Wow.

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Wow.  What a day!

I got a call that Steve was in a pursuit, and it freaked me out a little.  He’s fine, the bad guy is in custody, and nobody got hurt, but it’s always a little surreal to hear about these things, and know that your husband was involved.

Anyway. 

I’ve been a part of an interesting conversation today, but I must admit, it leaves me bemused and a little sad.  I can definitely understand being confused about God and the Bible and how they relate to me.  I’ve been there.  I’ve even written about it [the major entries about my struggle with my faith start about June 17, 2007].

I’ve spent quite a bit of time being frustrated with God, angry with God, even hating God part of the time.  And the anger just seemed to lead me in never ending circles.  I wanted to understand, but I couldn’t make it make sense, so I’d get angry and try something else [a different religious philosophy or school of thought within Christianity], hoping maybe that would make more sense than the other did. 

And the whole time, I was trying to make something make sense that simply can’t be put into human terms.  There’s just too much, and a lot of it is understood at a level where there aren’t even any words, let alone a way to put those feelings into them.

So that last day, the day where I came to the crossroads between putting away faith forever and denying what my heart told me was true, or coming back to Jesus, even though I was never going to be able to learn it all, or understand it all, there was only one choice for me to make.

See, I’ve experienced something that I can only describe as a relationship with my creator.  I’ve felt his love, and known his presence, and I can’t leave that behind.  It’s too precious to me.  When I looked at what my life would be like without my faith, without that relationship with God, it scared the living shit out of me.  There was a bleakness and despair so much deeper than any depression I’ve ever struggled with, it was indescribable.

Maybe it isn’t the same for people who have never experienced a relationship with God.  Maybe for them it’s no big deal to look at Christianity from the outside, see that there are some serious problems with some of the people who follow this religion, and draw the conclusion that because some of our people are bad, our God is bad. 

Maybe it’s easy to look at some of the hard stories in the Bible, and instead of seriously studying and trying to figure out what it means, deciding that it’s all just stupid, wrong, and evil, and screaming that opinion from the rooftops.

From the outside, without sincerely asking God to help you understand what He’s all about, it’s impossible for anyone to get it.  

This is true for Christians, too. A lot of us see a piece of Him and think we’ve got it all sewn up, so we don’t have to study anymore, or keep asking him to reveal himself to us.  That’s a mistake, and many sincere Christians have gone to ruin because they thought they’d ‘arrived’ and were no longer able to sin. 

Some people watch Christians, and when they fall short or act selfishly, they crow and scream, “SEE!  I knew it was all a fake!”

But how can you seriously judge an entire group of people based on one member [or a small faction] of that group? 

And if we were seriously talking about a real and living God [and not just agreeing for the sake of argument] a God who created the universe, how can you seriously tell that creator that he’s been unfair to his creation?

Where did you get your yardstick to measure him by? 

If God created the world and everything in it, then he also created our brains.  We can’t have a thought without him first giving us the capacity to think, so who am I to judge God?

We’ve been talking about Christianity as though it’s one of many possible religions, and I’m guessing that the atheist position is that it’s one of many fictional ways for man to explain his existence and what happens after death.

If that is true, then Christianity is no more impressive or logical than any other religion on the planet, and we’re just talking about smoke and imagination, rendering this conversation moot and retarded.  But what if there is something to this religion?  What if this God is real

Sure, some Christians are batty and operate on hatred of everything non-christian, but then, a lot of the atheists I’ve seen online are just as militant and angry as the Muslims who are fighting jihad right now, or the people in Topeka who spew hatred in the name of Jesus, or any number of other members of militant fundamentalist groups who have completely lost their minds and hearts to rage.

Maybe it’s a battle of words instead of actual killing with guns and bombs, but it’s the exact same hatred that fuels both battles. 

I don’t hate anyone who doesn’t believe in Christianity.  I don’t hate anyone, period.  I get irritated and I shoot off at the mouth sometimes, but my intent is never to try to prove my superiority, or degrade anyone just because they don’t believe what I do.

