seem like a Christian’ page, so I gave a little 30 second version of things. And he asked about a street preacher that spouts fire and brimstone in town, and whether I thought he (the student) was going to hell , and what did I think about and drugs and gays and all that complex stuff and why did I believe?? And I told him that I don’t have any choice but to believe, because that is how my heart is calibrated now. And it makes me happy. And it’s just all about loving people.

Later on, he came back in and asked if he could write down a song that he wanted me to listen to, because it was about what we had been discussing, and he thought about it a lot. And then he asked if he could google it for me. And then it turned into him wanting to listen to it with me. He really wanted me to hear it. And I’m so glad that I did.

(Language warning. Seriously)

 

Read the lyrics here.

So I sat there, with a young man who uses too many drugs, who is trying to make sense of the world. And there’s me who is also just trying to make sense of the world and not always doing a great job, watching this amazing song that brought tears to my eyes because this hip-hop artist is rapping a lament that could be a psalm, and is about hope and disappointment and pleading for some certainty or just something to hang on to. And haven’t we all been there, crying out for help or just something to save us from a hopeless choice or the idea that we are going to end up abandoning not just God but life itself as well.

After we had watched it, he turned to me and asked ‘I know what he is talking about. I want to believe in god but I just don’t know and I don’t see any proof but I think that there is something.  I bet you feel like that sometimes too?’ and I replied ‘Absolutely. The Bible is full of questions and searching. I think God would totally be on board with that song’.

As he left the classroom, he said ‘Don’t worry too much about (his close friend who is one of the deniers). I don’t think he really understands what he’s talking about and how bad it is. I think he just wants to shock people. He likes you though’.

So, me and making disciples? Not so much. Making people feel that they are important and valuable people and that they are listened to? Trying to emulate a loving God who manifests unconditional acceptance and will show up day after day no matter how unlikable we are? Trying to take a grain of that, and make it happen in my own life?

That I can try to do. I can’t make disciples in the sense of using apologetics as a tool for winning a debate. But I can try to love people that my ego doesn’t always want to love and I can just keep coming back, realizing that I may not always know what’s going on, but sometimes my actions may be just a little stitch in a big tapestry that one day, I might be able to understand.

What we mean when we think about God

As far as I understand it, the idea of God being an old man with a beard who smites people either because of his own capriciousness or at the request of others, is held by two belief extremes; the atheists who think that all Christian see the Bible as being literally true, and the fundamentalists who actually do see the Bible as being literally true (please see note below). Both of these conceptions are damagingly limited. I know that when I was an atheist, I certainly assumed that any belief in God involved a ‘him’ to start with, with human characteristics. Because of course we would have to label something as transcendent and ephemeral as the life force of the Universe in those terms. We humans are not very good at getting our head around things unless we can label them and put them in a box, are we?

I think that how we each define God probably says a lot about how we see our faith, too. My own view of God has changed hugely over the last decade or so. And now I’m probably most comfortable than I’ve ever been with my conception of God; that of, ‘I don’t really know exactly…’.

There’s a quote which I can’t remember exactly (please let me know if you do) which says something along the line of the people of the old days were smart enough to understand that the Old Testament was allegory and myth and story, but today we seem to have gone backwards and we have groups who believe that it is literally true. Sounds like is could be Spong. Or Rohr. But it’s not how the OT was intended to be read.

I think the reality of God, the he/she/it is too tricky for us to get our head around, so we have to tell stories and invent out own parameters to understand it truly. So using a female pronoun is just as valid as a male pronoun, because it’s all a construction anyway. ‘A force that emits love’ probably isn’t catchy enough to get converts. My favourite phrase is Ruach Elohim which is more the spirit, or the breath, of God. I think it’s beautiful.

But there are probably as many conceptions of the universal life force that is ‘God’ as there are minds on the planet.

What do you think of when you think about God?

Note; In the comment section, Ruth asked an important clarifying question that brought to light a problem with how that sentence could be interpreted. My usage of the word THE (the atheists, the fundamentalists) was meant to imply that not ALL people within those groups think that way. If I’d meant ‘all’, I would have said ‘atheists’ without the qualifying ‘the’. But I can completely see how it could be read in the other way, and thank Ruth for bringing it to my attention.

Rohr and an online test. What’s not to love?

