So much striving and self-absorption. Wow.
That was my gut reaction to a post I read on an Emerging-Christian site I often frequent . I’m not naming the site nor quoting directly from the post because I truly appreciate both despite how critical my first response might sound.
The post in question concerned the purpose of pain and how we use (or should use) the experiences in our lives we describe as painful. The reason my reaction was so harsh is because I heard in the writer’s post a need to assure his readers he wasn’t blaming God nor in any way trying to put a negative light on God’s part in our pain. At the same time, I felt the weight of judgment on the back of this poster if he didn’t somehow manage to honor God by using his pain to…call attention to God?…bring others to a knowledge of God?…give God glory? I think the post was intended to ask how we’re supposed to give God glory (with regard to our experience of pain) without seeming to blame Him in the process. In other words he was trying to avoid the whole “why does God let bad things happen?” question and still credit God with being in control of everything, having our best at heart, being all powerful, etc., etc. Humm…
My problem with his question/lament is that while he was almost desperate to come across as “letting God off the hook”, he couldn’t help but put humanity (or at least Christendom) on it. In fact my biggest problem with Christianity in general, at least in the ways I see most people wanting “the other” to practice it, is how many spoken and unspoken rules and regs there are in a religion that claims Christ paid the price and we’re “free” because of His ransom. Even those of us who espouse to be liberated, enlightened, regulation free, emerged, or whatever you want to call it, seem to have a list of expectations for those we pejoratively refer to as Funless fundies, (AKA our “other”) like practice more and preach less. Ahem.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I realized the subject of pain is tricky, especially when we’re trying to convince everyone God loves them and wants what’s best for them, and is in control, and has a plan for everything. From personal experience I know that pain just isn’t a lot of fun. And, making those two things add up doesn’t always work. Mostly the confusion and frustration comes because we believe the lie that pain is evil because it is unpleasant and we believe it is our job to avoid evil at all costs. In truth pain allows us to be vulnerable. It coupled with joy is what makes us human. When we are in pain we are often forced to open ourselves up to accept help from someone else. And, when others are in pain, we often offer ourselves to them because we’re moved by their need, have the resources they don’t, or can use our own experiences to identify with theirs, letting them know they are not alone.
Being vulnerable is risky. We know we could just as easily be disappointed and rejected as be satisfied and embraced. So, we take ourselves out of the mix because we don’t. like. risk. We would rather bind ourselves up with a hundred lists of do’s and don’t, should’s and shouldnt’s, can’s and can not’s than risk getting it wrong.
Sadly, the law lists we make up tend to be for our own benefit more than for the benefit of the other. We feel good when we follow them and we feel even better when we can point at someone we’re better than (AKA Someone who isn’t following the rules we are or at least we tell ourselves we are). I’m not quite sure how that works except that I’m pretty sure it’s tied into thinking we need to earn God’s favor. The problem is that when we set about trying to earn something we already have those around us, those who observe us, end up getting a false idea about the character of God.
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I was clicking right along blogging at least weekly until I had a perspective changing life experience and started a new blog. Feel free to check it out.