Thursday, 27 September 2012

Driving with God

I went for another long drive with God.  I felt like our conversation from yesterday had been cut short, and it needed to be finished.  I am not one for driving aimlessly, but with the mountains an hour away, there is always an aim.  It was pretty spontaneous, and I was pretty set on it.  I didn't even double check my agenda book to see if there is anything I was forgetting to do today.  
I tried to figure out why I was unsatisfied.  What was it that I wanted?  The answer I believe is pleasure.  I was trying to figure out what this "life to the full" that Christ offers really is, and I was getting quite tired of waiting for him to give it to me.  I was thinking that it was about time to go look for it on my own.  I've always felt like living a Christian life is not about feelings, nor is it about being happy, but I wanted to feel God near me.  I wanted to be happy.  Is there anything wrong with that?  
I hiked up a mountain quickly, until I was sweaty and gross.  I had to get to the top before the sun started going down.  I didn't want to hike back in the dark.  All I concluded is that God is my hope, my only hope.  There is pleasure in enjoying God's creation; I love hiking.  Singing kids' songs with actions while running down a mountain may not scare to cougars away, but it's a challenge and lots of fun.  I don't have the answers, but I'm not about to give up anymore.  I feel a lot more content than I have for a while.
Now I have to do the homework that I put off to go hiking in the daylight...

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Swearing at God...

Today I went for a long drive with God.  I had just turned on the music, when a sudden urge came over me.  I wanted to swear.  I didn’t just want to swear, but I wanted to be able to hear it.  I turned off the music before I could even identify the song and reached my teeth over my lip.
That was just the beginning. 
For the past could of years I’ve held the belief that swearing when praying is perfectly acceptable.  It is part of being open with God, right where you are at.  That said, I’d never done it before.  After all, I don’t really swear, and by "don’t really" I mean Monday was the first time I’d ever said the "f-word".  It is such a cold, harsh word, and I wondered if allowing myself to say that word caused me to say or think things that I otherwise wouldn’t have said to God.  I am pretty sure the answer is yes.  It wasn’t that those thoughts were not in my head; rather I had no way of articulating them.  The "f-word" was the medium I needed to get my thoughts out and to get my point across.  If I hadn’t been using the word, I wouldn’t have said what I did.  I probably wouldn’t have said anything at all.  As I thought at one point “I can’t cry, but I can swear.”  It is not often I take the time to express myself.  After swearing a lot this afternoon on my drive, I started thinking about the idea of swearing around people.  It is something I don't think I'd do.  I tried to imagine people who I could see myself swearing around, but everyone was scratched off the list for one reason or another.  I thought even if I am not in a healthy place with God, at least I can be myself around him which is better than around anyone else.  I am not currently very happy with God, and while swearing when praying is different than swearing at God, I did both.  Maybe the latter is not okay, I don't know.
I don’t have a happy way to end this, but I prayed today, for a lot longer than I’ve prayed for a long time.  Prayer is good, right?

Let me sleep a little longer.

Augustine of Hippo contemplated “what evil is there not in me and my deeds; or if not in my deeds, my word; or if not in my words, my will”.  While my deeds and my words may not obviously display evil, the evil within me is not without its vices.  I have stopped my “race of virtue [which] marks the beginning of the race of evil” (Gregory of Nyssa).  The former is a marathon (not merely the race, but all the training involved); the latter a walk in the park.
In my class we discussed the word spirituality.  I have held onto the idea that spirituality is made up of divine experiences that stimulate our emotions and leave us changed.  Not only did this concept of spirituality feel very foreign to me, but it also felt like something which I was unable to obtain.  If I could not make God show up, and I couldn’t, then I could not be spiritual.  When the definition shifted to be “theology lived,” suddenly the onus was on me.  I haven’t been living my theology.  I have not been racing towards virtue, but rather I’ve fallen away “from the perfection which is attainable” (Gregory of Nyssa).  I know many of the things I could, and should do, but I have no desire to participate in these things.  Gregory of Nyssa suggests that “those who know what is good by nature desire participation in it”.  Do I believe that God is good?  Do I see the value of reading my Bible?  Do I credit any merit to prayer?  Maybe not.  Reluctantly I sat through chapel on Wednesday.  I wanted to leave.  I wanted to escape.  Recently my escape has been story writing.  I wasn’t feeling close to God, and I knew that story writing wasn’t helping me feel any closer to him, but sitting in chapel wasn’t helping either.   I know it is not all about feelings, so I started to wonder how my beliefs would act themselves out at that moment.  I couldn’t justify writing.  I couldn’t justify running.  I reckoned that if I truly believed in community that I would stay around and be open with people.  If I believed that through others God works, then maybe I could find healing.  Chapel ended.
As I walked down the hall someone approached me
“Hey Patricia, how are you?”  She asked.
“I’m okay.”  I wasn’t okay. “How are you?”
“I’m good,” and with that we parted ways.  So much for living authentically.  So much for living my theology.
Reading the works of Basil the Great reinforces my theology of community.  I cannot go through life alone for we “require the help of one another”.  So frequently, however, I am unwilling to accept that help.  I am selfish, not seeing my gifts as “common possessions” of the community.  I also do not see the gifts of other in this way.  I feel bad being a burden to anyone.  While I may be willing to help someone carry their burden (as long as it is not too heavy and the journey not too far), I carry mine alone.
I do not know why I fear community when it is a gift from God.
I do not know why I escape to story writing when Christ alone is my refuge.
I do not know why I look to the blogosphere to fill my desires when I know that “the longing for Jesus is always underneath our every desire” (Michael Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality).
Though my brain is stuffed with knowledge I am not a spiritual being.  Over and over I fail to live my theology.  I do not know why.  With Augustine I ask “why [do] I find so much delight in doing this”?  When I believe that God is the “true and highest Sweetness”, “by what passion, then, [am] I animated” to do evil?  How easy it is to say that I will suffer with my Lord, but when the suffering is not glorious, when it is simply denying myself of my cravings, how quickly I am to give way.  While I have spoken now mostly of my deeds, often it is my evil will which threatens my theology.  My rebellious desires seek “nothing from the shameful deed but shame itself”.  How harsh are Augustine’s words, and yet how deeply they struck me as true.  “My sole gratification” is in the thought of “my own sin” and there is not much holding my back.   With Augustine I want to say to God “Presently; see, presently.  Leave me alone for a little while” and then I want to fall back into a deep sleep, and not walk up until the interesting dream is over and my responsibilities are left undone for so long that I cannot go back and do them.  Though I want to give myself fully to God eventually, I am “bound by the iron chain of my own will”. My current desires will only make this chain stronger, rather than fight against it.  Maybe I don’t live my theology because I don’t really believe it.  I know the right things to believe.  It is easy to say that God is love, but hard to live in such a way that would proclaim I believed it.  Who is this “sweeter than all pleasure” and how can I know him if not through my “flesh and blood”?