I discovered this week that much of my synthesis of ancient and modern thought has left me ill-equipped to shoulder suffering, and suffer well. What I believed about enduring pain and shame was applied to failings and internalized. This is not always useful, especially when the suffering is not just feeling bad.
As such, I realize I have misunderstood the major thread of my philosophy, Christianity. I have reckoned suffering as stemming from personal sin, and that words like stumble mean to fall into/back into acts or patterns of sin. A more accurate definition is to trip and maybe fall, perhaps receiving injury which would render one unable to continue their journey. Somehow I never picked that up.
Still, I am unprepared to surrender, but my spirit is like a cracked riverbed, which till take heavy rains to condition the soil to not let the water bleed out, and even longer until it can sustain life.
It’s also like a sleeping leg- the best way to wake it up is to walk on it. With a sleeping leg, you fake it till you make it, that is, you walk on it until it doesn’t hurt, progressively trusting it to bear more weight. So, I’m walking on tingling feet, trying to figure this out. Can you fake it if it’s something spiritual? Is it wise to do so?
Can I ignore the feeling of incompleteness until I am well? Will I be an authentic person if I do so, or will I be a hypocrite for saying “I’m fine” when I could more accurately say “I prayed to God, begging that He would leave me alone”. Should I keep silent, so as not to cause others to question their own religious underpinnings?
I believe in God. I believe in salvation, the trinity, in Jesus, in penal substitutionary atonement, in the Bible, in prayer, in church, in grace, in love, in the Nicene Creed.
Why then, have I been hesitant as of late to continue to call myself a Christian?
If I’m honest, evangelism has never been something I’ve put much emphasis-I find it arrogant and oftentimes rude. I love gay people and women, and want them to have a home in the church. I love science and the arts, and think God can be worshiped and glorified by research to end diseases, not just by four-chord pop songs written by Nashville millionaires. If I had to make a choice, I’d probably go with the gays- they have better parties.
I’m not trying to be rebellious, or contrarian, or negative. I’m trying to both go with the flow and flow with the go. I’m trying to be honest.
I imagine my resentment and baggage being like the field gear I wore in Iraq. When I got back to my room, I would lock my rifle in my locker, because even though I was in Baghdad, I was safe(r). I could strip off my armor, my greasy vest would get slung inside-out on my chair so the vinegar sweat the Middle East forces out of the human body would evaporate. I could doff my helmet that crushed my neck like an accordion focused heat like an upside-down wok, perfectly distributing heat to cook my head evenly. I enjoyed being able to be vulnerable, and stood taller even though I was weary filthy, because I’d usually be able to arrange a shower and get to bed.
But now, I’m trying to strip this heavy crap off, I’ve been vulnerable for a hot minute, and my spirit needs to feel clean, and my poached brain needs rest. And lasagna. I could really go for some lasagna.