Category — thoughts on spirituality
I love reading other people’s books…particularly when they are owned by people like my husband who mark their books up like crazy. Reading someone’s notes scribbled down the margins, highlighting poignantly meaningful passages or asking genuine questions of the text is like a little glimpse into someone’s private journal. They are thoughts and questions never intended for another’s eyes, and are therefore so refreshingly pure, honest, and transparent. I just love seeing what was moving or thought-provoking for another person. Call it being nosey, but it adds another layer of meaning to the reading experience for me.
That being said, I am LOVING reading Jerry’s copy of The Problem of Pain, in part for that very reason. As I’ve said a million times, Clive Staples is the man. I have to pay FULL attention the entire time that I am reading his non-fiction; if I allow my mind to wander for even just a minute, I will lose part of his argument. And then after each chapter, I just have to sit for a few minutes and really reflect on the entirety of his thought/argument in the chapter; you know, really let it marinate and congeal in that head of mine so that it will really stick. I know that makes me sound, well…pretty slow if we’re being honest, but his intelligence is just far above mine. I have no problem openly admitting that. But hey, I was the valedictorian of my high school class, so don’t judge me (and you other 16 classmates from my graduating class don’t give away the fact that that achievement is considerably less impressive than I just made it sound…).
Anyhow, this little margin note made me chuckle. It was on a chapter about God’s goodness. Yes, Jerry wrote it and yes, he has impeccably neat (almost creepy-neat) guy handwriting. Within the chapter, C.S. uses various analogies of how man experiences and perceives love to portray “an inadequate, but useful, conception of God’s love for man.” Within that section is this segment that garnered the “Oh my goodness, bring the heat, Clive” comment from that adorable husband of mine. It doesn’t pack nearly the same punch without the surrounding context and climactic structure of the chapter, but it’s CS, so it’s awesome anyway.
When Christianity says that God loves man, it means that God loves man: not that He has some ‘disinterested’, because really indifferent, concern for our welfare, but that, in awful and surprising truth, we are the objects of His love. You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the ‘lord of terrible aspect’, is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes. How should this be, I do not know: it passes reason to explain why any creatures, not to say creatures such as we, should have a value so prodigious in their Creator’s eyes. It is certainly a burden of glory not only beyond our deserts but also, except in rare moments of grace, beyond our desiring; we are inclined, like the maidens in the old play, to deprecate the love of Zeus.
I know not why and oftentimes I see not how, but I do believe that inherent in the charater of God is a deep and pure love for the work of His hands, the sheep of His pasture, the children of a mighty King, His beautiful bride: we, the people. Even in times of doubt and amidst questions that I fail to satisfyingly answer, that terrifying, liberating, and incredible notion speaks to something deep within me. I can’t escape it.
December 16, 2010 2 Comments
I feel like a college student again today. I am sitting at Panera with my scrumptious 460 calorie cinnamon crunch bagel (they post the calorie counts now–it doesn’t give me one second’s pause), a warm cup of green tea, Jerry’s laptop (thanks, hun!), a book, and Christmas cards to address. It’s a beautiful sunny day here, and I am experiencing my usual morning giddiness. It’s going to be a good day.
Today I am starting CS Lewis’ The Problem of Pain, which tackles the ever-challenging question, If God is good and all-powerful, why does He allow His creatures to suffer pain? It’s Jerry’s year-three pick for me (we choose a book for the other to read each year of our marriage), but I would have read it on my own anyway. It’s been on my mind for a while; for some reason, it’s a book that’s simultaneously exciting and terrifying to me, the latter of which has caused me to drag my feet until now. To be honest, I’m not exactly sure why I have had that reaction. It’s just such a huge, important, and oftentimes quite divisive question. I put so much stock in CS, his brilliance, and his understanding/relationship with God; I want his thoughts and arguments in this book to be outstanding and affirming of the way I view God and perceive this topic, and I don’t want to deal with processing the implications if they’re not. I guess that might be the root of the terrifying part (just being honest). Plus, it’s just uncomfortable to really focus on and attempt to wrap your mind around the depth and breadth of suffering in this world. It’s not a sexy topic or a “fun” way to spend your time and mental energy. Obviously it’s necessary and beneficial for being a competent and compassionate member of society, but that doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable.
