A Year in Three Days: Day One-Called to Suffer?

(Some of these thoughts came during my “day of suffering/death” over a year ago, which can be explained by this post.)

Over a year ago, I experienced the largest spread of emotions and thoughts that ever have. And I have experienced them to their extremes; crying until there are no tears left. Being so angry that I find myself disturbed by the dark places my heart goes. Being so heartbroken that I can’t find a reason to get out of bed.

And I share all of this not to be dramatic, but to try to communicate in some way what my journey has been like.

There are two thoughts that have kept me going in all of this that I decided I want to share. They have been the only things I can cling to in this time. Perhaps if some of you find yourselves feeling broken, this may help you as it has helped me.

The first is as a result of my reading of the letter of 1 Peter. When all of this happened, the last thing I felt like doing was reading the Scriptures. I know this sounds awful, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I didn’t want to deal with it. The same was true in prayer. I didn’t want to pray, either (and honestly, I still don’t sometimes). I was angry with God. I still get angry with him sometimes.

However, I found myself finally able crack the spine of my Bible and turn to 1 Peter. And I read the whole letter. And I will never read it the same again.

The letter is written to the Jewish Christians who were forced to leave their homeland unjustly and were having to live as foreigners in strange places. They were being persecuted just because of what they believed. I have always had a difficult time relating to these sorts of passages as a privileged, free white man in America.

But then I read this in the second chapter:

“For it is commendable if you bear up under the pain of unjust suffering because you are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”

To this you were called? Really?

Could you imagine reading this as someone who has endured suffering unjustly? (This may be hard for some of us to do because we may not have experienced such a thing) But we do have this innate concept of fair and unfair, right? We understand the difference between enduring consequences from our own actions and enduring them because of the actions of others.

And Peter is telling these people that they are called to that.

I found this interesting because he said that they were called (elected, chosen) for a lot of other things, too. Read the first part of the letter. It sounds like good stuff. The stuff we like to talk about.

But then you get to the end. Peter is saying that if we suffer while doing good, we are truly Christians (or “little Christs”-this is one of the few times the word Christian is used in the Bible) He says that when we do this, we are sharing in the sufferings of Christ. And if there is anyone who suffered unjustly, it is most certainly He.

But when we think of being called (elected, chosen, whatever word you like), we think of it in terms of the good things: salvation, heaven, blessings, inheritance, etc. But we don’t like to think of the hard things like suffering.

But it is in suffering that we become the most like Christ. Or at least, we have the opportunity to.

So that keeps me going; the fact that I know that God knows what I feel like. He has felt complete rejection. He has felt loneliness. He has felt pain. And that he is listening when I talk to Him. And he understands when my words are more like groans and tears.

And there is resurrection. There is another side. This the second thing that keeps me going.

And that is the topic for another post.

Until then, I leave you as Peter did.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

Here’s to living in the “little while”.

Music, Musings, Uncategorized

What are we singing? (Part One):Like falling in love??

Seeing as how Valentine’s Day was yesterday and love is possibly still in the air, it seemed timely to post an edited older blog entry. This will be a part of several posts including my thoughts on words people in Christian communities sing.

So I am listening to Christian radio (which I almost never do-that is another post-worthy subject) and a song came on that said one’s faith needs to be more like falling in love. Now, as a disclaimer, I think the overall message of the song is a good one. It is comparing a faith that is merely a list of rules to one that moves, breathes, and “sweeps you off your feet”. I recommend at least listening to it (Jason Gray, “More Like Falling in Love”). Here are some of the lyrics:

Give me rules I will break them
Give me lines I will cross them
I need more than a truth to believe
I need a truth that lives, moves, and breathes
To sweep me off my feet It ought to be
More like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance
Caught up, called out
Come take a look at me now
It’s like I’m falling, oh
It’s like I’m falling in love

It’s like I’m falling in love, love, love
Deeper and deeper It was love that made me a believer
In more than a name, a faith, a creed
Falling in love with Jesus brought the change in me

So, again I think there is much that is good in the song. But I feel weird saying that following Jesus is like falling in love. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing to say for everyone. But I feel odd saying this. And here’s 2 reasons why:

I feel weird singing “Jesusy” love songs. Perhaps it’s the “bro-mantic” in me that wants to say “man” after ‘I love you” and give hard, back-slapping hugs to Jesus. Right or wrong, this is where I am coming from.

The second is that I feel like this song presents a sort of false dichotomy. Is “falling in love” (not a favorite phrase, by the way) really that different from pledging your allegiance? For example, if you fall in love with someone, eventually, you end up marrying them (usually). In a wedding, one officially pledges their love to the other person. Then the honeymoon phase is over and there are some days where you don’t always feel “lovey”. Does that mean you are less committed? Is your pledge somehow void because of feelings, or lack thereof? Other days, you feel more “romantic”. Does this mean you love more or less? Is that love any more real in these moments than it is others?

Or what happens when you don’t feel the same way about Jesus today as you did yesterday? Is your faith somehow less? Or what if you never really have that “a-ha” moment when you decide to start following Jesus? You just think, Hmmm..this is for me. And you start to follow. And your love for him grows because you committed to follow. Perhaps, for Mr. Gray, he needed to have the romance-side of his faith. But what about those days when he doesn’t feel it?

Anyway, these are just some random thoughts. I would love other people’s feedback. What do you think? Is following Jesus like falling in love? Or is it something bigger than that?

church, Movement, Musings, Uncategorized

When believing in good ideas actually makes things worse…

This quote has really been convicting me lately. I feel like there is so much to be said, but I will let Rohr do what he does best and try to stay out of the way.
“We operate with the assumption that giving people new ideas changes people. It doesn’t.Believing ideas is, in fact, a way of not having to change in any significant way, especially if you can argue about them.
Ideas become defenses.If you have the right words, you are considered an orthodox and law-abiding Christian.
We burned people at the stake for not having the right words, but never to my knowledge for failing to love or forgive, or to care for the poor. Religion has had a love affair with words and correct ideas, whereas Jesus loved people, who are always imperfect.You do not have to substantially change to think some new ideas. You always have to change to love and forgive ordinary people. We love any religion that asks us to change other people. We avoid any religion that keeps telling us to change.”
— Richard Rohr
What say you? Agree? Disagree?