Monday, March 9, 2009

Lent - Desert Secrets

In the desert, you cannot lie to yourself, or God. You can’t lie because there is no one to please or show off for; and the Great Silence relentlessly absorbs everything. In front of the Great Silence, you shrivel in your falsehoods and dig deep for something worthy and authentic to share with God.

I actually believe we all have the secrets I am about to reveal, but many of us are unable to really bring them into conscious focus and discuss them with our Higher Power, our Christ Self. Maybe my sharing will help someone to go inside and see what their secrets are, share them with God and grow closer to heaven.

I am reading Jesus Interrupted again, I break open some of my secrets and realize what I believe:

The only way for me to be “safe” from God (saved) is to believe in Jesus’ atoning sacrifice for my sin. At a gut level, I feel guilty because “being saved” never entered my perception as a forceful emotional impact. It was more like “fake it ‘til you make it.” Some of the Gospel stories deeply caused fear and I tried really hard to make it. For instance, the story of the seeds strewn along the path. I was desperately afraid of being one of the seeds strewn in rocky ground, who sprang up quickly, but having no depth of soil, soon withered away in the hot sun. So I determined to be as dedicated as the people I observed around me because I wanted them to see I had deep roots in good soil. I wanted God to see this too. I felt like I was a seed in rocks, but by God, I would prove them wrong. I saw others salvation experiences and professed faith. I feared not being as good as them, so I tried really hard to be devoted.

Then, my denominational Christianity unraveled through logical thought and moral decisions (like, how can I support the church if it does this?). Other gospels stories made me feel guilty. For instance, “unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you do not have life within you.”

I grapple today with my feelings about leaving the church; but continuing to seek Christ and worry about what the Christians think of me. It seems like my denominational Christianity was a massive decades long people pleasing project. From there, I realize it was also a massive God pleasing project. I’m sure I want God to love me, so I tried to do what Jesus said. But I viewed the gospels as pointing out rules and requirements for God’s love; not simply God is love.

What about my Columbine experience? In Columbine High, Englewood Colorado, about 10 years ago, there was a girl Cassie who was shot. In her diary the night before, she had written that she so totally believed in Jesus she would die for him. I came out of the closet as a Christian when I heard that. Today, I say that I was totally impressed by Cassie’s faith and I wanted what she had. I wanted what many Christians say they have; that feeling of love and trust and safety in Jesus. But despite enormous effort on my part, I never had that belief. I was faking it.

Jesus, if you are listening, here is my secret. I’ve been faking my belief in you. I don’t believe. I admit it. I was trying to earn salvation by following the gospel; which to me had become a law.

Enter A Course in Miracles (ACIM). ACIM teaches that God is love and there is no sin. The Course gives a practice of overlooking (essentially loving your neighbor as yourself). That God is love and so I, created by God, must also be love and sin cannot exist is a big improvement in philosophy over my denominational Christianity. And it is impossible for me to pursue ACIM as a people pleasing tactic because no one I know would approve of it. It could be a God pleasing tactic though; for the same reason the gospel was a tool for earning salvation.

Now I can summarize my beliefs, my idols, my gods: I want what the other people seem to have (faith plus salvation experience) and I want to be approved of. I think approval is earned by finding out what the rules are and following them. Since I don’t have the salvation experience or the faith, I think there is something wrong with me, and God doesn’t love me.

I can stop there, or go back to ACIM, where it says I must be wrong. I’m willing to be wrong. Or else, there is no God. So, I choose: I must be wrong about God and myself. I’m willing to believe that there is something bigger than me that loves me and that I am love. Diverting into the Big Book of AA, I face the question: God either is or he isn’t. What is my choice to be? I do believe that somewhere I am connected to the fundamental idea of God, love. And that I do know its presence.

I am sure that this discussion will go further. Stay tuned.

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