Diving Back In?

Hey there.

It’s been over two years. I’ve grown, I’ve changed.

I’ve left my church, and found my calling.

I have no idea what to write here, and a feeling that I should absolutely be writing something.

If I could only figure out what.

This blog started, found it’s inception, in the idea I wanted to get critical about my faith. Instead, I spend the last three years, as I pursued and achieved my M.A.Ed. in Counseling, being incredibly critical and reflective of myself. I don’t know that my faith is the same part of me it was three years ago, or something I can examine in the same way.

There is a question in my heart, not of God, but of how Faith should and does work in my world, in my soul, and in my experience. And I think, as I figure out what to do with that question, that feeling of quiet pondering, I will put it here.

This post? This post is me convincing myself that coming back to a blog I really did abandon is possible, survivable….and maybe, I can hope, worth doing.

Hello.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

We all leave marks.

My dear friend Heather came home this weekend for a visit, bringing her husband of about nine months now.  Heather is someone I know because of my participation in an internship; she came and spent a year living in my small hometown and doing ministry along side me. Though we have a lot of different beliefs about things politically and otherwise (for instance, it wasn’t until I met her and her now husband that I had to make a “no guns in my Jetta” rule), but we connected quite a bit while she was living here. I shared things with her that I didn’t say to any other friend in my life. In fact, I’m pretty sure I told her some things that I’ve still never told any of my other friends, things that I’ve only really shared with my counselors.

When she followed God’s call on her life and moved back across the state, I was really sad, because I was going to miss having her be a daily part of my life. She’s thrived since moving away. I’ve never said it, but she had a huge influence on being willing to step out of a comfortable, safe existence and apply for graduate school.

I’ve been in counseling for the last few months, trying to really figure out some of the difficulty I’ve been having with what is really a crisis of faith, and a lot of it has centered around the friendships I have formed through the church. I may or may not choose to flesh this out here a bit more, because I’m still working on things, particularly relationally, but here is a measure of how much I love this particular friend:  When I told my counselor about Heather coming to visit, I started crying, I was so happy.

I had the most awesome time spending time with her this weekend, even though for the majority of it, we were cooking for a girls’ night or cleaning some friends’ new house before they moved in. We picked up like no time at all had passed, even though it had. I still felt completely safe talking with her, and giving her very straight answers about how I was feeling and what had gone on while she was absent. We’re not, nor have we ever been best friends, but we’re honest friends. There’s an easy affection between us, and the kind of real sisterhood that I still sometimes feel is missing in my life as a member of the Christian “family.”

We leave marks on each other, we human beings, when we choose to be in relationship with one another. This applies to friendship just as much as to familial or romantic relationships. There is something about friendship that molds us in ways we wouldn’t expect. My best friend from high school and I no longer speak. Even though I now see it as a good thing, something that had to cease in order for us both to continue to grow, the end of that relationship left a gash in my heart. But his friendship also left good marks on me; for instance, without having been as close to him as I was, I never would have figured out what I wanted to actually do with my life.  All of my relationships are like this, a mixture of good and bad, sometimes not as in balance as we would like.

I love my friends, but our relationships are never ideal. Though it’s so clichéd I’m almost afraid to quote it, as it is oft read at weddings and almost always though of as meaning romantic love, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, speaks to ideal, true, and honest love.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I think it applies to friendship just as it should apply otherwise, to Phileo (brotherly love) as well as Eros (Romantic love) and Agape (heavenly, fatherly love). Real friendship is an honest friendship. It’s there because it just is, not because someone decided it had to be. It takes work to maintain, like any relationship…but it starts of it’s own accord, a blessing from God.

One of my favorite books (Will Grayson Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan) says it in a way more eloquent way than I ever could:

He recovers quickly, wiping is eyes with the popped collar of the polo shirt he’s wearing beneath a striped sweater. “When you date someone, you have the markers along the way, right: you kiss, you have The Talk, you say the Three Little Words, you sit on a swing and break up. You can plot the points on a graph. And you check up with each other along the way: Can I do this? If I say this, will you say it back?

“But with friendship, there’s nothing like that. Being in a relationship, that’s something you choose. Being friends, that’s just something you are.”

I didn’t choose to be Heather’s friend; I chose to be kind to her, and to work well with her, and to include her as she lived in a new place…but I didn’t expect to have the kind of amazing friendship wei did. She has left some of the most amazing marks on my soul. My friendship with her has helped shape me into who I am.

