Friday, 22 May 2009

Day 17

So far I threw out guilt, hell, fundamentalism and the need to have a handle on God. Today I am wrapping up the “race” as religious metaphor. In the Christian story, a writer named Paul used it to describe his spirituality and ever since Christians have been in competition with one another. (It is probably more complex than that, but for argument’s sake, let us keep it like that.)

“Who will be first?”

“Who will be last?”

“What will the prizes be?”

“Am I fast enough?”

“Fit enough?”

“I hope the others struggle or fall or trail behind.”

“God I hope I win.”

Is that really a healthy way of looking at spirituality? I can imagine that in Paul’s context it was revolutionary or at least helpful. But in a society where everything is about winning and no one ever sits still, because you might just get left behind, the race as metaphor is like fuel on the fire.

Eventually you end up with the “not good enough feeling”, because in life there is always someone faster, stronger, bigger and better. Your fall is detrimental. You can’t always win.

But religion doesn’t tell you this. Loosing is just not on. You have to win; otherwise you’ll get kicked out of the team. It’s as simple as that.

Then I look at the life and teachings of Jesus and somehow the race metaphor does not fit. When Jesus called people to follow him, he chose the losers of his day to be part of a countercultural movement where people found healing and restoration in the belief that they are loved by God “as is” and not as “supposed to be”. One day a few of his friends got into an argument of who is in the lead towards the finish. Jesus, overhearing the conversation, rebuked them and sent them back to the end of the line to learn about the art of unselfishness.

The kingdom of God, as Jesus spoke of it, is a journey where the way is just as important as the destination. Jesus came to give us life, not tire us out. Faith is not an effort to grab pole position towards the finish line.

We are called to walk together, carry each other and share life together.

5 comments:

PixiePie said...

AMEN!!!

Just an opinion (and I might be wrong here), on something I have noticed in a few of the writings… the idea that we search for God, that we have to look for Him and find Him… I think God cannot be looked for and found – He is already there, He is everywhere! I agree that I don’t think God is behind the curtains… WE are behind the curtains and even there, with us, there is God. We have just pressed our faces so deeply into the curtains that we don’t realize that he is standing right there, smiling at us, waiting for us to pull our faces out and SEE Him!!! And then, as you said Fourie, the real journey begins. Not the journey of “finding God”, but the journey of getting to know Him, the journey of the relationship. And no, you cannot just pull your face out of the curtains and there is faith, all neatly wrapped up and complete. Faith and the relationship with God works like every other relationship in our lives, it starts off with very little knowledge of the other person and is never complete, there is always something new to learn, something exciting to discover. And if you continue to look for these new and exciting aspects of God and of the relationship, it will never stagnate and never become boring or just part of the usual. And of course there will be times of conflict, doubt and anger (at least from our side), these are the times that we tend to rummage through the garbage or the trunk in the attic and pull out the old curtains and press our faces into them because we believe that we missed something, that there was something in there that we need… I also however believe that this is part of the relationship… besides, what relationship can grow beyond the superficial without any challenges!

Then on a bit of a different note… I agree whole heartedly with Blizzard and Sparky on the whole hell debate. It is not a question of, does hell exist or not, it is weather we focus on it or not. If we believe that we have been saved by Jesus then there is no need for us to worry about hell. And neither God nor Jesus ever gave us instructions to WARN others against hell, the instruction was to TELL others of the good news… there is a HUGE difference. And even if we do believe that there must be such a place as hell, we have absolutely no right to say, or even speculate about who goes there. The Bible clearly says that no man is allowed to judge another. We can never know what goes on between a person’s spirit/soul and God, whether it is throughout their life, or in their last minutes. My grandfather was a very stubborn man and very angry with God for most of his life (he had lost his eldest son when he was only 16 years old). He went to church, but he never had any kind of relationship with God (as far as I knew) and didn’t want to have anything to do with Him. My uncle had said a few times that the way my grandfather was at that time, there could be no doubt that he would not go to heaven (or in other words that he would go to hell). In his last years my grandfather developed Alzheimer’s or Dementia and became more and more withdrawn within himself. He however also became a much gentler person. I had prayed a million times that God would not take him before he was ready, before he had chosen Jesus as his saviour and would therefore go to heaven (as my worried mind had understood it). The night he died the entire family was crammed into their small bedroom and I was sitting on the floor next to his bed, holding his hand… and the most Divine peace settled over me. I knew that somewhere in his baffled mind, that made no sense to the rest of us, God had understood him. I believe with my entire being that my grandfather had met God and that God was there in the room ready to take him Home. I will never forget those last moments and the realization it brought me: who was I, or my uncle for that matter to believe that my grandfather was not saved. God, and ONLY God knows our true hearts…

Sparky said...

PixiePie, I love this comment of yours. I think you’re spot on with the idea that you cannot search for God, because He’s just there. It’s actually reversed... God was searching for us and He found us! (Doesn’t the Bible tell us this exact same story? The Sheppard went off in search for the lost sheep – I have never thought of it that way.)

I have this image of a cartoon character standing inside a huge dinosaur footprint frantically searching the ground with a magnify glass looking for footprints. Maybe we’re standing "inside" God looking for Him. How ridiculous and absolutely hilarious!

Fourie Rossouw said...

Love it, love it, love it! What a great metaphor, standing inside the footprint!

Pixie, I agree. You helped me to realize that this journey is not a search for God, but an autumn season to shed the old, dead leaves and prepare for winter.

I remember a poster of a local church I saw as a student studying at Stellenbosch. It was photo of a boy in the desert and underneath the following words was written: "Be found." Thats probably what this blog is about.

Narfie said...

You guys have touched on a metaphor that's very close to my heart, and in the same breath comforts and angers me.

We keep banging our heads against the same freakin' wall. Since the very very beginning it should've been clear that God is not hiding and that we are not searching for Him, but well as you said, the other way around.

Didn't He wonder through the garden of Eden calling out to His children "Adam, Eve, where are you?" and they replied "We're here, hiding, we're naked and ashamed".

God is always looking for us, because for whatever reason we are always naked and ashamed and hiding. If you go looking for God you'll be searching forever.

I am so glad that at least you guys are of the same mind as I am. I just wish that I could stop hearing from preachers that we must never stop searching for God.

Stop banging your heads against the same wall!

AlexSteyn said...

I've got a dilemma. Not too long ago Time magazine startled the world when an article was published about Mother Theresa's 'crisis of faith'. We all gasped for air and thought if she lost contact with God, where are we going to. Certainly in the 'race for heaven' she was probably no1 on most people's lists. Definitely on mine. It made waves for a while, it lost it's flavour and we moved on seasons changed and our search for meaning and purpose continued and yet nobody could live up to mother theresa's epic legacy. I never forgot that article. Doubt always freaked me out. And that someone that important and influential couldn't find God.
This year in a course on the Meaning of Life in philosophy, the first article we read was... Mother Theresa's crisis of faith. Amongst other articles. The point of everything we read was is a Good Life, a Meaningful life. She lead the ultimate good life what was the meaning. For long periods of her life she lived in darkness. Devoid of contact with God. She felt like He was absent. Damn irony. Altruism, ideal pointless reciprocal? Levinas an important philosopher believed the Other is more important than yourself. I believe in altruism. I live that life. If we are to find God in other people, why is it so difficult to find Him in ourselves. We unwrapping this box throwing out all the rubbish but what are we looking for? What did Mother Theresa see or didn't see that led her to also having this crisis. No matter what kind of life we lead. That God shaped hole follows up everywhere