Recently, Richard Rohr’s daily email series has been about Enneagrams. Now I’d always been under the impression  that they were some Scientology type science fiction thing, and had ignored them completely, but discovering that Richard Rohr was a proponent made me think that there might be something more to them than I’d realised. Because as we know I’m a crazy Rohr fangirl and he could sell me Amway. Or Kale. Or Homeopathic remedies…

So, knowing how much I love a good online quiz, I headed over over to Enneagram Test and discovered that I’m a type 9 and OH MY GOD I AM SO MUCH A NINE!!

I’ve been waiting all week with baited breath for this email to come, seriously. I didn’t want to read other peoples take on type 9, I wanted to read his take.

Now I’ll just say that while the Forer Effect is true in some cases, my intensive case study (of me reading all the other types describes in this week’s emails and comparing them to myself) has led me to believe that this is pretty spot on.

I’ll cut and paste, just in case anyone else is a 9 and wants to read up. And be my New Best Friend, clearly.

Let me know what number you get!

And I’ve found this book which obviously I will now buy, even though I pledged to buy no books this year. Although kindle is okay (by my own totally arbitrary rules) so I’ll see if I can find a copy on Amazon.

NINEs once knew that reality was all about love, all connected, operative, and effective. They knew a kind of optimism and motivation that all could be worked out and fixed because God is Love. Love changes everything; love resolves everything. Russ Hudson emphasizes that the core of the NINE is about being itself. The primal knowing of the NINE is that “I am. I am a manifestation of God. . . . I feel that divine Presence and how that divine Presence is producing this life. It’s all some unfathomable huge unity right now. . . . I feel so harmoniously related to everything that exists. We’re all manifesting out of this Oneness, this divine Presence. . . . This is what NINEs are here to teach and remind the rest of us.”
(I’m going to say ‘Yes’ for me but I’m sure everyone else would too).
Hudson explains that the NINE’s passion or root sin–sloth–emerges from the loss of this oneness. The NINE feels, “I don’t exist, I don’t matter, I’m nothing, I’m not real. I’m peripheral. I’m disconnected from everything. I’m a little insignificant nothing. (All egos feel that on some level.)”  Sloth in NINEs is really the lack of focused energy. NINEs don’t put out any energy that lets you get a handle on them. It’s the attitude of checking out, because at the center of the gut triad, NINEs feel life is just too much. NINEs seldom take initiative in relationships or in projects. They need a fire lit under them. They need to connect with an institution or structure or have someone like a spouse or a child depending on them. Otherwise they’ll just float and get pulled in all different directions because they don’t know what their priorities really are.
(Absolutely 100% me)
NINEs are naturally humble. They allow themselves to be overlooked. They like to stay in the background and cultivate the self-image of not being anything special. They consider themselves simple and uncomplicated and present themselves accordingly.
(Yep)
NINEs are peacemakers. They avoid conflicts. Their gift of accepting others without prejudice makes people feel understood and accepted. NINEs can be unbiased arbitrators because they can see and appreciate the positive aspects of both sides. Their sense of fairness may make them committed fighters for peace and justice. They express harsh truths so calmly and matter-of-factly that it’s easy for others to hear these truths. In the presence of a NINE many people find it easy to come to rest themselves. NINEs somehow harmonize the energy in a room.
(Not deliberately, but I certainly have come to take on this role as my life has progressed. I’m essentially the arbitrator is most instances and can count on two hands the number of actual arguments I’ve had in my life. Keeping the peace is usually my number one priority)
The life task of NINEs consists in discovering and developing their feelings of self-worth and their own inner focus and drive. They find their way to real love when they have found their way back to their own center. Then the virtue of the NINE emerges which is, surprisingly, decisive action. At first NINEs waiver and hesitate, putting off everything. But when they reach a decision, it happens in a moment of absolute clarity. They know in a flash what’s involved, and they will do it, often quite well–and look anything but lazy or slothful.
(Well that’s something I can work towards…)

The Kindness Conundrum

For me, becoming a Christian has been a lesson in humility. Or 8000 lessons. The continual realignment of my preconceptions, and the breaking down of stereotypes, and the realisation that I hold strongly onto this ridiculous intellectual superiority which has been proven time and time again to be based on nothing but my own ego. (This week’s lesson; I’ve always ignored Eugene Peterson because ‘Ugh, The Message, I don’t need to read that Bible for Dummies version*. And then in the last week I’ve had to read some of his books and they are amazing. Absolutely in sync with where I am right now and totally relevant. Because of course that would be the case).

