It is not that bad…it is worse


 

Spiritually I am in the pits.  Actually it is the sub-pits.  I have to look up to see the pits.  For reasons that are pretty clear to me that I do not want to get into now, my theological tower collapsed.  Belief is very much like the game of Jenga.  You can toss out bits here there and not much changes.  But eventually you pull the wrong piece, a seemingly insignificant piece, and the whole structure collapses.

 

This would not be such a problem if my whole life did not revolve around the faith community.  But it does.  And while mainline Christianity leaves me cold, I still have hope that there is something out there that is bigger than me (I am not talking about my waistline). 

 

So that is where I find myself, adrift. 

 

Then a week or so ago, a friend mentions the book of Ecclesiastes in his blog.  It reminded me of a time right after college when I belonged to a bible study that focused on Ecclesiastes.  It was the best study I have ever belonged to.  You cannot study Ecclesiastes without confronting all of your doubts and fears about faith.  And when you share those doubts in a safe environment with others, something powerful happens.  Faith, or lack there of, shared under such conditions ends up being more than the sum of its parts.

 

Unfortunately, creating such an environment is a rare event.  All it takes is one “fundie” to start spouting off platitudes to derail the whole group.  I have not experienced such transparency since those early days after college.

 

But for reasons which I cannot fully explain, Monday I picked up my copy of The Message (the message is a paraphrase of the Bible).  I was curious how it handled Ecclesiastes. 

 

Wow!

 

I had done spot readings in The Message before, mostly in the Gospels.  And while the language was easier to read, it did not add that much.  But Ecclesiastes was nothing short of poetic.  The writer/translator did a bang-up job.  To steal a phrase from John Wesley, “my heart was strangely warmed.”  I am not saying my entire outlook has changed, but I have felt spiritually dead for more than a year now.  This was the first time that that part of my personality was tapped.

 

Ecclesiastes reminds me that this is far from a perfect world.  It reminds me that I am not alone in this assessment.  It recognizes that faith does not neatly wrap up all of life’s problems and questions. 

 

It sounds so simple.  Yet in my mind there is nothing more profound.  Too often I find myself feeling inadequate around other Christians because they project this shinny happy facade that has no basis in reality.  In their world, every shred of doctrine makes perfect sense and theyare clearly carrying out God’s will.  Sharing any doubt can leave you feeling ostracized. 

 

So The Message gave me a glimmer of hope.  Not much…but a little.

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4 comments on “It is not that bad…it is worse

  1. Hey! Something you might want to take a look in to is the Eastern Orthodox Church. In the year 1054 the Great Schism took place, and the (soon to be known as) Catholic Church split away from the once united Church, breaking it up into Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism (and about 500 years later Protestantism broke away from Catholicism). I used to be in the same boat as you, finding it hard to sustain my faith.. until I started going to an Orthodox church. From the moment I stepped in I could tell that this was a church that actually -worshipped- God. It’s not a church which preaches a ‘social’ gospel like so many Protestant churches, and it doesn’t focus an anything except for God. Read up on it, but even better, go visit one if you’ve got one near you. I just might be what you’re looking for!

  2. Oh, left out what I started out meaning to talk about! *laugh* It’s also not a church which tries to pretend its perfect. To be a Christian, and especially an Orthodox Christian, is to recognize that we are sinners. We don’t go to church and call ourselves Christians because we’re perfect, we follow the letter of God exactly, etc. etc. Rather, we call ourselves Christian because we recognize our sinful state, and only through this recognize can we strive to fulfill the commands of God. We’ll never be able to exactly, not in this life, and there’s nothing wrong with that. THat’s part of our fallen nature. The whole ‘point’ of Orthodoxy (if it can be said to have a point) is to live our lives in a such a way that we align our will with the will of God. It’s a process called theosis. By reject the passions of the body (physical lust, pride, greed, etc) we can gain a sense of control over ourselves and begin to work on being more like Christ Jesus, and thus like God Himself. Please, do some research into Orthodox theology and tell me if you don’t feel like western Christianity is missing something!

  3. Ok, I had tears running down my face when I finished reading this.

    Thank you for ruining my just applied make-up.

    I love you, Ben Roberts.

    Your theological sister,
    Debbie

  4. dude, so glad that Ecclesiasties has given you some cool perspective. It’s crazy how just a different version of the Bible makes things jump out at you.

    it’s hard to have faith when life sucks. but lament is a real part of following God… cry out. there’s Someone listening….

    ps. When I was at the height (read: 9th level of hell) of my depression, a friend suggested A Sacred Sorrow by Michael Card… it’s brilliant and made me cry. I could wallow and have hope all at the same time. great stuff….

    peace.

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