Just so you know

All right. I have ideas. I think about stuff. So here is the spot for stuff I'm thinking about and want to be able to share more broadly and possibly promote. Like I have time for this.

Everything is provisional at this point and subject to change in the future - as far as the blog is concerned. In real life some things will remain unchanged.

Also, our children are not really named Lenny and Linus. We are not that cool.

Feel free to share, rant, disagree, but please remember that I'm an actual person who tries to be respectful. I'd love it if you are and do to.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Capital T Truth: Examination of Faith

I claim on my Twitter bio to be "obsessively honest."  I should probably take that out.  I probably would be soul-searingly honest on this blog except that I don't want to hurt other people or violate their privacy by revealing parts of their lives they'd rather not have smeared all over the internet.  Also, I don't always want to deal with the feedback I might get.  On that count I should say that for the most part the feedback I've gotten so far has been very positive and helpful.  Some discussions offline have been... revealing.  And tended to leave me feeling a little more cautious about what I share here.

I read a blog post this week about honesty and how it can be good in relationships, but also used as a weapon.  I don't want to do that.  Ideally I would deal with the parts of my story that have to do with other people privately and just share the parts that have to do with me.  It's not really that simple, though.  Nothing that I think or believe or do is not somehow connected to some other person.  That's probably not the best way to say that.  Everything I think and believe and do is somehow connected to some other person.  I can't tell my story in any meaningful way without including parts of the stories of other people.  Maybe that means I just can't tell parts of my story right now.

So here's a story I think I can tell.  My husband and I met through a Christian group on the campus of the large state university we were both attending at the time.  We shared a Seder meal one year with some other group members.  It turns out that lamb does not agree with my digestive system.  I got terrible cramps.  Also at the meal was a Jewish man - an Israeli national who, although he identified as an atheist, had agreed to share the meal with us and explain some of the traditions.  When he saw that I was in pain and hard my explanation he said he thought he could help me - if I was interested.   I agreed - mostly to be polite, I think.

He asked me to sit down and close my eyes.  He asked me if I was a believer.  I was confused by this question.  I said, "I believe some things."  He said something to the effect that what he was going to do might not work without belief.  Then he reached out and placed his hand near my abdomen.  I don't remember anything else that he said or did.  After a moment a warmth spread over the area that had been hurting and the pain subsided somewhat.  He must have seen me relax somewhat and asked if I felt better.  I said I did.  The evening moved on, as far as I can remember, without much discussion of the event.

I still don't know what he did or why it worked.  It might have been Reiki.  That's the closest thing I've heard of to what happened.  This was outside of what I was comfortable with or expected to happen at that time.  But I didn't dwell on it much or question it.  I think that I thought that the mind/body connection is powerful and could probably explain it somehow.

The point is that the question about whether or not I was a believer has stuck with me all these years.  Growing up I was taught that it was not enough to simply believe.  One needed to believe the right truth.  Accepting a general idea of spiritual possibilities or even seeking a general good wouldn't get a person anywhere.  Capital T truth, as defined by the Bible and interpreted by the Evangelical Christian tradition was necessary.  For salvation.  To avoid eternal suffering and separation from God.  Other types of belief were only interesting to me in terms of how they compared or contrasted with "real" truth.  I didn't explore or consider them for their own sake.

Now I wonder if I have really even explored my own faith.  When I read about different ways of interpreting and thinking about scripture I realize that I have accepted some ideas uncritically.  I have been satisfied with the answers I was given growing up and have not really considered the alternatives.  Well, maybe satisfied isn't really the right word.  I accepted them, anyway.  There was a certain element of fear involved.  I think that I didn't want to look to closely at the alternatives.  Capital T truth, after all.  Salvation depended on it.  Eternity.

I thought I was well informed.  I went to church and Sunday school.  Bible class taken seriously at the Christian school I went to.  I have memorized so many scripture passages and they still roll off my tongue.  I took Old and New Testament Survey classes at my Christian college.  I think I know more about Evangelical Christianity than the average bear.  (Or person sitting in the pews or the plush purple chairs as the case may be.)