So, Random Acts of Kindness. A ‘selfless act, performed by a person…to be kind’. There are some pointers here (if you’re a curmudgeonly bastard who can’t think of any nice things to do for others). I’ve tended to think that an act done on purpose, an intentional decision to go out and do nice things for people, is somehow inherently worth less than a natural and intuitive act that just stems from the fact that you are a giving person who spreads kindness because it’s in your heart. As if making the conscious decision to Be A Nice Person today somehow trivializes your actions.

Never mind the fact that massive amounts of evidence point to the fact that, if you want to make changes in  your life, you need to be intentional about them. The more you act intentionally, the more the act will flow naturally until it seamlessly becomes part of the pattern of your life. I know all this. But in my ridiculous brain, acts that were kind and premeditated were somehow less worthy that those that were kind and natural.

Anyhoo, I’ve been the recipient of a few lovely acts recently. Not huge, life changing things, but enough to touch me. Yesterday, for instance, I needed to leave work early to take Jasper to a doctor’s appointment (I haven’t mentioned Jasper recently, but he is confined to a wheelchair now and I’m teaching him at home because his pain levels are too high. He will be having surgery in Melbourne on April 12th).  I needed someone to take a Grade 9 History class, and one of my colleagues volunteered. He and I get on fine; he’s fairly taciturn and I’m going to use ‘curmudgeonly’  twice in one post but we have a good working relationship. (He’s the ‘You really don’t seem like a Christian’ guy and he find my support of the Greens laughable). So, he offered to take my class from 10.15, which I thought was just lovely. I sent out a general email asking all the staff so there was no pressure on him at all, he just wanted to help. And then, at about 10.05, he came down to where I was teaching and told me to head off early, because it was raining and the road conditions were bad. Which I just find amazingly thoughtful. Isn’t that a lovely thing to do for someone?

And I realised that it doesn’t matter if he deliberately thought last week, ‘Eva is having a really tough time right now; I’ll find some way to help her if I can’, or if he just saw my email and though ‘Meh, I’m free when she needs help, why not’. It doesn’t matter if it was intentional or incidental  or if he had any ulterior motives for doing it.The impact that it had on my heart is what is important and I’ve realised that the context within which a kind act occurs means little to me. It’s the act itself that has meaning, and the fact that it’s a little glimmer of kindness that didn’t have to happen, but it did.

Scott Adams said, “Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”  No matter the motivation behind an act of kindness, it creates ripples. And it may not be our destiny to know where they are going to go, or what they become. We can only start those ripples when ever the opportunity arises.

 

 

*Even though we know I do, right?

Plans and such.

(I’m calling it; that is the worst post name I’ve ever come up with. By miles)

This week, I began my second year of studying to become an aged-care chaplain. It will take a while; I can only fit in a certain amount of study between work and the boys, and although I am not type-A in any way shape or form, I am a mature aged student, and you know how we like to do all the reading and ask all the questions and get the best mark that we possibly can.

All of the volunteer work that I’ve done in the last 15 years or so has been in aged-care facilities , so when I decided that I wanted my next career to be ‘something church-y’, it made sense to look towards chaplaincy. Who knows, I may be simply dreadful at it and fail miserably, but I intend to find out either way.

(On the topic of aged-care, my Grandmother turns 95 today. Her father was at the Gallipoli landing and my children get to spend time with her regularly. That’s an amazing connection with history right there)

There’s one unit that I’m studying that I’m really excited about. It’s called ‘Introduction to Formation for Ministry’ and it looks to me like The Perfect Subject. From what I can tell, it’s concerned with how different people have grown in their Christian identity (by studying biographies, etc) and then connecting this to an understanding of how we ourselves can grow in our own faith, life and in serving others. The lecturer specifically said ‘This isn’t going to be about navel-gazing; it’s about growing in Christ’, but I’m pretty certain I can make it all about me without anyone noticing *.

My excitement about this subject contrasts nicely with another one that I enrolled in. On reading that the major assignment would be (to paraphrase) ‘a case study of a specific congregation or organisation, focussing particularly on understandings of leadership, the way the leadership team(s) function, decision-making processes and the model of governance’, and would rely on interviews, discussions and recommendations for change, I withdrew in about 3 seconds flat. I’ll concentrate on my nice little spiritual formation unit for now, thank you very much; one that avoids talking to actual people too much.

