Saturday, December 10, 2011

In the Midst

Reinvent Advent (part five)
An excerpt from Letters to an Atheist

I don't believe in God because of an argument written by a man who studied Hebrew and the ancient near eastern cultures to present me with a functional ontology of creation.  I don't believe in God because our doctrines are particularly reasonable; it is, after all, an issue of faith.  Fundamentalism contributed to my oppression as a woman; that is certainly not why I believe in God.  I do not believe in God because it is the best answer out there, though it may be, and in many ways I find that it is, particularly in this: It offers me hope.  But that isn't even why I believe in God.

I believe in God because a man was tortured and died in order that I might have the invitation to believe in God.  I believe in God because I heard about his suffering and it both broke my heart and it touched me in a way that I had not been touched before.  Hearing the story of the Messiah, it was as if he were in the room with me testifying to me himself. It was like experiencing intimacy for the first time - intimacy with a man who died, intimacy with a God who lives.  It is an unreasonable reason.  But life is unreasonable. Humanity is unreasonable. I am unreasonable.  Whoever claims otherwise is the most unreasonable of all.

I believe in God because I accepted that sacrifice.  I accepted it.  That's all.  I accepted that it was for me, that it covered me.  I believed that I was in need of forgiveness, in need of saving.  I agreed with this man and with this God; I accepted his forgiveness and I was filled with love for him, with gratitude, and with a desire to experience that intimacy again, a desire to serve him and be close to him.

I believe in God because I decided to trust him.  I don't care about the fallacies of literalist thinking - I mean, I do because I think literalists often act like morons, but I don't care.  Literalists did not keep me from God; they did not keep me from believing.  They hurt me but God was there.  God was with me.  God was in the midst.

I believe in God because I learned to trust him.  I believe in God because he was there that first moment of believing and he has been there every moment since.  I believe in God because he granted me just the tiniest glimpse of his very presence and it changed my world, it changed my very soul.  And somehow he continues to do it over and over and over again.  I knew him.  I can know him.  I want to know him.

I believe in God, simply, because he helped me.  I did not cry out to him, but he called to me.  I did not know I needed him until he spoke.  And then when I prayed, he answered.  He helped me when I was 13.  He helped me when I was 25.  He helps me even now.

I have chosen to honor God with my decisions, with my body.  And just as God was in the midst of flawed fundamentalism, God was with me and God was in me even though I still carried despair and self-loathing, even though I was a fractured spirit.  In this one thing I know who I am.

I believe in God because he spoke to me in ways I could not understand and made me understand.  I believe in God because he spoke to my spirit and told me the truth and He continues to do so now.  And the truth - it sets me free.  When or if he stops, I will die, and I will die seeking him, for there is no other way for me to live.  I believe in God because he Himself challenged fundamentalism and showed me its flaws, and he shows me that he is still there.

He is in the sometimes meaningless rituals, because he is not dependent on man's heart or man's understanding, he supersedes it; he is in the midst.  He is in the sickening intellectualism, the constant debating.  He was there among the pharisees.  They wailed and moaned and all the while he was there, saving people, rescuing them, healing them, loving them, challenging them, dying for them.  He was there in the midst.  And even when they killed him they could not choke him out.  Though intellectualism slay me as fundamentalism did, God is still here.I don't believe in God because of people or even in spite of people.  I don't care.  I believe because I tasted intimacy and I want it.  Nothing else is even worth my attention; nothing is worth my time.  I want Christ.  I want his Revelation.  I prefer his suffering.  I want his Peace.  I need his wisdom.  There is nothing that makes this life worth living except for him.

Let others do or say whatever they must, but I must have The Messiah.

Paul had all the right teachings in probably their purest possible form and they did not bring him life or salvation.  He had righteousness.  He had power.  He had religious standing.  He had the promise of a covenant!  It did him no good.  And the Messiah was in the midst of it even so.  And it was the Messiah that saved him.

That is the Messiah I know.  And as disillusioned as I am with Paul, we have that in common; we are siblings, co-heirs.  We are one and the same.  Because just as God is in the midst of flawed fundamentalism, God was in the midst of Paul, just as He is in my midst as well.

I don't do this because it gives me life.  I do this because God gives me life.