For the most part, I am okay with the general Christian explanations for suffering–the corruption of both man and the natural world with sin, the tear in the perfect fibers of the first universe God created initiated by man’s free will to make his own decisions. I’m okay with the notion of God not routinely stepping in to alleviate or eradicate suffering because that would negate free will and essentially would negate the value of human goodness and virtue. I’m okay with the notion of God, similar to a parent, allowing us to make our own mistakes instead of rushing in to rescue us every time. We are designed to learn from experiences, to build character in difficult times–that’s oftentimes where we learn the most about ourselves, others, God, and life. I’m okay with that. Thankful for it, in fact. But what I can’t wrap my mind around and reconcile is two-fold: large-scale human evil along the genocide lines and enormous numbers of people, especially children, who suffer their entire lives and die from lacking basic human needs of food and clean water. I know in my head that my beliefs about suffering, if they stand on the aforementioned principles and premise, should remain regardless of the scope of the suffering. I have no right or authority to impose my own “judgment line” to delineate “regular suffering” from suffering that is too extreme to fall under the scope of my aforementioned beliefs. I know that it my head, but I just can’t reconcile it internally. And I know there’s also the element of heaven and it’s role in making sense of suffering. I do think sometimes we get so consumed in our own lives and world, that we miss or simply fail to comprehend the bigger picture, of which heaven surely plays a substantial part. As I said, it’s a complex and divisive issue.
I watched a debate between Bart Erhman, an agnostic professor of Religious Studies at UNC and Dinesh D’Souza, a conservative Christian author, public speaker, and President of King’s College yesterday on the topic of suffering. It got the wheels turning and ultimately pushed me over the edge to dive into The Problem of Pain. Despite the discomfort, I’m looking forward to the journey.
December 2, 2010 5 Comments
A friend of mine…well, I’m not exactly sure what the best decriptor of him would be…he is definitely a friend, so that fits, but I mostly knew him as my (now ex-) boyfriend’s older brother. When I was in high school, I dated this guy for about 2 and a half years and therefore spent a lot of time with his family, whom I still adore. His older brother, Starsky (sweeeeetest name evah…and yes, his dad fought to name the next one ”Hutch” but his mother wouldn’t budge and landed on Clint instead) wrote this note on facebook a while back and it just always really stuck with me. When I knew I wanted to start a blog, I emailed him to ask permission to post it on here, to which he graciously obliged. And so I figured I would hold onto it for a day like today, when I am running out to watch a variety of munchkins for the day and so therefore don’t really have abundant time to compose original thoughts of my own.
I love when everyday occurences hit us with supernatural, revelatory meaning. Metaphors and parallels of our earthly experiences are such helpful ways to understand aspects of God and His love for us.
Thanks, Starsky for letting me share!
Last night I had an unforgettable experience with my friend Jeremy on our way home from Chicago. Thanks to bumper to bumper traffic, it took us almost two hours to get to the airport. Once we arrived we had 50 minutes before our flight left which I assumed was plenty of time. Well, I was wrong! The ticket counter line was outrageous and the security line was even worse. As Jeremy and I were trying to get through security, our names were announced over the intercom. Once we finally made it through, we grabbed our things and ran like sprinters through the airport with our shoes untied and belts in hand. As we completed our 400 yard sprint, we rushed up to the desk only to be received by a shaking head and an “I’m sorry, it’s too late.” The lady told us that the doors were locked and they can’t open them again. While gasping for air, I exclaimed, “but this is the last flight out until tomorrow.” She said in her yankee accent, “I know, I’m sorry, IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.” I looked at Jeremy, who was still trying to recover from our dash across the airport, with a helpless look of despair. As we were both still trying to process the fact that we were about to spend the night in the airport, the pilot walks up to the counter and says, “let them on, they’re with me. I was locked out too.” Jeremy and I looked at each other and shouted out praises to God. After a couple of minutes, the doors open and we were allowed on the plane.
On the drive home last night, it hit me, that’s what Jesus did for us on the cross. Because of our sin, we should be turned away at the gates of Heaven. We should hear, “IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.” But then Jesus appears out of nowhere and says, “let them in, they’re with me.”
By the grace of God,
(I actually did look to google some pictures of Jesus to put up with our Catch Me If You Can pilot, but for some reason they all just felt either creepy and sacrilegious or really corny…)
November 10, 2010 2 Comments
…and believe it or not, this post has nothing to do with Halloween…
So, I have a strange thing about graveyards. I really like them. I find them peaceful and beautiful and I like to walk through and think about the lives, the experiences, and the history held beneath the ground. This lovely graveyard is a mere half-block from my house and while graveyards are thought to be creepy, I intend these photos from a recent fall walk to be a light, though relevant addition to the otherwise “heavier” theme of this post: demonic dreams.
There have only been 3 times in my life (to my knowledge) that I have had strangely spiritual, demonic dreams: last night was one of them. I know that sentence was supremely off-putting and skepticism-inducing to any of you who haven’t experienced such things or who don’t believe in demonic dreams or the presence of the spiritual realm intersecting the physical world. I know that, and for that reason, I have debated blogging about such spiritual and potentially controversial things. Not because I don’t think they’re important or real (I think both of those things very strongly) but because I know this topic can be very alienating and I know a lot of people (myself included at times in the past) have been wounded or made to feel less-than by this topic. BUT, I created this blog as a free forum to unleash my thoughts, particularly my spiritual thoughts, as I wrestle through them AND I really do believe that the spiritual world is both very important and very real. So my goal, especially with this topic, is just to tell my experience in a normal, non-threatening way and to invite your feedback.