I didn’t choose to be friends with any of the people who are so important in my life.  But they have all left such important marks on me—good and bad, literal and metaphorical. I’m a firm believer that God places people in my life for a reason…and one of the reasons Heather is in my life is to remind me how beautiful and loving friendship can really be.

All of the good parts are worth all of the bad and hard parts of relationship.

Heather hasn’t actually left town yet, and I already miss her. I already wish I knew how to apparate, or that technology would have figured out teleporters by now. I’m going to be so much better and keeping in touch with her between visits from here on out. I may not have chosen her, but I chose to keep her. If I had to choose, I don’t know if I would have picked Heather, back in 2008, when she fell into my life. But thank God that He was doing the choosing for me.  Thank God that my friend was there at the right moment, in the right season of my life.

Remember the marks people leave on you, and the marks you leave on others. We’re so shaped by our relationships. I’ve been so shaped by my friends. And I’m so glad I’ve been reminded not to take that for granted.

—-

I’m improving: only 2.5 months since my last entry! To be fair, while I was working things out with a counselor, it felt almost like cheating to blog about certain things….

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

I made it less than a week…

…before I got sick, missed like, eight posts, and had my life once again eaten by grad school.

YEP. a post EVERY DAY was a little bit more than ambitious, it turns out.

The structure I had is not working, but I am still going to try and keep up the idea that spending a year regarding my faith/spirituality critically is a good idea. Because it is.

I had it out a bit with God tonight. My prayers felt rusty, but they were honest, and just for God. I feel like I’m starting to figure some things out, finally. It’s a sigh of relief in my heart, and if feels like a reassurance that I can be genuine and unguarded in my relationship with God. It feels like a reminded that my relationship with God is not the same thing as the relationships I have with other believers, non-believers, seekers, etc that share this planet with me. That’s absolutely as much as I feel like saying right now, but more to come, I’m sure. For some reason, writing about this to an audience…even a small one, or one that might just be me and the universe…it’s been really helpful.

I’m going to continue using the “A year with Jack” tag for things about C.S. and about my journey this year. And I am still trying to conquer the book! Uncle Jack has too many good things to say to abandon it.

Leave a comment

Filed under A year with Jack

January 4th: More than One Kind of Knowing.

The Christian statement that only He who does the will of the Father will ever know the true doctrine is philosophically accurate…. It is Reason herself which teaches us not to rely on Reason only in this matter. For Reason knows that she cannot work without materials. When it becomes clear that you cannot find out by reasoning whether the cat is in the linen-cupboard, it is Reason herself who whispers ‘Go and look. This is not my job; it is a matter for the senses’. So here. The materials for correcting our abstract conception of God cannot be supplied by Reason: she will be the first to tell you to go and try experience—‘Oh, taste and see!’

I’m taking a course about research this quarter. The professor is this amazing little woman with a big spirit and an obvious love for what she does. Our first night, she reminded us that research is but one way of knowing. We also have intuition, emotional knowledge, personal experience, and a host of other things, including spiritual knowledge. “Research doesn’t enter into the equation when I’m worshipping,” she said.

I’m not in any way saying that we shouldn’t try to figure God out intellectually, but I do think there is some truth in the idea of different ways of knowing. I know through reason that my best friend loves me, but I know it in a deeper way emotionally. Or, take for instance, a person with Asperger Syndrome. It is possible to learn social interactions. It is possible to come to an understanding of what is acceptable in social situations through training and study, something many people with Asperger Syndrome do. However, most of us know how to have a conversation, use appropriate personal space, and keep a conversation mutual. We learn it through everyday experience; it isn’t something we have to put a bunch of time into.

Can we know God through reason? Yes…but we’ll have a fuller understanding if we go and use our senses to gain an experience. First hand experience might not be the best for every situation (for instance, learning about poisonous foods through first hand experience would be at the least terrifying and heartbreaking, at the most, deadly), but with God, it’s a great place to start–going to a service, saying a prayer, reading a sacred text. Reason and study, in my (I’ll admit, limited) experience are supplemental when it comes to the realms of spirituality.

4 posts in…what do you think, if you’re watching? Any feedback as to how to make this better?  Leave me a comment!