Yes, I realise that there might be a slight disconnect between an avoidance of that, and wanting to become a chaplain. But I’m fairly sure that this is something I’m being called to do, so we will see. My sister has asked me if I can sit down with her and answer lots of questions that she has about Christianity and faith in general. She is worried though that she might ask ‘really stupid, or just offensive questions’. I pointed out to her that that was pretty much the position I was ten years ago and I can’t really imagine anything that she could say that would offend me, but hey, she can be quite direct, so who knows?

I’ll report back on how I go. Maybe I’ll be able to get my first WON A SOUL FOR JESUS bumper sticker. It’s on my bucket list, after all.

 

 

 

*I’m joking, seriously.

How to Trivialise Jesus

If you listen to some schools of thought, atonement is pretty much the be all and end all of Christianity.  Take  Christian rock music, for instance. It’s about the blood. Here’s an actual line from a song;

“His blood poured out for us
The weight of every curse upon him”

But as I’ve said before, I can’t see any way that blood atonement makes sense, and unlike several other issues, this conviction is getting stronger and more clearly formulated the more I think about it.

I know that I might seem like someone who just looks for problems and issues to make a fuss about, but believe it or not I would like to just accept modern mainstream protestant doctrine and happily join the club. I’m absolutely not someone who likes to argue for the sake of it; blending in with a group of like minded people is a lovely idea (in fact the closest I’ve every come to this is probably when I was on the committee for the Tasmanian skeptics and we all pretty much thought all of society was delusional. Ah, good times…) But everyone seems to really love substitutional atonement right now, and it wasn’t until I began to become enmeshed in the faith that I  realised that there were any other options.

It all comes back to whether Jesus really meant what he said, and if he did, what this means to our ordinary every day life. If what Jesus said in the Beatitudes is worthwhile and important and something that we should focus on, then there is a problem. So many of the words of Jesus are deeply contradictory to the idea of blood atonement. If God really needed to resort to violence to achieve his aims then what Jesus said about forfeiting violence is nonsensical. If even God can’t cope without resorting to violence, or chooses violence as the best option, then what hope is there for the rest of the world, and how it deals with its problems?

As Richard Rohr writes (always with the Rohr!), blood atonement basically means that Jesus was plan B; and was only necessary when we screwed up.

Come on. Jesus as plan B? I’ve only been a Christian for about 5 minutes but that disturbs me on some level. Seriously, Jesus isn’t plan B.

“Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity. Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God”*

The death of Jesus didn’t change the course of reality, and it wasn’t an ‘ultimate sacrifice’, necessary to gain God’s love. I think that anything that doesn’t directly point to Jesus’ teachings as a fundamental part of his time on earth is misleading; reducing it all down to a tearing of the veil and then a reverberation of guilt and duty that is supposed to stay with us and motivate us. That just trivialises it all.

Substitutional Atonement trivialises Jesus’ life. It sounds counter intuitive, but, to me, it does. It renders his life almost meaningless; he was useful for about three days. Why even bother with all the great speeches and empire-wrecking ideals? He could have done a few miracles the week before Passover and grabbed a donkey and have been done with it. His years long ministry was pointless, if all he was going to be was a blood sacrifice.

From this, though, it doesn’t follow that I have a purely materialistic understanding of the death of Jesus. I don’t believe that he was merely a great teacher. I’m far closer to evangelical when it comes to some things than  you would expect.

If there’s an evangelical left, I’d quite like  although not, of course, the blood bit. And I don’t pray out loud so that would disqualify me, I expect.

(As an aside, I was discussing churches with a friend of mine (who I like to call my ‘spiritual mentor’, although I don’t quite know how he feels about it, but he seems wise and is willing to talk to me so he got the job) , wondering if the church that I had found myself in was ultimately the right one for me. He pointed out that every denomination and every individual church will have different strengths, and given that I had deliberately chosen a church that was strong on social justice and inclusion, then that what was right for me at that time. I hadn’t really thought that different churches cater to different needs, but it does make sense.)

So, anyway, what I’m getting at here is the idea that even though the huge ‘blood of the lamb’ palaver seems very dramatic, it actually cheapens Jesus. It takes away from all the other things that he did, and said, and reduces him to what some call ‘The Ultimate Sacrifice’, but to my mind is ‘Just a Sacrifice’.

