Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Not the exception

While I normally curb my movie habits in a pretty strict manner, I watched "He's just not that into you" with high enjoyment and finished it feeling that its message of "you are not the exception, but the rule" was one most women needed to hear. In typical fashion, I have decided that this message is important to all Christians as it relates to living a life of holiness (being good).

Many times, if I monologue for long periods at all to your patient ears, I will mention my visit to the holocaust museum in Israel. This is because it changed my life in a fundamental way. This visit comes into play here because it caused me to have a problem with theodicy (God and evil). I never used to struggle with this issue though I know many people find it an impenetrable barrier to belief. I struggle now, not in believing God or Jesus exist, but in accepting the platitudes many Christians offer as a solution.

Many people in Christianity approach the difficult things in life -controlling a temper, or your appetite, or your mouth, or your libido- with a helpless shrug of the theological shoulders, as it were. They know that God is sovereign and can do anything, so if they fail...let's pause for a moment while I pull out the really BIG word...when they sin, they assume that God just didn't do what God could have done. Or that they are not really "saved" or that it is a "Besetting sin."

Now, I am still a theology student, so please do not use this post to lamblast your pastor about how wrong he (or she) is, or to prove to yourself, or someone else, that sin doesn't really exist, or that forgiveness isn't real or important. This is simply a snapshot of where I am in the process of theology right now.

Perhaps a better way to look at this "God is sovereign so why do I still sin" issue is that we are the rule not the exception. God works miracles. I know because I've experienced one myself. For the most part though, living a holy life consists of lots of little steps. Learning to pray, learning to trust God, wanting to do good, seeking forgiveness and offering it. Living life and loving.

I love that my pastor more or less said this on Sunday. Sometimes our big issues are immediately cured, and that's called a miracle. Most of us, on many issues are the rule. We work, live, love, and pray. And we watch and see God's hand at work in being able to substitute that bad word for a benign one. In not losing your temper at the 20 millionth whine from a preschooler, or in canceling home internet because pornography has become an addiction.

This is our hope that things can change. Our hope that "The Word (meaning Jesus from the gospel of John), through whom all things were made is now the Word through whom all things are remade. So far from being a sign of what God could do if he chose but normally doesn't, Jesus's resurrection is to be seen as the beginning of the new world, the first day of the new week, the unveiling of the prototype of what God is now going to accomplish in the rest of the world." N.T. Wright Surprised by Hope 238.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What are you doing?

First, I am reading two things right now, one is a book a friend wrote that explores some of the themes that contribute to tragedies like the Rwandan genocide. The other is N.T. Wright's book on the Resurrection.
Also, I have 7 more months until I turn 30. I’m not concerned, in fact I am finding clarity and strength of resolve as an adult in ways that I have never had before. This also means that I am shifting developmental phases as an adult. One of the notable differences in this phase is that I am more in tune with what is going on in the world, that it should not be happening and that I am both equipped and powerless to deal with these issues.
Now that you are up to speed on my life, this will make a little more sense.
I recently explored adoption a little more in depth. When we adopt, we will go through the state. This may be problematic with all our moving and stuff, but eventually I hope to expand our family this way. One of the things that the state of Florida does is put together a photo gallery of adoptable children. I checked out the sibling sets, many of which feature teenager siblings. One set caught my imagination and I have been thinking and praying about them since. Are we going to pursue these two young men? No because we haven’t even started any paperwork much less are we prepared to suddenly parent teenagers when we want another biological baby. I honestly believe that my prayers for them will be answered in regards to their future so all is not lost.
But it did make me think. Both books, my awareness of sociopolitical issues, and this recent exploration have made me think. Where have all the idealists gone? I was one of them, and am more tempered now. Perhaps I should say I was an idealist wannabe. Having met some true idealists I must decline being part of their ranks. I do not have that much passion for an issue.
Here is what I realized – they get lulled to sleep. Somewhere in trying to accomplish goals that will change the world things happen. They fall in love, have kids, get pulled into ladder climbing, and cling to a dead end job because they have to support the family. These things are not bad in and of themselves, but adding in all the electronic entertainment, relative wealth of America, and glorification of sex, people get lulled to sleep. Their ideals suddenly cost too much. Helping the poor means giving up Sunday football (they do have games then, right?) because that is when the soup kitchen needs help. Because we are unfulfilled, we get lazy, and won’t give up that which we claim helps us “relax” and “restore.” Meanwhile we miss the blessings and challenges that following our ideals will provide.
Let me give a concrete example. One thing I realized reading about those teenage boys is that it would really stretch us in many ways, but all things being equal, we could adopt them. I know some of you parents are clutching your chests feeling those palpitations and thinking, “they might molest your daughter.” Yes, this would be a risk, but one that could be addressed and would be a concern in evaluating whether they would fit in our family.
But lets explore the underlying thought of that statement – it says that you think every teenage boy that is not raised from birth in my house is likely to molest my daughter if given the chance. Do you really think that teenagers are just waiting for an opportunity to get alone with a child? I do not. Let me rephrase, I will not let every potential risk hinder me from doing what God calls me to do in loving my neighbor.
I will not be afraid because Jesus Christ is raised from the dead. God’s kingdom is here and I am a part of bringing it on earth. Please don’t question me on this just read Wright’s book because he is much better at explaining all the intricacies.
I will not sit down and watch things deteriorate because I cannot change everything (like the TSA). I will work in the world that I have. I can plant flowers to encourage biodiversity and helps the birds and the bees. I can forego a latte so that I can have $3 extra for the poor. I will stretch and grow some day because I know there is a child(ren) for us to adopt.
I will leave you with one question; it is from VeggieTales the Story of St. Nicholas. At one point Nicholas asks a nun, “What are you doing?” To which she replies, “I’m feeding the poor, what are you doing?”
This new year, what are you doing about all those ideals you used to have?