One more post to get up tonight and I’ll be back on track!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under A year with Jack, from Miracles

January 3rd: Bigger than “Big”

[J]ust touching the fringes of His being, they have seen that He is plentitude of life and energy and joy, therefore (and for no other reason) they have to pronounce that He transcends those limitations which we call personality, passion, change, materiality, and the like. …  At each step we have to strip off from our idea of God some human attribute. But the only real reason for stripping off the human attribute is to make room for putting in some positive divine attribute.

God transcends so much of what we experience and how we define our existence. He’s outside of the constructs of time and space. He isn’t timeless, but just…not definable by time. He isn’t immaterial, but…not defined by space—mass and structure and such.

It’s a huge thought that I won’t ever be able to wrap my head around…that my God is so “big” that the word is inadequate to describe him. He is the beginning and the end, and so much more aside from it.  I am never going to be able to define God accurately, because He transcends the very core of what I use to define my own existence.

I find something terribly wonderful and comforting about that idea…God should be greater, more than I ever even imagine. I’m just “touching at the fringes” of everything He is.

Started school again on Monday…and immediately failed to post for three days.um….yeah. so I’m polishing yesterday’s and today’s post now, and hope to have them up before I head to bed tonight.

Leave a comment

Filed under A year with Jack, from Miracles

January 2nd: inaccurate imagination.

Today’s entry required the use of Wikipedia. A “limpet” is, for those who, like me, didn’t know, a gastropod, ie…a shell fish.

So today’s entry was wordy and harder for me to get my head around just because it was wordy, So I am going to try and get the gist of it across. It came down to this:

A clam who can see, sees a man, and describes them to a clam who cannot see. He says that man isn’t attached to a rock, doesn’t have a shell, and isn’t surrounded by water. The clam who cannot see thinks these things….and imagines not an actual man, but a jelly-fish type creature. Because they now have this image of man as a jellyfish…they disregard any further description of man that describes him as having organs, etc…because it isn’t right.

Our descriptions can be inaccurate, because they are based on our own context.

What I pull from this, in the frame of understanding God, is that we must investigate for ourselves. First hand experience will tell us things we won’t get from listening to others. Indeed, if we just accept that God is how others describe him, we might (1) miss who God is entirely, because our imagining is inaccurate, and we never took time to check our perspective against the truth, or (2) stop looking all together, because we are uninterested in the God that was suggested to us.

Today’s entry was a challenge; I’m going to chalk that up to the fact that it is day 2 of 365 for me, and well, if I was going to get thrown off, it would be in the first little while. This entry isn’t great, but the point is that I took time and tried to write something. However, it is encouraging, that once I got past the language, the message is, at least partly, about the importance of seeking an understanding of your own, even one that might go beyond your current limited perspective.

Day two of 2011 is over…back to work and grad school for me tomorrow….positive thoughts my way about getting tomorrow’s entry done!

Leave a comment

Filed under A year with Jack, from Miracles

January 1st: God Finds Us.

There comes a moment when the children who have been playing at burglars hush suddenly: was that a real footstep in the hall? There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (‘Man’s search for God’) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us?

It is my belief–personally and also as a counselor–that humans are always seeking purpose, and meaning. For a lot of us…that means we are also seeking God, a higher power, or something like that. But do we want what we find? Do we let our selves see only what we really want…ignoring what might be the truth? I watch people–I watch myself–do this often, with things much more terrestrial than God. I find myself being willfully blind to a path to experience, finding shelter in the safety of my imagination, instead of going out meeting the astounding, impressive truth of the world.

The moments when I abandon my expectations are always the ones I remember. The song I didn’t expect to love has more meaning; the friendships I didn’t expect to have are more  long-lasting. I still like songs I expected to be good. I still have friendships with people that I anticipated forming friendships with. But I expected what should happen. I wanted a particular outcome. I can’t help but feel that’s some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Is this seeking with an idea of what i wanted to find how I’ve approached God? Did I seek Him looking to find what others told me to? Definitely not initially–initially, I was so bowled over by the very reality of a higher power, and the chance that such a God would have love for me. But since then, have I accepted what others thought to be his will or nature as true without question…yeah, I have, from time to time. And how lame is that when I could, essentially, just ask the Him directly?

It’s time I stop seeking something with a preconceived notion of what I will find. This extends to God, but also to a job, friendships, even romantic relationships. It won’t be what I’m looking for, but it might be even better.

It’s time to trust that the desires of my heart will seek me just as much as I am seeking them. It’s time to trust God to find me.

 

———–

Happy 2011! one day down….364 to go.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under A year with Jack, from Miracles