I don’t have all the answers and I never claimed that I did.  My study of the Exodus has revealed to me a God who, in spite of what some people think, showed mercy, even to the Egyptians.  He could have killed them all, but he didn’t.  He could have given them one warning, or no warnings and taken the firstborn the first night, but he didn’t, he gave them ten, and over a period of several weeks [maybe months].

There are other places in the Bible [Jonah and the story of Ninevah is one example] where God told the people what would happen to them if they didn’t stop hurting each other, and the people listened and repented and were spared. He could have smote [smited?] them and started over, but he didn’t.  Why? 

So seriously, I can see how you could take the passover out of context and see a cruel hearted massacre, but when you read the rest of the story, the proof really isn’t there. 

And I get it that nothing I’ve said has swayed any opinions that were set in stone, but then, I wasn’t aiming for the stones anyway.

I was aiming for the people who are open-minded enough to entertain another perspective, try it on, and see if they can see through different eyes, even for a minute or two.

So why does my conversation today make me so sad? Maybe it’s because I know I’ve failed in a way.  It’s not really my responsibility to change anyone’s heart, but I still wish I could say something that would help ease the pain that I know is in there.  Anger generally either comes from hurt or fear, and since I know both of those emotions entirely too well, my heart aches to make it go away in others, too.

I don’t know if I can say this without sounding condescending, but please believe me when I say that’s not my intent.  I really do love the people I’ve been talking to today, including the people who’ve been reading the comments and rooting for the other guy.  I wish you all the best, and I pray that God will show you the incredible love and peace I’ve found in him, and help you to reach out and take it.  Anyone is always welcome here, and welcome to comment [although being mean just to be mean is, well, mean, so don’t be mean, okay?] 

My relationship with God has changed me in ways that I never knew was possible.  Made me a better person, and helped me to love people and forgive things that were done to me that it was beyond my capacity, as even a relatively good human, to do. 

I don’t understand everything about God, and I never will, but my most sincere prayer is that my life will be a reflection of his love.  I’m not too great at that, but that’s my fault, not God’s.  I’m definitely a work in progress, but still, I know that God is with me, he loves me, and he’ll never leave me. 

For today, that’s enough, you know?

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About Shelbi

Work-at-home wife, mom of three kids, and caregiver for my brother, who has Cerebral Palsy. Never a dull moment, in other words. No idea how much I'll post, since I'm super busy these days, but maybe I'll get over here once in a while.

20 responses »

  1. Well said.

    Although I sill consider your faith frightening and irrational, I respect your commitment to it and your very obvious kind heart and curious mind.

    A friend is a good thing. But there’s also something of great value in a decent and honorable enemy.

  2. Whatever works for you, m’dear. And for you, Christianity gives you a sense of meaning, of peace, and (I’m quite sure) it makes you a better person, too.

    If you step away from it all and look at it in the abstract, the truly fascinating thing is that Christianity and faith in God can do all that for you and yet it does nothing for me. Leaves me flat out cold. I’ve been a religion junky since I could count my age on one hand, I’ve watched all the bible epics, and I’ve read the Gospels. I’ve heard Jesus’ story so many times, and I’ve tried to understand it, I really have. I’m good with it right up until he sacrifices himself — and at that moment when many folks (like you) are deriving the most from the story, I’m deriving the least.

    Flat out cold.

    The only thing that ever came close to touching me? Zen Buddhism.

    But I can’t meditate.

  3. I wish I knew why that is, Doug. That’s why I said at your place that I just don’t know if Christianity is for everyone, or if there are other paths, or what.

    I know that some people who don’t believe just don’t see a need, and I can’t explain that either, because the need in me is so strong.

    The crucifixion was horrible, and I don’t read the story every day and think, “Oh wow, Jesus suffocated to death willingly, now I have to go do the same thing.”

    What does it for me, is that the same God who made the rules for humans, and made the penalty of sin death, came to Earth and paid that penalty so that I could be reconciled to him, and have this personal relationship.

    It wasn’t that God the Father said, “Hey, Son, go down there and die for those people, okay?”

    It was that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit looked at his most precious creation [the humans] and knew that it was impossible for us to follow the laws on our own, so we were doomed to eternal death.

    So God willingly decided to become a human for a time, so that he could pay the price for our sins.

