Sunday, May 24, 2009

Belief Detox

I’m convinced that most of my journey to spiritual maturity now days has more to do with detoxing from things I’ve picked up in church along the way so far than with learning brand new things. I’ve been unlearning a lot of things over the past few years. And I always feel so slow—like I should’ve gotten this a long time ago.

Right now it’s belief. Faith. What is belief? An encounter with a couple of Christian women a few months ago triggered all sorts of thoughts on this topic. They told me God wants me to have a husband if that’s what I want. Hmm. And they told me that if I didn’t believe that, I would never get one. Because God only gives us things when we believe Him for them. I mentioned this in a post in February after the conversation – wrestling with the issue that God gives us the desires of our hearts and all that… I told them that I want a new car too, and I asked them if I started believing God for that if he would give it to me. They weren’t as certain on that one. To be honest, this really confronted me with what I think belief is. What they said had an all-too-familiar ring to me. But it went against everything God had been teaching me recently. I challenged them in a defensive and befuddled way, but I actually had a hard time refuting their theology in the moment, so I’ve been thinking about it in one way or another since then.

This crisis counseling class I just took has me thinking about it again. People suffer. Life sucks at times. Does our faith or belief change that? No. (I feel like I’m blaspheming by saying no… Detox in action.) Why was I led to believe that it does? On my way to class the other day, I heard a guy on the radio say, “Faith does not affect the outcome of our situation,” and I was like, “Yeah! Wait… is that right? Hold up. I thought faith did affect outcome.”

It made me think about belief in Santa Claus. A few years back, my oldest nephew suspected he wasn’t real, but he was so afraid that if he stopped believing, he would stop getting presents. Is that the kind of belief God requires? If we believe he’ll give us presents, if we believe he’ll give us what we want, then he’ll come through. Is that what belief is all about? Really?

God is winking at me right now because I prayed for a digital camera last week. I can’t afford one. I just told God I’d like to have one—but no pressure. Someone just gave me one. (But I’ve been asking for an IPod now for months… nothing. Maybe I don’t have enough faith for that one?)

God does ask for our faith, our belief. When Jesus performed miracles, he often commented on the faith of those he healed. But what kind of faith? What kind of belief? Belief in the outcome I want? Or belief in who Christ is? He’s asking us to believe in who he says he is. To trust in his character. Our faith is not in believing he will give us what we want—our faith is in believing that he is enough. We believe that even if we don’t get the healing we want, the financial miracle we want, the situation we want, God is on our side, He is good and merciful, He is powerful and able. This is faith. Our faith grows in suffering as much as in miracles and answered prayers. Maybe more. We are asking for bread, and he is telling us he is the bread. We have to trust that. That is belief.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


My persistent paramour
Ever- prowling at my door
Break my heart
More quickly

You make no grand demands
You let me run around
You numb me to my senses
Your appeal is your indifference
You lurk but don’t pursue
There’s no climax with you
You’ll bind me to your bed
To be satisfied with death
Break my heart
More quickly

Now my warrior comes
And truth is on his tongue
His face is full of light
He binds me to his side
But with ecstasy comes pain
And so I’ve stayed away
Yet his appeal is his pursuit
His beauty changes you
Like the face of Mr. Gray
Your allure grotesquely fades
You break my heart
More quickly

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Some poems I wrote last year, but never posted...

Chisel and Pour

Soon after this heart of stone shattered,
with pieces still scattered and strewn,
I poured fresh cement, resolved to rebuild.
And then I invited you in.

I let you swim here in my center,
I let you make waves in my heart,
until the stone set, and there you were trapped
with only one way of release.

Defenseless, I knelt at His chisel,
relinquishing my right to pour.
This breaking in me, it’s setting you free,
leaving cracks that need to be sealed.

He fills, pouring pure living liquid.
It floods and it cleanses debris,
inviting all in, with freedom to swim,
swim here in my heart in His blood.


I raise my hands for you
While I push God aside

I spend my cash for you
While the least of these get by

I wear my best for you
While I cover up my heart

I learn more facts for you
While God becomes a chart

I serve the church for you
While I should light the dark

I weigh my words for you
While I don’t speak to God

I choose my path for you
While in reality, I’m lost

Hey Man

Tell me I’m pretty
Tell me I’m smart
Don’t make me beg
Or give up a lot
Teach me a lesson
Give me a word
Don’t leave me groping
Alone in the dark
Say that I please you
Say that you care
At least let me think it
Even if it’s not there
Without you I am nothing
Without you I am spent
Now that you’ve gone
I’m empty again

Redemptive Disappointment

Over the past few days, I’ve been contemplating the beautiful result of tragedy. I spent this past weekend with four incredible women in the mountains of North Carolina. This is the second year I’ve gotten together with my childhood friends for a weekend, and both times I’ve found it to be a healing and restorative experience. Some of the girls I’ve known since we were in the nursery together. Until last year, we hadn’t seen each other for nearly ten years. What I’m struck by as we share our stories and catch up on life, is that, for each of us, life is not what we thought it would be ten years ago. We’ve each experienced loss in different ways and suffered in different ways. We’ve each been in a place we didn’t expect to be. Grief and tragedy has plagued each of us. At least for me, my idealistic romantic notions of the way the world is supposed to work did not do me any favors in coping with the realities of life.

As I started a class on crisis counseling yesterday, my professor spoke about how we need to teach children to fail. We need to teach them to suffer. Otherwise, we grow up with this expectation that things should always go well for us—that things are supposed to go right and well all the time. I remember thinking in my twenties that life was fun and easy and perfect, and wondering if I could manage to get through my life without pain. I thought I was probably due for a tragedy, but I was pretty sure I could avoid it by living right and being good. Only people who make bad choices should have to suffer. Not me.

This translates into expectations of God. Like Job’s friends, I thought God owes me something because I’ve been good or faithful. I followed the rules. He would not allow me to suffer. A sense of entitlement is created because we don’t expect to have to suffer or feel bad. I thought that only a cynical view of life says that life will inevitably disappoint you, that people will always eventually let you down, that failure and suffering are a fact of life. I guess nobody wants to believe that when they’re young and full of hope for life.

But isn’t that part of the gospel really? It’s not cynical—it’s the givens of life in a fallen world. Perhaps it takes suffering, it takes failure for us to really understand the gospel, to be able to receive grace. We misunderstand the abundant life until we’ve been frustrated with life as it is. Only then do we really understand true hope. Until then, we’re satisfied with what C. S. Lewis refers to as mud pies in a slum because we can’t conceive of a holiday at the sea. I’m reminded of my high school students saying they didn’t want to go to heaven yet because they hadn’t had sex. But the pleasures of this life aren’t as good as it gets. Maybe we have to be disappointed by them before we realize the reality of that truth.

This weekend, each of my friends painted for me a beautiful picture of hope and faith—of trusting God through the unexpected tragedies of life in a fallen world. For a long time, I thought that faith meant believing God for what we want. Now I think it is about believing God is good and faithful when we don’t get what we want. Though he slay me, yet will I trust him. There is no question of whether we will suffer—it is only a question of how and when. And yet, we experience abundant life in a way unexpected. And we’re not done. What we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we will be like him, for we shall see him as he is. This is our hope.