I expect others may not agree with this, of course, and there may be a fundamental element that I’m not understanding. That occasionally happens…

 

 

 

*Richard Rohr; “Scripture as Spirituality”

All the opinions, all the time.

People roll their eyes when the ‘Christian voice’ is heard in the media on morality, or family issues, or what ever is dominating the news cycle on that particular day. The media loves to portray certain viewpoints and have no problem making sweeping generalizations; but of course groups like the Australian Christian Lobby don’t do their brothers and sisters any favours by claiming to speak for all of us. But people do love to have their bias confirmed, and I guess that does it for them. Apparently Christians are a homogeneous group and there is little to no dissent about big, or little issues.

Oh please.

There are some things that I think I have a particular perspective on, given my move from atheism to Christianity. I don’t think that this perspective is the be all and end all of course, given that certain other qualifiers have to be attached to anything that I claim to have an insight into (introverted, a bit pessimistic, intuitively cynical, a little mocking on occasion).

But I can say that I have noticed a real difference in the way that people treat me regarding my opinions about things these days. And by ‘things’, I mean the ones that they expect ‘Christians’ to have a particularly strong viewpoint on (abortion, euthanasia, pornography, Llama farming practices). There are a few steps involved here.

They assume that I am going to have an opinion, or take a stand. (This is something you would feel strongly about, surely?)

And then they assume (again) that they know what my opinion about that would be. (You would be against that, right?)

NO I DON’T AND NO, I WOULDN’T.

There are a couple of issues here. Firstly, I don’t feel the need to have an opinion about everything. It’s not that I don’t care about, for example, abortion or euthanasia, but I genuinely don’t have an opinion. I can see that they are nuanced and complex areas and it’s not an area I feel equipped to delve into. Do I have feelings about the issue? Sure. But I have feelings on lots of things that are just ridiculous and emotional and are better off left unexplored (I frequently want to pull my kids out of school and teach them at home, for example. This would be a shockingly bad move for many many reasons).

People find that hard to understand. You don’t have to have a dog in every fight, seriously. You don’t have to have an opinions on every single bloody thing and from what I can tell, others find it especially hard to get their head around this when you’re a Christian.

Sometimes, I just don’t care.

Sometimes, it’s so big and complex and I don’t want the responsibility of making a decisions.

Sometimes, I just don’t feel the need to share my thoughts with others.

I think that it is assumed by many that the Bible is a concise little rule book that has a clear and easily referenced solution to every quandary that will crop up during life.

Well, it doesn’t. Except it does, I suppose. There’s ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself ‘. So we have to love God, and others, deeply and passionately. Does this mean dictating what they can do with their life? Does this mean making decisions on behalf of them? What does Loving Others actually involve?

We need to look at the world through a framework of Jesus’ love. But that can go in many different directions. I personally don’t see how, within that framework, there can be a lot of disagreement on how to treat asylum seekers, but that’s because it’s one issue that I do have all the opinions on. And we are all going to be different in which battle we choose to fight.

But we also need to remember that loving others also means treading carefully with our opinions.

The Story of a Tattoo ( Or How I learned about Agape, and also, ironically, how to tell people to piss off), Part One.

I want to weave a bit of a story today, about unconditional love and self worth and trusting your own path. But also about tattoos and people calling me a skanky whore and getting the courage to tell people to get stuffed if they treat me badly. So I think that covers all the bases, yes?

There have been a few pivotal things that determined my decision to become a Christian. Some I’ve talked about. Others are a bit too ephemeral and private to share. And some just wouldn’t make sense to other people.

But the Important Moment that I’m referring to today happened in a dream. I know, I know. Ugh. But given that I am 80% sure that I have experienced genuine premonitions in dreams, I chose to trust this experience as legitimate. If you rolled you eyes at the very mention, then you will really really dislike this post. And possibly me, due to the fact that you will find it cringeably awkward . You’ve been warned.

To summarize, I felt the total and complete unconditional love that God has for me.

That old thing, hey?

Trying to capture exactly what it was like is impossible, of course. But I knew that God saw all of me… and loved me despite it. But not even ‘despite it’, because there’s judgement in that, and there was no judgement, there was just utter and complete agape.

So of course I woke up in tears, because how else do you deal with that? It was wonderful and huge and everything but it was also a bit terrible and heartbreaking because there was also the realisation that I had never, and would never feel anything like that on earth.

