Archives For faith

Everything takes practice, right?

It takes practice to learn how to ride a bike. We have to practice to learn how to play a musical instrument or a backyard sport. We had to practice in order to be able to recite our math facts, or eat an ice cream cone without wearing it.

Practically everything in life, we struggle and wrestle with because we are not born with a natural talent for it.

For some reason, though, faith has escaped that fundamental idea, that it takes practice. 

I think we assume that a bolt of spiritual lightning hits our brains and we then have faith. We believe. And we can be tested to see if we are true believers.

Maybe that was true when we were children. We believed what the adults told us.We believed in Santa and the Tooth Fairy. Maybe most awesomely, we believed in ourselves. We believed that we were awesome at everything. There are no three year olds who have body image issues (compared to something like 90% of grown women). There are no three year olds who do not believe that they can “do it themselves.”

But the older we got, the harder everything else became. It was not enough to clumsily throw objects across the room. We had to sharpen and hone our bodies in order to throw accurately. And we could no longer take everything the adults said at face value. We had to learn how to discern important things…like sarcasm. And maybe the hardest of all, we were confronted by this contradiction that God seems to love us, but on the other hand we know what we are. It became harder and harder for us to believe in ourselves, believe we are lovable, acceptable or worthy. Belief in ourselves is like some reflex that we are born with, but lose as we grow up.

One of my favorite departed Christians, Madeline L’Engle wrote in A Wrinkle In Time that believing was like anything else. It takes practice. And I wonder how many times in my life I have avoided stretching and straining my “belief” muscles, either by exercising my cynicism, or just by taking things at face value and forgetting them.

believing

This week, I think I’m gonna stretch my belief muscles. I’m going to try to believe that I’m good enough. I’m gonna try to believe that God has made me good enough. I’m gonna try to believe that God finds me worthy.

Because if I can’t practice believing those things, then the rest is all up for grabs.

You know, we have a weird relationship with doubt. 

We talk a big game. We like to say that we are very accepting and open-minded toward others. But when it comes to talking about the things that are really important to us, we suddenly change our tune.

Look at how we talk about politics or faith for that matter. We are obsessed with figuring out who is in and who is out. As soon as we band together as believers, we feel the need for a new litmus test, a more stringent set of beliefs to determine who are the true believers and who are the imposters, the fakes, the frauds and saboteurs. When someone around us doubts, it feels like an attack. It makes us afraid, fearful that we might have to start doubting something that we have taken for granted. Maybe we become fearful that we have been duped. The result is that we are more polarized, divided and suspicious of one another than ever.

The truth is that doubt, the most important kinds of doubts about God, about life, about everything around us, are usually not at their heart an intellectual exercise.

Doubt is born of disappointment. 

We believed that life was this way, that God was that way, and then it turns out to not be true. We grieve the loss of this cherished belief. That is why doubt is traumatic and troubling. Our doubts about God do not usually come out of the clear blue sky. They come from some deep hurt that we are grieving. Often, people who are in doubt about their faith are not in attack mode. They are often in survival mode or defense mode.

I found a verse this weekend that I do not think I have ever paid any attention to. I wonder what would happen if we tried to live it this week.

doubt

Some of the biggest seasons of doubt I ever experienced were the product of great loss and disappointment. What about you?

What if your church was infested?

After they burned Heretic Steve, the congregation enjoyed their monthly potluck dinner in peace.

After they burned Heretic Steve, the congregation enjoyed their monthly potluck dinner in peace.

Not infested with roaches or termites. What if your church was infested with heretics?

What if there were people who were actually inside your church, people who sat in church every Sunday, who pretended to be like you and me, but they were anything but? What if they were imposters who did not catch the “vision” of your church? What if someone was not so sure about some of the basic faith tenants that your pastor teaches?

Would you round them up?

Would you interrogate them?

Would you “bug bomb” your church to get rid of the heretics once and for all and keep the church pure and clean?

Well here’s the thing, people. Our churches are infested. And it’s up to us to decide what we are going to do about it.

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What is the point of being a Christian anyway?

Is this a picture of heaven, or a timeshare? Because the sales pitch is usually about the same.

Is this a picture of heaven, or a timeshare? Because the sales pitch is usually about the same.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately because it seems like we need a sales pitch to get people in the door. What will I get if I agree to this thing called Christianity?

Will Jesus make my life better?

Will I be a better person?

Will I get to go to heaven?

There are a myriad of promises that were made to us when we first accepted Jesus as our “personal” savior, a bunch of guarantees that we could be certain of. I don’t usually do this, but I love Micah Murray’s blog so much, if you haven’t read his Four Reasons I’m Not Going to Heavenyou should (right after you’re done here.) He’s done a great job and I’m not going to retread his points.

There are a lot of bait-and-switch jobs we do to get people to accept Jesus. They are the little Easter Eggs that we scatter around in the hopes of making Jesus more appealing. But I’ve got to think that the greatest trick that we have perpetrated, the biggest bait-and-switch of all time has got to be the certainty that if you accept Jesus, you get to go to heaven when you die.

Here’s what I mean.

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We Americans enjoy celebrating a lot of stuff.

There are literally millions of images like this on a Google search.

There are literally millions of images like this on a Google search.

Those of us who consider ourselves Christians like to talk about and celebrate God. That goes without saying.

We like to celebrate family too.

Some of us like to celebrate freedom.

Or even America itself. Many of us will celebrate America in just a couple of weeks…on Flag Day, the most important and widely celebrated holiday of national patriotism. Well, maybe not. Most of us will celebrate a lot of “American” stuff a couple of weeks after that. I don’t really know what Flag Day is for.

Here’s what’s happening though, and it might be something to think about the next time we come to a holiday or other celebration.

People can celebrate anything they want. Americans celebrate a lot of diverse values. But those of us who celebrate God, had better be extra careful.

Because God is sharing space with a lot of other things that seem to get equal billing.

Here’s what I mean.

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I always bristled at the phrase “God will never give you more than you can handle.”

Because, you know, it’s a fake Bible verse.

It’s not in the Bible. But people repeat it like it is in the Bible.

And it’s kind of ludicrous. You mean God will never give me more tragedy than I can handle? God will never let my heart be broken more times than I can handle? So God took everything away from Job because He knew Job could handle it?

It tends to make people ignore all the times in the Bible where God does give people more than they can handle, if only so people will learn to stop being self-sufficient and rely on Him.

But then I started thinking…

What if it was true?

What if we were just thinking about it all wrong and God actually does give us way more than we can handle, all the time?

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