So I am exploring a new path of faith. I still consider myself a Christian, but my understanding and practice of faith is changing. If I had to describe my approach to faith prior to my crisis, I would use the title of an old Depeche Mode song, Personal Jesus. My prayers were conversational and verbose. I would blather on about my day and my struggles like I was talking to my mother on the phone. I would also make numerous requests to Santa-God for blessings and healing.
That way of relating to God just did not work too well for me. When you treat the creator of the universe like your buddy, you expect, said deity, to respond in a similar manner. Except in my experience, he never spoke back. So I would try and determine the will of God by how I felt. Could there be a more subjective and potentially dangerous approach to faith?
The fact is I had no way of discerning whether or not I was hearing from God or listening to my own internal dialogue. I think that is dangerous. If you think that you are hearing from God and you are not, the consequences can be devastating (a la called into the ministry). So I am officially giving up on trying to hear the voice of God. I am sure there are individuals who can correctly sense the will of God. I am just not one of them.
My new approach to faith is to just follow the simple commands of love God and love my neighbor. Everything else is fluff and open to interpretation. There is nothing easy about simplicity.
What does it mean to love God? Love is a loaded word, especially in English. It implies personal relationship. But given that I suck at discernment, I am choosing not to focus on my own personal Jesus. Instead, I am trying to focus on reverence and mindfulness.
My definition of reverence is having a health sense of humility. Whatever God is, “he” is far more powerful and complex than I can ever hope to understand. God is not my buddy. We have very divergent perspectives and I could never accurately guess what God thinks. I do not have all the answers and my religion does not have a monopoly on religious expression. God is not my big brother. God is not looking out for my best interests as an individual. God is God and I am not.
Mindfulness is maintaining awareness that I am not pivot point for the universe. This is where loving my neighbor comes in. I am not an island. My actions have consequences. What I do matters because it has an impact on the lives of others. To borrow from another religious tradition, I need to minimize the suffering I cause and relieve suffering where I can. This is a huge struggle for me. Being “other” focused does not come naturally to me. I am by nature very insular. I do not seek out opportunities to ease the suffering of others. I am a huge consumer gobbling up massive resources when compared to the rest of the world. That is something I hope to change.
(Sidebar: I just got back from church. The message was that I am not in control. I agree.)
It was my intent to end this entry by speaking about my new approach to worship. But my word processor says I am already at 562 words. So tata for now.