Gainesaying ...

faith, life, depression, struggle

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A rapturous shrug

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 13: Participants in a movem...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Of course it didn't happen, and now Harold Camping is fine-tuning his message to get out from under the onus of being wrong again about the rapture. I hope that his followers have gotten the right message from all this and will pick up their lives without being shaken in their faith in God. And tune out Harold Camping and anyone else who is a false prophet.

But I'm not here to bash Harold Camping. I find eschatology itself to be a profoundly difficult subject, and I assume the end will come when it comes. If Jesus did not know the hour when it would come, how can I? The end will come when it comes.

A former pastor once mentioned "pan-millennialism" as a way of understanding it all—as in, "it'll all pan out in the end." That's where I've come down. I believe Jesus will return as the conquering lion at some point, all in God's plan, to usher in a new heaven and a new earth, as Scripture states. That may come today; it may come in a million years. I don't know.

I do know that "sufficient for today is its own trouble" (Matt. 6:34), and I have prayers to bring before the throne of grace this morning, as well as a life to lead as I struggle to live according to the Lord's leading. I can only manage today's struggle, and hold on in my heart to the faith and love He has given me. For that I am grateful today, and I aim to love my fellow man as I love myself in what I say and do today. I will stumble, that I know; but He is faithful to forgive, and to set my feet aright as I continue moving forward in the days He has given me.
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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter: The Lord is risen!

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...Image via Wikipedia
Of course, Jesus is always risen, once and for all, but today we celebrate the fact of His rising from the dead, thereby opening the door for all who would follow.

I marvel at the free offer of grace and mercy to all who would accept it, all made possible by His once-for-all sacrifice. He bore what we could not, and in doing so, became the first fruit of the harvest.

It's a beautiful morning, and in spite of all my struggles, I celebrate the Messiah who came for us, and will come once again for us, too. As hopeless as the world can look sometimes, there is always hope in Him, and always will be. Hallelujah, He is risen!
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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wrestling with God

Holy Spirit dove windowImage by hickory hardscrabble via Flickr
My pastor preached a good sermon Sunday on which questions to ask and answers to seek, and when to simply accept that we're not granted answers (in this life, at least). He based his sermon on Gen. 3, the very familiar passage where Eve and the serpent speak to each other. We all know where this leads, of course.

I couldn't help but think of my own struggles with faith, with God, over my own understanding of Scripture and the world around me. Honestly, there is dissonance, and there is a penchant for questioning even my faith somewhere inside me. It's something I have to live with, the doubts that pervade my mind.

It's hard to accept "no answer" as an answer, given my inquisitive nature and tendency to drill down for meaning. But it can be a fool's errand, and faith is by its nature accepting and trusting where there is no clear answer. And where would I be without the faith God has given me? I need not think back too far to remember the years of disbelief, of agnostic wondering and the very real fear that I may be doomed. God took that way, through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit's work in my heart. So, even without answers when I sometimes want them, I am grateful for the answers I have.
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Friday, January 7, 2011

Making peace with the moment

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...Image via Wikipedia
One of my battles is with a deep unease in any given moment. It manifests in various ways, some physical, but there is a spiritual aspect to this, as well.

It's not all bad. In a way, it's good to have a sense of not belonging to this body, this world, but to the next; that's what we're taught as Christians, and the Spirit of God is remaking us even now, preparing us for uncorrupted bodies and the new earth to come (with the new heaven), all when Christ returns. So I look ahead with hope and anticipation.

But we are also required to live in the moment, to be who we are becoming at any given moment—and that means accepting that we are who we are, even as we're changing and growing. It's where I need to grow most sorely, I know, and I trust God will help me come to accept that I am who He has made me to be, even as I'm growing in His love and mercy.

I want to learn how to accept that to the extent that I don't get filled with disappointment and unease at all the ways I'm not there yet, including all my failings along the way. It's easy to let the eyes drift from the cross to the missteps along the way, and to feel a despair that can come with those wandering eyes. I pray for the strength to keep my head up and keep moving forward, this day and every day, that I may find my joy ever more in Jesus Christ.
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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Comfort in one's own skin

Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, ...Image via Wikipedia
It seems self-evident that you have to find a way to get comfortable with who you perceive yourself to be, at heart. That's a little too easy for some folks; what's that old line about the unexamined life? We all could stand to change a few things in our behavior, even the best among us. None of us is perfect.