First off, if you know me, you know that I am really a very typical 20-something: I play sports; I read books; I love a good meal, a hearty laugh, and a fun vacation. I say all that to say, I am most likely very much like you. I am not an unrelatable person with a crazy spiritual experience that would never happen to you. I am a normal person who experienced the power of God and that power is available to you as well, if you want it. I have felt put-off and judged in the past by people who seem like they feel superior because of their holy, spiritual experiences with God and who seem to make everyyyyyything about some kind of great spiritual warfare. So I just want to convey from the beginning that the power of Jesus is available to anyone who desires it (there’s certainly nothing super-spiritual and special about me) and while I do think there is a spiritual realm at play in our physical world, I don’t think every negative experience in my life is a “demonic attack.”
So, as I said, there have been 3 times in my life that I have had what I would consider demonic dreams, one of which was last night. To be honest, I don’t remember much of my dream last night and the fragments that I do remember would not re-tell in a clear, normal, and non-threatening way, per my goal so I don’t want to get into the specifics. However, along this theme, I did feel compelled to share my first and most vivid demonic dream, which happened during my junior year at college.
As I think I have mentioned on here before, I went to Gordon College, a small, Christian, liberal arts school on the north shore of Massachusetts. My junior year at Gordon was a time when I felt really close and really connected to God. I spent a lot of intentional time in prayer and I felt like He was walking tangibly close to me, guiding me. I don’t know how to best describe it beyond simply the fact that I could sense a peace and presence not my own. I felt protected and cared for. So one morning I was in that in-between sleeping and awake dream state where you are still in the midst of dreams but you are cognitively aware that you are only sleeping and it’s not real. Has anyone else ever experienced that? Dreams in this state are my absolute favorite! So anyway, I remember laying in my top bunk bed and feeling a pressure around my throat. I (obviously) didn’t like the sensation and since I knew I was only dreaming, I tried to just open my eyes so that it would end, but my eyes would not open. I could see a sliver out of the bottom of my eyes, through my eyelashes, enough to see that the door to my bedroom was open. And I could see slightly into the bathroom where my roommate Steph was blow-drying her hair. I could hear the whir of the blowdrier and see a fragment of her in the reflection of the mirror, but I couldn’t open my eyes (I vaguely remember there being a shifting or swirling of black above my bed, but that’s the one part of the dream that I don’t remember exactly clearly). The pressure around my throat began to increase and I felt like I was being choked. I remember being so perplexed that I couldn’t open my eyes and I remember thinking, Just scream. Just scream and Steph will hear you and come in here. Then it will all end. So I tried to open my mouth to scream and absolutely no sound came out. The grip on my throat was tightening. I couldn’t get any air and I was starting to panic. I had no idea what was happening. I had never had a demonic dream before so I had no context in which to frame it all, but I knew it was categorically different than anything else I had ever experienced.
Then I remember having a moment of calm and break through. I remember thinking, If I can just say the name of Jesus, this will all go away. Or atleast that was the thought that I was going to think, but as I was in the midst of thinking that sentence in my head, as I hit the name Jesus, it all ended. As soon as I even thought the name of Jesus, everything lifted. It was one of the most unbelievable experiences of my life. The intense choke-hold on my throat immediately lifted, I took a grasp of air and my eyes popped open all at the exact same instant that I simply thought the name of Jesus. As my eyes popped open, I looked around and everything was just as I thought it was in my in-between dream state. The door was partially open and I could see slightly into the bathroom where I heard the blowdrier going. I knew in that instant that it had all really happened, that I must have experienced my first demonic dream. It had all happened in probably less than 2 minutes. I remember laying in my bunk for a few minutes thinking about it all in detail so that I wouldn’t forget. I remember finding it all so fascinating, but feeling super, super calm and reflective. There was not one ounce of fear. In fact, I remember thinking, Well that was cool. I feel like I have the trump card of Jesus.
On the way to chapel that morning I told Steph about it all. She was a little freaked out and said something along the lines of not liking that there were demons in our room (I know that “demons” is a really off-putting word…I even still feel that way a little bit as I write it, but there’s just not really a better descriptor for those kind of spiritual forces of darkness…you can literally feel how evil they are). I totally understand how it’s a creepy thing to hear, but I remember telling her that I actually felt a really great peace and calm about it all because regardless of what they could do to me in the dream, they were wiped out at even the thought of Jesus’ name. It was really freeing to see and experience that power firsthand. And to be reminded that God will never leave me or forsake me. It was actually a really, really interesting and encouraging experience to remember that the spiritual world and the physical world are constantly weaving in and out of one another–they are not mutually exclusive–but I have the power of Jesus on my side, and that’s a reason for rejoicing, not fear.
Last night at church we sang a song which states, There is power in the name of Jesus. I thought about that experience and just smiled. The power of Jesus’ name is alive and well, even in 21st century America.
November 1, 2010 3 Comments