    I don’t know WHY God decided that death should be the punishment for sin, and if I’d been God, I probably would have made it less severe, but I’m not God, you know?

    He didn’t HAVE to come to earth and die, and Jesus wasn’t forced to do it against his will, he did it for us.

    It’s just like a fireman who runs into a burning building to save the life of a stranger. It really does confuse me that that leaves you cold.

    I wish I could pick your brain and try to figure it out.

    Anyway, Doug, I thank you sincerely for stopping by and taking the time to comment and read my massive posts!

    I’ll talk to you later!

  4. Shelbi,

    I must say that I am impressed and encouraged by your desire to continue pursuing God and understand His Word and plan for your life. I’ve experienced times of complete confusion as well, but I’ve always experienced peace and reassurance after reading the Bible. I recently found a resource online called
    Bible Study Tools . The reason I like it so much and want to share it with you is because I can read so many commentaries, 29 translations, lexicons, Greek and Hebrew, devotionals and more all for free. I could never afford these books nor would I have the time to search through all of them! I also like that I can highlight text and save notes. The screen is split-panel that lets you compare versions, commentaries, etc. so it’s really easy to use. I hope you get a chance to check it out! It’s been a blessing for me and I want to let others know that they can find tools to understand the Bible without having to go to seminary! ha

  5. Hi Kristie,
    I have a sneaking suspicion this is the Christian version of spam, but I looked at the site and it interests me, so I’m allowing your comment.

    Do I get a kickback if someone clicks on your link here?

  6. Doug, exuse me picking on you, but studied a bit about Buddhism, it’s history, i was for a long time already intrigued and searched for an opportunity to see what impression modern man would have on modern Buddhism. My view is irrevocably biased, because i studied it’s history and also know some less-known facts about it from apologetic literature, so i was hoping to ask somebody, some Buddhist, how he feels about it today. You’re not a Buddhist i presume, but that only increses the probability of a honest answer, and might be (in my biased opinion) not that much different from one who call himself Buddhist, so if you indulge me – what is your peek on Zen Buddhism and why it attracks you?
    Also, do you want my opinion if i would have the priviledge of hearing your answer? I wouldn’t like starting an unwelcomed conversation accidentially.
    Thanks!

  7. Shelbi:

    What does it for me, is that the same God who made the rules for humans, and made the penalty of sin death, came to Earth and paid that penalty so that I could be reconciled to him, and have this personal relationship.

    It wasn’t that God the Father said, “Hey, Son, go down there and die for those people, okay?”

    It was that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit looked at his most precious creation [the humans] and knew that it was impossible for us to follow the laws on our own, so we were doomed to eternal death.

    So God willingly decided to become a human for a time, so that he could pay the price for our sins.

    I’ve heard this many times and many ways, and yet I cannot understand it. It’s all 2 + 2 = 5 to me, it doesn’t add up. In fact, it’s worse than that, because at least with 2 + 2 = 5, there’s a common language with which I can express my disagreement. When I hear that Jesus died for my sins, it’s like hearing someone say 2 + red = grapefruit. I don’t even know where to begin.

    Artem: what appealed to me was the idea of attachment, and that all suffering is due to attachment. The logical corollary to this is that contentment can be achieved by freeing ourselves of attachment. To my mind, this makes exquisite sense. Thus, for me, Zen is a belief system which requires little if any faith (faith only in the idea that enlightenment is a possibility for the average human).

    I never liked the mythological aspects of Buddhism, which is why I preferred the Zen subspecies. Seems to me Zen cut away all the older, Hindu-inspired crap, and preserved the philosophical elements.

    Sadly, I never could “get” meditation, so I couldn’t make much progress on my own, and I’ve never had the time to go to a retreat so that I could get a deeper understanding of Zen that way.

    Feel free to reply. I’ll check back in a day or two.

