I have lately become aware of the many metaphors that we use to describe our lives and also our interpretation of scripture. And I must admit with a certain amount of chagrin that I have been a person who has read books and scripture looking for recipes and formulas to follow that will ensure my success.
My question today is what formula or recipes are we trying to follow as it pertains to our understanding of the Bible that in turn have kept us from a relationship with God through Jesus.
I must say before I begin to open up this thought that I have personally turned a corner in my life after having been in somewhat of a lull/holding pattern following my departure from a church I had been a part of for 22 years. There was a time after leaving when all I could do at night was sit in my chair and wait for the tv to light up—I didn’t have the energy to read or draw or even write very well—though I kept trying to figure things out in order to feel alive.
I have tried to leave the blame for what happened in that church behind me and am not currently involved in thinking about it to much any more. Not that I am fully free from the ramifications of leaving—just that I am no longer consumed by them or by trying to figure it all out.
Most of what I learned from that church was that within Christianity as “we” understood it, even at its most basic level, there was a formula for everything—even to having a relationship with God. It was a basic formula: Get up in the morning and have an extended quiet time with God by praying and reading the word; attend the various gatherings of the church; give your time/tithe and talent to the local body and have a date night with your wife and everything would be fine as wine (this is from a husband’s perspective).
When you fell off the “works” wagon you were expected to get back on it as soon as possible and from that point on I can’t really remember what was required except for living with the feeling that I wasn’t measuring up with whatever it was for the last ten years that I attended. I am trying to be positive here—but I try to call it the way that I see it.
A formula or recipe can best be described as a: procedure to be followed or any fixed or conventional method of doing something—which in and of itself is not a bad thing. But when the procedure itself leads you to a place of thinking that you have something which you don’t, there most certainly is a problem.
In other words, having a relationship with Jesus is a lot more than just following a group of exercises or motions designed to facilitate our human understanding of what this means or otherwise fullfilling a biblical mandate. I am not sure at this time that I completely understand what it means to be a Christian—a follower of Christ—but I am on the trail and know that one day I will be one. Not that I am not one presently—but you know what I mean—I don’t feel fully engaged, captivated or otherwise fully functioning in that role at present.
I guess the bottom line is that we are taught that by believeing whatever it is that the church we attend believes we are in like flynn and in the process of building our house on the rock. Pre-trib, mid-trib or post-trib and all that. What about no trib at all and what does any of that have to do with anything in the meantime.
Wikipedia has at least 33 Christian movements listed on the first page of my google search: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_movements#Religious) which begins with the 24/7 prayer movement and ends with the weak theology movement. I am literally amazed at what there is out there!
And though each of these movements may share some similarities, they all have a definate idea of the way things shoud work and the formulas for how a person is to get to wherever it is that each says we need to go.
Back in the day we had to have special speakers come into the church in order to let us know that God still loved us even though we didn’t read our bibles every day. Then John Eldridge said basically the same thing in one of his books and is now doing alright for himself as an author. I used to think that smoking an occasional cigar and having a relationship with God was mutually exclusive—you can’t have them both. Not that smoking a cigar is something that we should aspire to but my thought was that when I smoked a cigar I was in reality telling God to go someplace else for about a half an hour and I would get back to him when I was finished. He may or may not approve of my choice but I have come to understand that if Jonah couldn’t get away from God in the belly of a whale, He is probably not going anywhere when I light up from time to time.
To that end I have taken to inviting Him along when I take a bike ride—yes I still pray out loud for protection and that He would cover my trip with His angels—who wants to fall off a bike at thrity miles a hour—but it is more a beginning of an understanding that He is there anyway—so I might just as well take full advantage of the moment. If He wants to speak to me in that time I am open to it and I believe that I have my ears and heart open.
I guess it boils down to understanding that God accepts us and then accepting ourselves in the process of becoming whatever it is we were created to become. Yes we need to read the bible and pray and look for opportunities to serve but all that should be generated from a heart engaged in a relationship with the creator of the universe and not as a method to get anyone’s favor or to gain some points that we can cash in when we get to heaven.
I suspect that other poeple have said what I have just tried to verbalize in more understandiable and concise terms—but this is the ride that I am on today—tomorrow I will know more and love more.
But today has enough stuff going on as it is.
I guess it boils down to understanding that God accepts us and then accepting ourselves in the process of becoming whatever it is we were created to become. Yes we need to read the bible and pray and look for opportunities to serve but all that should be generated from a heart engaged in a relationship with the creator of the universe and not as a method to get anyone’s favor or to gain some points that we can cash in when we get to heaven WELL PUT…one of your better blogs…
Melody beat me to the punch. This one resonated with me so loud and clear. I continue to grow in my admiration for your writing, your thinking, your desire to love Jesus more and more. You are a blessing and an encouragement. Keep running the race, my friend. You are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses — and fellow runners! 🙂
Your comments (and Melody’s) are much appreciated. I almost feel that I had reached a place that I have desired for several years to be—one where God can use my talent in an authentic way—not in some candy coated manifestation of writing prowess. I have truly uncovered a passion that I never thought would ever see the light of day again.
I’m rejoicing, even dancing. I knew you would peddle over this road because God is faithful, and I have always seen you as a seeker. You seek (an exercise of your will) and find (a function of His will). The astounding thing is that He always has more to reveal!
Terry, the long ride cannot be a “works” ride, we burn out too quickly. The long ride can only be achieved through grace. Grace is only understood and experienced through relationship, not through works. The Message’s rendering of Matt 11:28-30 says it as well as anywhere I have found. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Oddly enough, when the time came for me to make a church change, God spoke to me during a quality quiet time – a glass of single malt and my pipe on the back deck. But that is a story for another time (and perhaps some more single malt).
Sounds kinda like you and Donald Miller have been hanging out. Thanks for your imput. During the end of my stay at the church in mention, I felt like the boy in that story about the horse manure. You know the one where someone notices that this boy is up to his shoulders in a big pile of manure and they ask him what he is doing and he replies, “This is such a big pile of manure there must be a horse in here somewhere.” I never found the horse but kept looking for it in the wrong place for much to long. You bring the ice cubes.
I traded in my pipe years ago for better smelling breath! But I do miss that sweet smell of pipe tobacco. My alcoholic drink of choice is a wine cooler. I know it’s a sissy drink – not for men of valor, but I never could get past the smell of Budweiser and thus have never even tried a beer or ale. Kim likes a nice cool Negro Modelo or Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale. Give me a Bartles & James Strawberry Daiquiri and we’ll be friends forever. Oh yeah, all that spiritual stuff you said was good too. 🙂
What’s not to like about a Nut Brown Ale. Stay tuned, the ride is about to get even more interesting.
Rodney, you should try a honey brown ale. It would be a nice intro to the brew arena. Newcastle is probably the most widely enjoyed beer in the world, and is well worth a try. Terry, I will bring the cubes for you, but I prefer my single malt served neat (no ice). Just let me know when and where.