Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Superstitions. God. How Do They Fit Together?

This feels like one of the more personal posts I've written...not overly deep, but uncomfortably personal.  It gets a little unclear at times - and when it does, you will know that I'm still in the process of working things out.  But whatever - I've been procrastinating long enough on this post, so I'll just dive in now and hope you can ferret out the pertinent details and find it in you to not think too badly of me.

I would never have thought until recent months (a year?) that I am superstitious.  I've always rather disdained the don't-step-on-the-crack-or-you'll-break-your-mother's-back kind of attitude.  And now here I am discovering that I'm one of those very people stepping carefully around the line to avoid the consequences.

The fact is that, as much as I don't like it, I am a superstitious person about some things.  Particularly when it comes to my beliefs about God.

I am increasingly aware that I have a(t least one) warped belief:  I think I believe that if I let God have control of my life, He's going to 'test' me and my faith (to see if I'm sincere, I suppose) by allowing something bad to happen - either to me, or to one of my loved ones.  I feel a little silly writing this down in black and white, but there it is.

Let me try to be a little bit more clear on two aspects.  First, there are accounts in the Bible of people being tested in their faith; so I'm not altogether out of the ballpark in thinking that my faith will be tested by circumstances God allows.  Second, I don't think that believing in God or trying to live life as a Christian means that I will be free of the hardships of life or free of my own wrong-doings; believing in God isn't a panacea for all that ails me.

So there is a sort of foundation in what I'm saying/believing.  But the part that's superstitious is believing that I have control over all of the bad things that can happen to me, and that I'd better not act a certain way because it's going to bring those repercussions down on me.

The thing is, this superstition on my part is set in complete juxtaposition to another belief I have:  That God is both omnipotent (all powerful) and omniscient (all knowing).

If God is both all powerful and all knowing, then He has control of my life anyway, and the theory that I actually have reigns to hand over is nonsense because I ultimately have little control over my life or those within it (the concept of free will being a topic for another day).

I think the (mis)belief goes deeper.  I think that I think that if I can balance precariously on some fine line on the sidewalk where, on one side of the line I allow God to take over my life and on the other side of the line I assume complete control of it myself, then I'll be ok and nothing bad will happen.  If I let Him have just enough of me, if I can coast along in my faith just enough to appease Him, then somehow I can manage/control how many terrible things will happen in my life.  That is a little warped.

The basis of my inconsistent beliefs and superstitions is, I believe, fear.  I don't know if I can really trust God.  I'm scared to trust Him completely.  I think maybe deep down I believe that God is a punitive God and that He's going to allow me to be hurt because of some of the really horrible things I've done in my life, and because that's what I've come to expect of life.  I am waiting for Him to punish me, to hold against me all of my transgressions.  In my head, I know based on my understanding of God's grace that when I asked for His forgiveness, my sins were removed from me as far as the east is from the west.  But my heart is another matter.  I have such a hard time believing sometimes.  It's the faith part that's so hard.

For years I've struggled with terrible and violent dreams that highlight my inability to control horrible outcomes and I know that it's me, along with my deeply-rooted fears, who is the creator/actor/director/choreographer of those dreams and that they merely represent my struggle with fear and uncertainty and the fragility of life and whether or not I can really trust God.

When we went a number of months ago to hear a good friend preach at his church, he asked a question of the listening congregation:  "Are you ready to trust Jesus?"  I'm pretty sure he looked right at me when he spoke.  But whether or not he did, that question, in various forms, has been percolating in my brain and heart for a long time.  The truth is that I'm not sure that I am ready.

But then an interesting twist happened a couple of weeks ago that made me think a little further about this.  Something had happened with Geoff that was causing me some anxiety...the details don't matter for this purpose.  Suddenly I was envisioning the worst:  Thinking about updating our wills; pondering our children's futures in the event that something happens to one/both of us; etc etc.  The terror that filled my soul, and my desperate need to hang on to what I have and to protect those I love, threatened to overtake me.  I was ready to bargain with God for the security of our future.

There in the shower, while I was contemplating life's terrible uncertainties and the strength of my bargaining position, something struck me.  Hit me right over the head:

I need God.

I needed Him in that moment and I still do.  When push comes to shove.  Even when I'm not sure that I'm ready.

I need Him despite my superstitious belief that He might be a God who will punish me.  In my moments of deepest anxiety, in my fears about the present and the future, it is Him that I cry out to despite all of my uncertainties.  It is God that I ask for help.  God that I ask to draw near me.  God that I take comfort from in those moments of fear and uncertainty and in times when the horrible things happen.  The God that I fear is punitive and the God that I know I don't deserve love from is also the God that, contradictorily, I also believe does love me and will provide for me.

Somewhere in my schmozzle of being, I find a measure of comfort in knowing that He'll take me however He can get me, wherever I'm at.  Despite the whacky beliefs that I'm carrying around with me. Despite the baggage of my past and the fears that way me down today.  Despite my lack of faith.  Despite the fact that I'm trying to straddle the line.  Despite everything I've done.

Despite everything.

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