Friday, November 21

God of Sundays

Where does your faith come alive? When does it behave like a living thing ~ a thoughtful, purposeful, active part of your life?

Is it in the quiet of nature or in a charismatic religious meeting? Summer camp, maybe, by the camp fire? Do you feel more faithful when you're dutifully meeting prayer time or reading list requirements?

Maybe Sunday morning church services are your connection point with God. Maybe you feel most in tune with God when you've held an infant in your arms or achieved a personal goal.

A friend once pressed me on my relationship with God: I just don't get you. You don't go to church. You don't attend any meetings or read any Christian books, but you obviously love God. Her tone communicates, loud and clear, that I shouldn't be feeling flattered by these observations. She's puzzled, even confused. I think to myself that she's looking for the smoke and mirrors that I must be raising to throw people off the track of my obvious rebellion.

She continued, I don't understand how you can be faithful to God when you don't go to church. I don't understand how you maintain any sort of relationship with Him without something to keep you on track.

Her soft British accent was charming even in it's rebuke. I pressed her with some careful questions, wondering if the conversation might have been more about her own struggle with faith than it was about my apparent waywardness. I asked about her own relationship with Sunday mornings and how they impacted her understanding of Jesus.

The dam of frustrated emotion quickly burst. She was wrestling with the loneliness and confusion she felt in services. She was angered by so much of what was happening there. She'd taken a part time job that required that she work on Sunday's and, relieved for the respite, had missed many meetings. But, she said, without church she was without God. She didn't think about Him at all. She never prayed. She didn't even think about picking up a Bible. Actively serving Him or worshipping Him didn't ever enter her thoughts.

I understood, thanks to her moving frankness, that loving Jesus isn't something to take lightly or for granted. Thanks to her gentle criticism I understood that one of the reasons we have experienced so much resentment for our choice to stay home Sunday's is because people apply their own experience to ours, assuming that because they wouldn't give Him a though without a structured reminder, that we probably won't either.

One of the breathtaking truths about our God, though, is that He is wildly diverse! Think of it: the God who created toads and croc's (the critters, not the "shoes") also thought-up waterfalls and cumulus clouds. He made blond hair and red, both. He said that some of us should be so white that the blue of our veins would show through (*sigh*) while some of us should be the color of warm chocolate.

God purposed that some of us would think in complicated, multi-layered, brain-straining ways while others would have the gracious gift of simplification. To some He said, "Sing!" and to others, "Exemplify Me in your silence."

Some of us will wrestle with faith, grasping and striving and demanding and falling. Some of us will look at Jesus and know, know, know that He is our Love. Our deepest, fondest, most breathtaking Love. Some will see Him in the face of a mountain, some in the stroke of a brush on canvass. Some will hear Him with clear, cool, like-I-heard-it-with-my-own-ears clarity, some will never know for sure that they've heard Him at all.

My friend felt that her own struggle ought to mirror mine (or the other way 'round). But her choice-experience path is simply different from mine. For a time, my family and I have not employed a pastor and a series of well-rehearsed songs to bring us face to face with the Maker. We're looking for Him everywhere, every day. We look for Him when things are bumpy and awkward and painful. We see Him easily when things are even and sure and healing.

No more. No less. We're not feeling right (or wrong). We've just made a choice. A choice that's different than some of our other God seeking friends. We do not begrudge them church service encounters with Christ, nor would we ask them to walk the uncharted trail that we're bush-whacking our way along. We love, too. Just differently.

And that's why I was wondering where you come alive ~ where your faith lives. Is there room in your understanding to allow for the striking differences in God's creation and in His created? Is there room to gently agree that while you may not be fully comfortable with the way of another, it may be, no less, the way of God?