  8. Doug,
    yeah, what you say about Zen is Buddhism in it’s prime, not the later Mahāyānian layers. Thanks for your insight.
    I haven’t studied modern schools of Buddhism, but what you say seems to be a different take on Zen than what is displayed, for example, by Wikipedia. It is surprising for me that you did go stright away and exposed the original Buddhism teachings. : )

  9. “But I think this book may well start where our argument started– in the neighbourhood of the mad-house. Modern masters of science are much impressed with the need of beginning all inquiry with a fact. The ancient masters of religion were quite equally impressed with that necessity. They began with the fact of sin–a fact as practical as potatoes. Whether or no man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he wanted washing.”
    http://www.leaderu.com/cyber/books/orthodoxy/ch2.html

    Indeed, the Christian worldview is based on the concept of the Fall. The man and the world is not as it ought to be, not as it was designed.

    Buddhism just thinks it imperative for the world to be that way and they try ultimately to undo it (the world is just waves on Great Nothing, and the purpose of a buddhist is to extinguish these waves in himself).

    If we see the Great Nothing of Buddhists as some sort of God, then Buddhism would become very resembling to Christianity in some aspects, it’s just they view that Great Nothing in exactly opposite ways. Buddhist view Great Nothing as exactly that, Nothing, therefore it tries to make everything else – nothing. A Christian view that Great Nothing as something, which beyoung every definition, greater than time and space, therefore he tries not to undo this world, but to fix it. Fixing the world for Christian begins with fixing himself thru theosis. That theosis is a tricky thing, for Christian theology deem totaly insufficient any “Grace” which is of that world, and so theosis comes by means not of this world (thus it’s called theosis), as such, it come not by the efforts of men, but due to free reconcilement of man with God. The paradox of theosis is that Christianity see there a direct connection between human person and that “Great Nothing” we mentioned, the God. That connection occurs not on the lavel of matter or energy, but on the level of a personal relationships. Another paradox here is that we see person as something larger than individual parts it consists of (again, exactly the opposite of buddhism, which considers person a fictional notion, and individuum to be no more than his parts).
    Now, you see, for Christians, the Incarnation of Christ is important, because he connected in himself divine and internal personalyty of that “Great Nothing” (which buddhists, of course, think devoid of any personality) with a human nature (he, being God, became part of his creation – a human). You know, ancient philosophy (Aristotle) had believed only that existing, which was personal (and our world exists, of course, not outside that rule – the person by which it exists is God) – that might explain why when Christ died and restored in resurrection our human nature, being in person God, he also improved it. Now, the miraculous waters of which Chestertone spoke, the waters by which we conquer the sin (the word “sin” is translated as “missing the mark”, “error”) is the water of Christ’s death. You see, in ancient times the baptism was a symbol of death – that also had juristictial side: when a slave was sold to another master, it was considered a new birth, he got new name, his past crimes were forgotten, and he had a new life with his new master – that was symbolized by baptism; that symbolism is lost now except in Christian theology, for we baptise in the death of Christ, so that, by accepting what it means, we could be resurrected with Him; you know, Christ prayed to Father of unity (Joh 17:20-26) between God and the Church, and He gave as the means for such unity in that very death, for it continues in Eucharist – the unity of body no lesser than sex, but for it all to function we should first accept the Christ for what it is, and that means dying with him (which symbolically represented in baptism).

    Now, independently of how you view my explanation, I want to commend you on not accepting the simplistic explanation of Christ’s death. It’s not really that simple as they say, far from it. Yours.

  10. Hmm, i was considering this, and found that prophet Ilia has found a better analogy. The English translation is not exactly clear there. The most closest is “New American Standard Bible” (1 Kings 19:11-12):

    So He said, ” Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
    After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing.

    – After “gentle blowing”, in our russian translations and in the Septuaginta there are words “and there was LORD”.

  11. You see, the death of the Christ is the point when the world effectively rejects (kills) his Creator. It becomes point of personal choice, and thus the basis of baptism.

    The choice bears resemblance to Buddhism. Buddhist choses to negate the world and so strives to achieve nothingess (the nirvana). Christian choses to be rejected by the world. Buddhist tries to negate the world in himself. Christian dies with Christ to the world, only in attempt to reform it with resurrection.

  12. Pingback: A link. « It’s a New Day for the Shelblog!

  13. Indeed, the Christian worldview is based on the concept of the Fall. . . . which I can’t accept. We are what we are in all our glory, all our hideousness. We each possess the capacity for honor, bravery, heroism, wickedness. The story of the Fall seems to admit as much, doesn’t it? Because Adam and Eve couldn’t “fall” if they didn’t possess that kernel of disobedience.

