Daring to be true

One of the points from this morning’s sermon, taken from Galatians 4:8-20, was that one of the pastor’s responsibilities is to tell the truth, even if it is hard to accept. That is integrity. To speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). The challenge was this: what do we do when we are faced with a hard truth, an inconvenient truth? Do we face it and take it on, or do we flee from it, covering our ears and shouting to drown out the noise of truth?

I think it applies not just to the pastor/congregation relationship, but also more generally to people and the truth. As people of God, as followers of Jesus Christ, who is the Truth, it is our responsibility, our obligation almost, to seek the truth, wherever it may be found. I believe that all truth is God’s truth. If it is truth, it will line up with the person of Jesus Christ; and if it does this, then it is true.

Take the example of the Apostle Paul: at the beginning of Acts, he was doing what he thought was the truth, persecuting the followers of Jesus, who claimed he was the Messiah. Based on his understanding of Scripture—“cursed is everyone who hangs on the tree”—it was impossible that the crucified man from Nazareth could be God’s anointed. And then he was confronted with the truth: that this same man who had been crucified was not only God’s anointed, but himself God. So Paul had to reorient his theology around the truths of Jesus as God, Jesus as the Messiah, and Jesus as cursed. Not an easy reorientation, by any stretch of the imagination.

Even, and especially, when it isn’t an easy truth to digest, when it’s a truth that requires a paradigm shift, or learning a new way of being in relationship, or figuring out a new way of understanding God, it’s tempting to just give up. Any time there is opposition or difficulty or a mindset-shift, it always seems easier just to back down, to let it go, to move on, to continue just as we always have been. But it’s in coming through, with the help of God and with a community of support, that we really grow and learn and become more of who we were meant to be.

This weekend has been one of reorientation—and it’s still going on. I’m still far from where I want to be, but I know that—though it is and will be hard to live differently, though it will be a challenge and I will be tempted (again) to just throw in the towel—ultimately it is leading me to a truer way of living, a truer way of relating, a truer way of being who God meant me to be.

And whatever reward lies at the end of it will be all the sweeter for the striving.

Best day of the year? Haha.

DISCLAIMER: Contrary to what you might have thought based on the last blog (and since a few people have asked about it), I’m not currently in love. The blog was inspired by a conversation about God, from which I drew the parallel with human relationships. Disclaimer over.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, that occasion derided by some as ‘Hallmark Day’, a crass, over-commercialized opportunity for people to spend money on people they love or are interested in so that they don’t have to pay all that much attention the rest of the year. Or for the less cynical, a chance to have a great time with that special someone. Or for the singles, a time to hang out with other singles and do single things to take their single minds off of being single.

My Valentine’s Day track record?

2007: babysat for DJ and Mara, and John and Grace as well, I think. Watched a movie.

2006: babysat for John-Paul and Susan. Ate brownies and did homework.

2005: babysat for John-Paul and Susan. Had a long chilled, quiet time with God.
2004: I bought Ally flowers, chocolates, CDs; we had dinner at hers, and then we broke up. And then we went to watch a movie. Yeah. The moral of the story: don’t go and watch a movie together right after breaking up. Definitely would advise against it.
2003: the day I discovered that when the girlfriend says, “We don’t have to get each other anything,” this does not cover the possibility of making a card, which she did for me. So … I’m bad boyfriend. What a great first V-Day together.
2002: Paris with Katie (there were lots of other people too); we got to talk lots about her ex. It was great.

And this year’s Valentine’s? Class with Goldingay. Woohoo!

Too much [in love]?

Have you ever been so caught up, so affected, so (dare I say) in love with someone that it was hard to think about anything or anyone else? So much so that the first thing you think about in the morning is her and the last thing you think about in the evening is her, and pretty much every moment of the day in between is spent thinking about her; and then you’ve been thinking about her so much during your waking hours that you even dream about her. So much so that you forget to turn off your car and take the keys out of the ignition after driving home with her. And your heart skips a beat when you see her, and the butterflies go crazy in your stomach when she calls, and you just don’t want time to pass when you’re together.

I love being in love.

But it sounds a little unsustainable, doesn’t it? Probably highly inadvisable, maybe even a little unhealthy, in the long run. How would you be able to give our full attention to the other things in life, to papers, or work, or hanging out with other friends, if your mind was completely captured by the other person?

I wonder if our relationship with God works the same way. I love those ‘high points’, those moments of spiritual ecstasy and intensity, where the presence of God is so tangible, where I never want to leave the moment, where I even dream that I’m praying. I love when shivers go down my spine when I see thousands of Christians worshiping together, singing with one voice to the one God. I love it.

But like the heightened sense of being in love, it’s not really sustainable. Because it doesn’t take into account the rest of life, the reality that life is hard and complicated and gritty, and requires perseverance rather than momentary passion, patience rather than immediate gratification, and sometimes, maybe it requires the absence of God to allow us to grow up and learn to relate as adults.

A lot of friends have gone through, and are going through, difficult periods, where God is just absent. And I can’t offer an explanation. For some, they’ve never experienced those spiritual highs, the tangible closeness of God, and they don’t know why. I don’t know why.

Over the years, through wrestling with my own faith and trying to figure out what it’s supposed to look like, I’ve learned to leave some things unexplained and just go on faith. And somehow, God gives me faith enough not to know it all. Wherever you are on your journey, I pray that he gives you faith enough as well.

God of silence

God of silence, hear me; hear my cry and speak.

Just as you heard the cries of the Israelites in Egypt and rescued them,hear my cry and rescue me; just as you heard the cries of humanity for a savior and dwelled among them, dwell with me.

You are God, maker of heaven and earth,the One who speaks in the whirlwind and the whisper, in the fire and the flood, in the desert and the city.

Yet I cannot hear you. Are you speaking? Am I not listening? I strain my ears to hear your voice. And all I hear is noise.

Have you gone away, left me to fend for myself? You promised to be with us always.

You spoke before, and I heard; I listened, and I heard, and I rejoiced.

So I will wait again, for you are a God whose timing is not my timing, whose ways are higher than mine, whose patience outstretches mine. I will trust in your faithfulness, in your commitment to me,for you have proved true time and again.

I will trust in your presence with me, even when I cannot feel you; even when I cannot hear you, I will follow you.

And you will prove true once more; I will hear you speak again.