There are so many things I want to write about on this blog that I keep getting stuck. It’s like when I empty the horse trough (one of these days I’ll write about Vos and Lizzie) and the water is all manky with bits of hay and blown in dirt and those tiny moths that are just everywhere at this time of year, and you have to keep pulling the muck out of the plughole to keep the water draining, and every time I toss it aside I think, “That really should go on the compost heap.” (I’ve already written some about my garden, but haven’t had the heart to report on what a disaster it’s become. But my point, in this context, is that even muck has value.) And then one of the dogs will do something whacky (when people ask how many I have I say “Three”. If pressed, I admit that Himself also has three. And yes, I know, having six dogs is just weird. But they’re all rescues … and that’s another thing I want to write about: my years in dog rescue, and the funny / crazy / heartbreaking things that happened, and how it feels, now that I’m retired, to watch someone else running the organization I built.)
But the matter I cannot escape is God. I have gone back and forth over whether to share this here, or keep it to private conversations with trusted friends. I have decided to share it because I don’t think I’m alone with my doubts and beliefs and puzzlement as to how to reconcile the two. Maybe there are others who would like to join this little pilgrimage to find that holy place of the heart. Surely there are others who have walked this way before me, and might have wisdom to share. And if you merely want to kibbitz about it, that’s fine too. I’m simply going to approach this topic as I do the horse trough – keeping the plughole clear, flushing out the muck with a high pressure hose, and in time, I trust, watching it fill with clean water.
I looked up “Seeking God” on Google, and the Bible quotes that bounced up and smacked me upside the head were all a conditional promise – “If you seek me you will find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Am I ready to give the whole of my aching, dented, distracted heart to this search? Honestly, probably not … My heart is a slippery thing that sneaks off about its own affairs with little regard for what the rest of me may want. But I’ll give what I can, and trust the God I do believe in to supply the rest.
When you play hide-and-go-seek, you begin with your hands over your eyes, counting. Then you turn and call out, “Here I come, ready or not!” At that point, the one thing you know for sure is that those whom you seek are somewhere other than where you are. Another thing you know is that they are in a place that you can find them. You have taken your hands off your eyes, and you look around.
So let me begin by defining my starting point.
I believe God exists. I believe in the unique “personhood” of God – in other words, as a being with thoughts, emotions, intentions, as opposed to a “divine force/spark/whatever”. For convenience sake, and because it’s annoyingly pretentious to use “she” or “it”, I will refer to this God as “he” and “him”, but I don’t actually believe he is confined by gender the way humans are.
I believe God is the creator of all things, including me.
I believe humans somehow made choices that caused them to become separated from God, and the spiritual sickness that resulted from this is what we call “sin”. I believe sin is deadly.
I believe Jesus lived, taught, died and rose again. I believe he is the actual son of God, and that his purpose was and is to reconcile us to God, by healing us from sin.
I believe in miracles. I have personally experienced too many of them not to believe. And no, I’m not talking about “the miracle of life” or how amazing it is that seeds turn into plants – I’m talking about events that are quite literally impossible but happen anyway. I’ll share some of those in future posts, because remembering and telling those stories makes me happy, and whoever reads them may enjoy them too.
And … that is as far as I’ve got in terms of actual, rock-solid belief. This is the ground I am standing on, the wall I have been leaning against while I counted down with my hands over my eyes, the patch of grass in front of my feet, the sky overhead. I have heard the opinions of atheists, some of them smarter than I and others not so much, and frankly it all sounds like nonsense – excuses, statements of faith in non-belief. Going forward I’ll probably write more on these subjects, because the fact that I believe these things doesn’t necessarily mean I believe a lot of other stuff that is usually attached to them.
Now for my own statements of faith – and the point here is that these are assumptions I choose to make because without them it would be impossible to proceed. But I find myself stopping and testing them at regular intervals, and I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s okay. I accept that I may eventually conclude that any of these assumptions is false – but right now, based on my experience, learning and pondering to date, I am satisfied that they are true.
I assume God is “good” – but I don’t actually know what that means.
I assume God “loves” me – but I don’t know what that means either.
I assume that the Bible is a somewhat reliable source of information about God. However, I have come to the conclusion that, even if it’s divinely inspired, it’s not necessarily factually accurate.
I’ve been told that God has a “purpose” for me – that he made me intentionally and for a reason. But really I don’t know what that is. Have any of the things I’ve done pleased or disappointed him? I hope and fear so, but I don’t know. Is there something important that I’ve failed to do? I feel that there is – but I don’t know for sure. Maybe I’m just dreaming when I think there must be something more.
So … why does any of this matter? Well, I “got saved” 31 years ago. I have been privileged to have some exceptional teachers – pastors and others – whose wisdom and willingness to tackle tough questions head on has consistently reinforced my faith and given me strength during hard times.
But except for brief periods of glorious clarity, my actual experience of life as a believer has been … muddled. Foggy. More questions than answers. More weakness than strength. More failures than victories. And I want better.
I believe God is, but WHO is he? What does he want of me? Why does he care whether or not I “worship” him (assuming he does)? What. Does. It. All. MEAN?
I have asked these questions on and off for years, and the answers I get (from humans) range from [very worried look] to “Read this book”. But the books are invariably syllogistic on at least some level – which is particularly depressing when the writers are clearly sincere, well-intentioned and good-hearted.
I just realized why I have to blog about this … It’s the most reliable way I can think of to ask God for answers directly. I am going to continue reading and thinking and searching and talking … but to that I’ll add writing, and just putting it out there.