    If we see the Great Nothing of Buddhists as some sort of God, then Buddhism would become very resembling to Christianity in some aspects

    Good heavens, no! There is no God in Buddhism. It’s qualitatively different from the theistic religions. There may be similarities in what the different religions try to achieve (especially in the more mystical versions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam), but I think it’s risky to try to force a square peg into a round hole.

    The choice bears resemblance to Buddhism. Buddhist choses to negate the world and so strives to achieve nothingess (the nirvana). Christian choses to be rejected by the world. Buddhist tries to negate the world in himself. Christian dies with Christ to the world, only in attempt to reform it with resurrection.

    Sorry, Artem, but I still don’t understand — I don’t see the comparison.

  14. Sorry, Artem, but I still don’t understand — I don’t see the comparison.

    Both try to fix something. Buddhism tries to fix the suffering. It says “the life is suffering” and so it undoes it, tries to break things further apart. Christianity says the suffering, the sin is that we broke apart from the God, and tries to restore this connection.

    Indeed, the Christian worldview is based on the concept of the Fall. .
    . . which I can’t accept. We are what we are in all our glory, all our hideousness. We each possess the capacity for honor, bravery, heroism, wickedness. The story of the Fall seems to admit as much, doesn’t it? Because Adam and Eve couldn’t “fall” if they didn’t possess that kernel of disobedience.

    Ahh, but I agree, this world is perfect, IMHO. St. Dionysius the Areopagite said that God doesn’t see anything as evil, he doesn’t see evil. It’s that nobody but God is usualy able to see the world this way. It’s (according, for example, to prot. Alexander Schmemann) a property of “prophetic grace” to see the world the way God sees it. Christianity tries to restore that view.
    Still, the Fall is a reality for every man, or we wouldn’t be looking for a way to extinguish suffering thru Zen.
    Cheers.

  15. That helps. I’m beginning to see the internal logic of it. From my point of view, though, the Zen worldview still makes more sense: suffering due to attachment is something I can verify from my life experiences, while “sin” and “the Fall” and, for that matter, God are all things I would have to take on faith.

    I’m also unconvinced that all suffering is due to sin. For example: I love my wife, who happens to have a chronic illness. If she gets sicker, we both suffer — me because of my attachment to her, her because of her attachment to her body and to the world. If she dies, I suffer even more. Where does sin enter into this?

    Or perhaps I’m misunderstanding you; after all, you said, “the sin is that we broke apart from the God.” So if I were “one with God,” I wouldn’t suffer if my wife died? I find that very hard to believe. I understand that if I believed in God, I would feel some solace to know that my wife was with God — “in a better place,” as people like to say — but I would still suffer, I would still miss her. Why? Because of my love (attachment) for her.

    Also: I have a problem with the idea of God not seeing evil. It’s a precariously short jump between not seeing evil and ignoring evil. To me, this is a rationalization for God’s tolerance of evil inflicted against innocent people.

    I guess I’m just too much of a secular humanist, Artem 🙂 I think evil is inevitable (Fall or not; again, if Adam and Eve had not already Fallen, how could they Fall? How could they commit that first sin if they were perfect at the start?) but that doesn’t mean we do nothing about it.

    And is the world perfect? Not from this doctor’s point of view, I assure you. But maybe we define “perfect” differently 🙂

  16. I’m also unconvinced that all suffering is due to sin. For example: I love my wife, who happens to have a chronic illness. If she gets sicker, we both suffer — me because of my attachment to her, her because of her attachment to her body and to the world. If she dies, I suffer even more. Where does sin enter into this?