I think of this now in terms of sin and its effects. Too often I see only the direct path from sin to its consequences; I do something wrong, and it has a bad effect on other people (and me). But there is a more subtle way that sin's impact spreads outward, not only leaving an indelible mark on the sinner and those sinned against, but moving outward from there to affect others I'll never meet, even. Did my behavior cause resentment or damage the ability of the person I sinned against to trust me and others? That's just one consideration. A little leaven, as Paul wrote, leavens the whole lump.

So there is a deep sadness within me when I consider just some of my sins (from among those I'm aware of, and that is a small subset of the whole, which only God knows). I have done people wrong, and I still remember some of those acts, some of those people. And while time softens the sting to some extent, there is yet a real regret gathered around those memories. Yes, I realize that God has forgiven me simply because He is God, and He delights in doing so. But that doesn't mean I have forgotten these particular instances wherein I sinned, wherein my acts made Jesus's life and death necessary. My name, too, is on those nails.

And thinking about that, aside from all the other discomforts I feel about being me, puts me in a profound discomfort about myself. I am in this skin, with this personality, until I die. At some point, I have to accept that and be at peace with the fact that I am who I am, no more and no less. Perhaps I should've reached this point long ago. I don't know. All I know is that I'm not there yet.
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Friday, September 10, 2010

A frayed faith

I admit it, I've slid. Badly. I don't know why. I find little to no comfort in those aspects of faith that once provided abundance (or rather, God provided through faith), and am plagued with doubts again. On the other side is where I was, before I converted, a place without hope. So why this, why now?

I don't know what I need. I am floundering. I think I'm past the point where suicide is a serious consideration, or maybe I'm just not there yet. It is hard to see any reason for hope in a world without God, at least for me, and that fear keeps me where I am, clinging to a faith that doesn't always make sense to me. In fact, these days it rarely does.

I dare not discuss this with my fellow believers; doubt is not something well tolerated in any belief circles, including that of atheists (where doubt inclines toward faith). There is, in fact, little tolerance for any difference of opinion on anything. Don't take my word for it; read any website's message board.

If there is no God, no purpose to anything, then the only meaning life has is what we arbitrarily ascribe to it. There is no intrinsic value to anything. 

Today I read of research that seems to indicate that Stalin was right all along: a single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic, nothing more. We just don't respond emotionally to mass killing, and yet that is a keynote of human existence, even now, in 2010. We love to wipe each other out en masse; murder is our calling card, one to another. It's devastating to think about. Or liberating, if one is sufficiently misanthropic.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Weary of politics

PHILADELPHIA - MARCH 18: Democratic Presidenti...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
I know that political debate energizes some people, but I find all of politics to be a very wearying affair. The debate, such as it is, is endless; in many (if not most) cases, both sides in the debate have some good points to make, and a lot of bad points that each side willfully ignores. The truth is often somewhere in the middle, and it is rarely pretty.

immigration protest 2Image by Mr. Wright via Flickr

Just to take one contentious issue: immigration. Here's an issue I can see both sides on. Illegal immigration is, in fact, a violation of our nation's laws, and those who violate it are lawbreakers by definition. They're also desperately poor people, in most cases, who want a better chance to work their way to a better life for themselves and their families. So their desire to cross into the U.S. illegally is very understandable to me. But it's not without consequences. Illegal immigrants tend to work cheaper than native workers do, which depresses wages at the lower economic strata. But, they also work hard and contribute to our national economy. But, they also use a lot of "free" government services from cash-strapped states that many citizens don't have access to. And what of those who follow the law, who immigrate legally? Are they fools? What are we to say to them if we shrug at the influx of illegal immigration?

All of which to say that this is a very complicated issue, one that defies simple solutions. And there I'm typically left by all the debate, not sure what to think, frustrated and weary. I sometimes wish I were more of an ideologue, just to find some degree of comfort with a political position. But then, when I see friends who are—how much of their time and energy gets swallowed up by their politics—I'm glad I'm not.

And I'm not. I am a follower of Jesus Christ, that much I know and believe. And I have friends who also are who fall all along the political spectrum. I'm grateful for them all, and I condemn none of them, even if I happen to disagree with them. (I also have friends who are not Christians; the same applies to them.)

It seems to me that politics is a necessary evil, an endless debate over every imaginable issue that has no solution that works for everyone. There is a futility to it all that I ultimately run into, and in times of futility, I run to the Lord. In this life, all things, all times are ultimately futile; in His embrace alone I find hope and comfort.

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