So, me being me, I couldnt just appreciate something for what it was, I had also to mourn it for what it wasn’t. Luckily this little tantrum on my part was short lived. As I’ve said before, I dream a lot. I’m used to my dreams. This was not a normal dream. Even the dreams that were, in hindsight, premonitions, felt like a normal dream at the time.

But this didn’t. And it wasn’t.

I can still remember the aura of what happened; the memory of it, if you like. But as for recapturing the actual feelings? Nope. I don’t think it’s even possible to do that. All the love that I have to give goes to my children, but even then it is just grey compared to what was lavished on me. Recreating that, or re-remembering it just isn’t possible. Well, not humanly possible.

But I believe that what I felt was real, and also impossible to describe, although I have tried to. And I think that I’ve done such a sub-par job of telling it that I’d really like to just delete it and give up. But I also think that its important to try to describe indescribable things.

Because sometimes words are all we have, even if inadequate, and we are a race of story tellers, after all. So we just have to do our best.

Next up; I decide to create a visible symbol of God’s promise to me, and get called a skanky whore in the process. I’m almost completely sure that I’ll be able to make a lovely deep connection between agape, my friends comments and my not-perfect-but-understandable-given-the-circumstances behavior. If not, then I will have just needlessly talked about myself for two blog posts. Fingers crossed, hey.

 

 

The Unprotected Life.

I’ve had a week of being scared. And of trying to convince people that I’m not scared. My son, Jasper, who was born with club feet and has had multiple surgeries, seems to be getting worse. In that he is in a lot of pain and has trouble walking. So we are taking him to see his specialist in Melbourne next week to see what’s going on. And when I googled his condition and deterioration and further treatments, I discovered that sometimes it ends in double amputation.

And then yesterday he had some strange, enormous pains, and fainted twice in ten minutes, so we ended up in the emergency department. And the doctor told me that they needed to x-ray his chest to make sure that it was nothing ‘sinister’, as they had no idea what was going on. So I, who does tend to catastrophise, admittedly, spent an hour thinking that he had some kind of bone cancer. He doesn’t, it’s probably some weird muscle spasm but they’re not really sure. He also just seems to be someone who faints. In fact, that’s why he is now deaf. He was knocked unconscious 3 years ago and sustained damage that has caused moderate, but permanent, deafness.

But I don’t feel like I can take these fears and worries to people because then I’ll have to deal with their feelings and concerns. Why is it that when we need to share with people, we end up having to look after them? Or is that just me? It’s easier not to tell people things when you know that they’re going to fall apart in front of you, and then you have to be coping for an extra person, as well as for yourself and your children… Being guarded means you don’t have to hold your own feelings up for examination by other people.

I haven’t been reading during the last week; watching The Office all night is just easier. But I picked up a novel this afternoon that I bought some time ago called Chasing Francis; A Pilgrim’s Tale, and started to skim. I’ll go back and concentrate and underline and take notes when my mind is more settled. But it talks about how we need to tell our stories, with all their ‘shadows and fog, so people can understand their own…trying to figure out how to follow the Lord Jesus in the joy and wreckage of life’.

It talks about living a life (Franciscanism specifically, but lets expand it, hey?) thats ‘dangerously open, revealing all that we genuinely are, and receiving all the pain and sorrow the world will give back in return’.

Aquinas described two kinds of souls- the magna animi and the pusilla animi. The first is open, allowing space for the world to enter and find Jesus. The latter is the defended heart. Guarded, suspicious and closed, viewing everything as a potential threat and an enemy waiting to attack.

Maybe sharing our brokenness and our fears with people is the only way that we can authentically connect. In our world of #soblessed status updates, have we have lost the real connection of exposing our souls to others for fear of judgement, or for fear of being known too much.

I’m almost 100% convinced that my catch phrase of ‘everything’s fine, thanks’, is not going to be altered by these musings, but it’s something to think about…

 

Song Crosses Boundaries.

I’ve been wanting to share this clip for ages but I couldn’t manage to embed it here until now (because I’m essentially a Luddite with a wifi connection). I find it really hard to watch and quite confronting but it’s absolutely worth it.
God’s Love: Naomi Feil, a Jewish woman, sings Christian hymns for Gladys, who has Alzheimer’s and was unable to speak

The site that it’s taken from is http://www.memorybridge.org/index.php