Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Asking the Hard Questions

Written March 30, 2011

John was asking me the hard questions last night and I don't have any answers... the more I think about them, the further out of my fingers they slip until I can't find anything to say at all. I know what I'm 'supposed' to say. We're all horrible sinners who have lost our way, and God sent his son Jesus to save us from our sins and he sacrificed himself on the cross and three days later he rose again and went back to heaven to be with God to prove to us that he really WAS God so that we will have an assurance of going to heaven when we die and we'll all be angels dancing around on the clouds until God calls an end to the whole shebang and sounds the last trump and then we'll all have shiny new physical bodies to live in the new heaven and the new earth. And if we don't ask God to save us in exactly the right words (or we have the misfortune to pick the wrong religion) then we'll spend the rest of eternity burning in the pits of Hell where we all really deserve to be.

That's what I'm SUPPOSED to say. But I just can't do it. Life isn't that simple. Nothing is ever that simple.

The only thing in the world that really IS that simple is God's love. God is. God loves us. God wants us to be with Him. That's pretty much the end of the story as far as I'm concerned... I don't have the theological background to go in-depth on anything. All I really know is that if I read something or hear something I'll take it in and something in my heart either says 'yes, this is true' or 'no, that can't possibly be what God really wants for us.' A lot of the times, my gut tells me that no, it's not from God, it's something that WE'VE added ourselves. Mankind has had thousands of years to take what Jesus taught and to twist it and turn it and to make it into what we THINK that He wants - when if He came back tomorrow and saw what we were doing with his teachings, he'd be as disgusted at the lot of us as He was when he threw the money-changers out of the temple.

God isn't about rules and regulations and limits and you have to do this and you're not allowed to do that and love is only for the lucky/chosen few who are good enough at following all the rules to get it. God won't toss you aside like yesterday's newspaper because you did something wrong. God loves us. And all He really wants from us is for us to love each other. It says so right there in the bible in black and white, more than once, in one of the parts of the bible that sings to my soul...

God loves us. We screw up because we're human, and we're going to keep on screwing up for the rest of our lives. But that's okay. God understands. While he wants us to do our best to follow His path, He understands that we are fallible human beings AND HE LOVES US ANYWAY. He loves us so much that there is absolutely nothing you can do to make him stop loving you. And that's really all there is to it.

John asked me why I went to church when I was a kid. My family didn't go, so I didn't get it from them. My friends never went NEAR a church. My cousins went, but it's not like my aunt and uncle ever sat down and talked about church and God. They weren't Evangelists, and it just plain wasn't mentioned. We never talked about it even after I asked if I could go with them (aside from their saying yes, of course they'd be more than happy to take me with them.) So why did I want to go? Partly because I felt like I had to. There was a magnet pulling me towards the church from the time I was very young. I don't remember what mama ever actually told me about Jesus, but I know that she told me he was a great teacher, and she has a great respect for the lessons that He came to show us. But she never went to church aside from one summer when SHE was about twelve - she went to a church summerschool thing and was very taken by the message and she wanted to go to church herself... but as soon as she went to a 'real' church she realised what a vast gulf there is between the theory of Jesus' love and acceptance, and the actual practice in everyday life in a lot of churches (ie. the church was full of rules and regulations AND HYPOCRITES.)  So she left the church at the ripe age of 12 and never ever went back.

I never went to Sunday School, Bible Camp, or any other church function of any kind until I was nearly 15. Sometimes I really feel the lack of that traditional church vocabulary... but more often it frees me to see things from my own perspective, without the religious blinkers that some people feel the need to wear. Like a well-trained carriage horse, they see their job as to look straight forward towards heaven and to avoid all possible distractions. All they have to do to get there is to keep looking straight ahead and to ignore everything else around them that might get in their way. I can't do that. Those obstacles that you're stepping over and skirting around are PEOPLE. They didn't ask to lose their job and their house, or to be an addict, or an invalid, or mentally ill... they didn't stand there and say 'okay God, I accept my place as a lesser part of creation because I was born in a third-world country, or because I'm gay, or whatever...'

But I'm getting sidetracked. So why did I want to go to church? Part of the answer is because I wanted to belong somewhere... I wanted to be loved and accepted - and I'd already been taught all the basics of what's right and just and how the world SHOULD be and I couldn't see the world without God being a part of the picture. And because the church is thousands of years old... it was there when the world was young and it will be there in some form until the end of days. Tradition and heritage is important to me. There's very little room for it in modern day life, but it matters! Old buildings are wonderful places, and old churches (REALLY old churches, older than anything you'll find in South Florida) are even more wonderful. You can sit there and just soak in the worshipfulness of the place. I adore them. St Pauls cathedral is right opposite the main train station in Melbourne and I'd go in and light a candle and pray there whenever I was passing by. I went to service there a few times and it was a special experience for me to worship in such an old and beautiful building.


I was only twelve years old when I decided that God had to be out there because the natural world is too incredibly complex and wonderful to ever have 'just happened'. The universe is a gigantic jigsaw puzzle and everything locks into everything else to create a perfect picture. There's something incredibly awesome in the greatest sense of the world about a universe that started from a tiny little dot - a seed that contained the beginning of EVERYTHING, and that grew and grew to become what we see around us today, and that will keep on growing and changing until the end of time. We will never know what that final picture will look like. The odds are that humanity will not even be a part of it - like the dinosaurs, we'll be long gone. We're not the infinite peak of God's creation, whatever people might like to think. That was just something else that people added in to make themselves feel special. We're just a tiny little dot on one of the pieces in the jigsaw puzzle that is Creation, but if you could get outside of time and space to where God is, then you'd see the infinite glory of His canvas.

John asked me how I see God. I can't wrap my mind around the whole concept. Again, God is too big for us to describe him.

In Babylon 5 there's a scene where J'kar picks up an ant from a leaf on one side of the plant and then puts it down on another  one. The ant is unharmed, but there is no possible way for the ant to really know what happened. It doesn't have the vocabulary, or the intellect to grasp it. After it rains, the earthworms sometimes crawl out onto the pavement and lose their way. If they stay there, they'll die a horrible death when the sun comes out... if I see one in time to save it, I pick it up and put it back into the soft moist garden bed where it belongs. I can't stand there and tell it 'hey, you're making a big mistake!' and expect it to change its path... I can either help it, if I'm in time, or cry over it, if I'm too late.

And on the same note, I'm sure you've all heard the story about the little boy throwing the starfish back into the ocean after they washed up on the beach... an older guy comes along and asks him what he's doing. There are starfish for miles and he can't possibly make a real difference to the outcome for most of them. So why is he doing it? And the little boy looks at him and picks up another starfish and throws it in and says 'I made a difference for that one!'

God doesn't expect us to work miracles. That's His domain, and they're few and far between... but we have to do what we can, whenever we can, for whoever we can. In the end, all we really need is love... (okay, thanks Beatles, I guess you were right on that one! lol)

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