I also have made at least some effort to both live out and experience the truths I've been taught.  In high school I helped with a ministry to the "squatter" kids who lived near our school.  During summers when I was in college I worked at a day camp for inner city kids.  Once I moved away from home I picked churches that emphasized the work of the spirit and expected, but did not demand, God to "show up" in tangible and exciting ways.

And sometimes, in some ways, that has seemed to happen.  But most of them, like the incident with the digestive discomfort, can probably be explained by looking at the power of the human mind or the impact of good, loving people reaching out to each other.  Which, you may say, is one way that God works.  But I have also seen that happen, as it did that night, when the people involved made no claim to know God.  Which doesn't prove that He doesn't exist... or that He does.  It just... is.

The lonely, sick years wore away at my faith.  The times when I poured out my pain in prayer and begged for a reprieve and nothing changed.  The housebound years when for weeks at a time the only person I saw was my husband.  The lonely feeling of having an illness that required an explanation but was never really understood.  The disappointment of losing a career that I had labored so hard for.  God did not take that time away.  He did not change that situation.  It was like that for a long time.

It did change.  Now it is different.  And part of me thinks that I "should" be so thankful.  That I should be shouting from the rooftops that God is faithful and has finally answered my prayers.  But the career is gone, I think, forever.  And my children still feel the impact of my lack of health every day.  It's so much better than it used to be, but it's far from "good."

So now, in the midst of this full, overwhelming, extremely exhausting time, I try to think about Truth.  I try to understand how it can sit inside me and bring healing instead of constantly rubbing against the old hurting places.  I look at the "popular" ideas that have floated around in my consciousness for as long as I can remember.  They don't seem consistent with my experience.  Is my perception wrong?  Have I understood what I have been taught or the Bible wrong?  Is there a "Truth" out there that I can be at peace with?  It's hard for me to think about it without experiencing debilitating pain.  But it seems impossible for me to walk away from these questions. 

I've realized lately that I haven't really spelled out what my questions about faith are on this blog.  Maybe I can do that soon.  In the mean time, if you have a Pinterest account you can get an idea of what I'm thinking about by looking at the board "Spiritual Journey."  I'm not really trying to plug my Pinterest account here, it's just a great way to spy on people in general and me in particular.  Did I say spy?  I mean... understand??  Maybe I should do a post with links to some of the posts I've pinned with a summary and my thoughts or comments.

Is that enough of a conclusion for this post?  I hope so, because it's what I've got for now.


  1. I really struggle with this idea of what to share, and what not to share publicly. I have never been afraid to just tell it like it is, with regard to myself, but I've always had so many internal stops for sharing other people's stories, even when they're a huge part of my own. Glennon Melton of Momastery says we should be "brave enough to tell our own story, while being kind enough not to tell anybody else's."
    I believe in that statement, I really do, and I want desperately to preserve other people's dignity. But sometimes that ends up feeling like you can't talk about things that are really important to you.
    I didn't talk about orphan care for 2 years, b/c I loved our next door neighbors who ran the orphanage, even though I didn't like the orphanage model. Only now am I getting up the courage to write about it. I've never talked about the legalistic church we attended for 3 years fresh out of the Army, because those people were my brothers and sisters in Christ, even if I thought they did wrong things. But that experience was a huge part of my faith journey. And even now, I feel I can't discuss something extremely dear to my heart, because it concerns painful stuff at our home church. Painful. Why can't I tell my own story?? Because it has other people's stories attached?? Does time make it ok?? Forgiveness?? Distance?? What??

    1. Sorry, I've been meaning to get back to this, but things have been a little crazy around here.

      I think if something had been well discussed and resolved with another person, or they had given their permission it would be OK. Sometimes I see people tell stories in a way that protects the privacy of the other person, but I think it could still have an impact on their relationship, if they have one.

      I don't know. I guess it also makes a difference how important it is for the person to tell the story - for their own personal healing and growth - and what the chances are for reconciliation. I've seen some people telling stories of coming out of cult-like church settings that cast some people in a pretty bad light. Maybe that kind of thing needs to be exposed so that it can be changed or other people can avoid it.

      It seems like a decision that's pretty specific to each person's situation.