    Right. But if you believe in God there is a lot more options.
    For example, my wife had sickness, I was sure everything will be all right, she was healed by a Christian “elder” (we have that institute in Orthodox Church, though there are “pseudo-elders”), and it turned out she had incurable disseminated sclerosis, i found out only years later. Really.
    But nevertheless, we talk about belief in a Sentient and Loving Being here. So it’s practically always that He keeps some agenda, the illness might be beneficial for our spiritual condition, like ap. Paul indicated. The difference is that we often compare beliefe experience to the experience outside of belief, but outside of belief often the only thing God can do to teach him something is to give him the indepence he seeks.
    In short, if we call the Fall a sin (“error”), then suffering is due sin because otherwise there wouldn’t be any. And if we call the absence of theosis, the absence of miraclous intervention in our life a sin, then suffering is due to sin because the lack of sin would mean the way to heal that suffering.

    So if I were “one with God,” I wouldn’t suffer if my wife died? I find that very hard to believe.

    All right, let’s separate a good and bad suffering. Let’s say if you miss somebody, but know you’ll see him, it’s a good suffering. And if you rude to somebody and breaks with him or breaks him and your heart aches, it’s a bad suffering. The main mistake of the Buddhism is that it doesn’t separate between the two, IMHO, but we know that our life couldn’t be good without some good suffering.
    Now, i have a lot of sufferings in my life that i see as a good suffering. Buddhist would say my life is full of suffering. But i enjoy 99% of it.

    Also: I have a problem with the idea of God not seeing evil. It’s a precariously short jump between not seeing evil and ignoring evil. To me, this is a rationalization for God’s tolerance of evil inflicted against innocent people.

    Not really. A man could trick himself into eternal suffering without God: God knows it would be evil for a man, so He tries to persuade the man otherwise, but to Him it’s not an evil, because it’s a decision the man pursues out of his free will, it’s what makes that man a man. From this example you could see, that I doesn’t meant God blind.

    I guess I’m just too much of a secular humanist, Artem 🙂

    I think most, if not all, humanistic ideas came from Christianity originally. ; )

    I think evil is inevitable

    It’s a thing of choice. Do you want mindless beings who would never harm themselves because there’s no independance in them? Or do you want beings who would grow their own conscience, who would have a chance to make a right choice via trial and error? (“cum docit – decit”, “that which harms – benefits”). If you do want sentient beings around, then their ability to harm themselfs isn’t really “evil”. From their point of view, there might be a lot of evil, and there you right, but at the end, when they grow up, was it really evil that which formed them?

    (Fall or not; again, if Adam and Eve had not already Fallen, how could they Fall? How could they commit that first sin if they were perfect at the start?) but that doesn’t mean we do nothing about it.

    That’s were I might disagree with *some* of the Fathers. (And would agree with the other half, which said they wasn’t as perfect as saints perfect; as always, i can find the references if really necessary). They were perfect in a sence they have no predetermined inclination (unlike we), but they were also perfect in that they had that freedom to choose. And saints are more perfect only in the sence they had really made their choce, usually the hard way.

    And is the world perfect? Not from this doctor’s point of view, I assure you.

    Exactly what i said. : )
    Thus not only in Christianity there is a way to see the world differently, but also to reform it.

  17. I’m also unconvinced that all suffering is due to sin. For example: I love my wife, who happens to have a chronic illness. If she gets sicker, we both suffer — me because of my attachment to her, her because of her attachment to her body and to the world. If she dies, I suffer even more. Where does sin enter into this?

    In short, the sin is the reason why we se this sequence of events as suffering to us. If we would’ve believed in Christian God, that sequence of events (the death of our beloved) wouldn’t make us suffer, because we knew the death for what it is in Christianity – embrace to future life (Philippians 1:21).
    The Christianity and the Buddhism are then again similar in what they do: Buddhism offers detachment from love, Christianity offers detachment from sin.

  18. Good heavens, no! There is no God in Buddhism.

    Yeah, i’ve thought for some time to correct myself there. We know (in Christianity) that God created world from nothing. So this Great Nothing is not a God, of course. But still, it is his footprint, the mark left by his hands. The very waves that ripple on the Great Nothing – by which they began their stride and by whom they continue their flow? Thus, I hope, you will forgive me my mistake.

  19. You see, nothing doesn’t exists. We speak about it only because God made those waves, and now we see they are on the surface of nothing. Our existance highlights the hypotetical possibility of the lack of this existance.
    Perhaps it’s this is a part to this world fragility thing of which Cesterton spoke in “The etics of Elfland”.

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