I’m not sure what to make of Jesus. Or the Bible, or Christianity in general, much of the time. And that’s ok. Yet, here I find myself, in this mostly Christian culture, in a country that still usually means the God of Christianity when it uses the word God.
And we are deeply divided in this country on what is even going on with Christianity. To many, it means love and trustworthiness. And to many others it means the exact opposite -- it means judgementalism and hypocrisy and, seriously, something to be avoided at all costs.
Even many Christians are wary of what someone means when they say they are a Christian.
In this deeply divided context, I hear Evangelical Christians (inexplicably, remarkably) say things like, “Well, there aren’t very many of us, so we have to speak up.” Or, when I ask whether I am welcome as a non-Christian in a firmly Christian group, I am told I just need to “have an open mind,” as if this is the typical issue – non-Christians not having an “open mind” toward Christians, as opposed to the other way around.
The double-speak is dizzying.
These kinds of misunderstandings are at the root of the confusion and suspicion between non-Christians and Christians.
And, yet, still, I go to church, an Episcopal church, which is to say, a Christian church, questioning though I am. I like discussions that wrestle with faith, spirituality, and how to live in the world and keep your heart intact. And I’ve found no place where these discussions are more alive than in recovery meetings and in churches, of any kind, of any faith or religion.
But why go to church if you don’t believe in everything? If you don’t buy the whole thing, what is the point?
The point is, it helps. It helps to remember, in these dark and desperate times, that there is something – perhaps – over us all, that is helping. That can help. There is something that can be looked to, and relied on.
There is something larger than the self, or other people, as fallible as they are.
There is an energy, a hope, in this thing, there is an OTHER out there and that other is not a threat, but is in fact, our hope.
Praying helps, too. So, I pray for help and I pray with thanks. Thank you, I say, that my husband got off work early, or that the weekend is coming, or thank you that we have this sunny day.
Simple things. Reminders that there are gifts all around me and that I didn’t do anything to make each gift happen. It’s a gift. It’s free.
And I pray for help.
Help, God, with my eating. (Right now, it’s cereal -- yesterday, I had cereal for breakfast, then chips and salsa for lunch, then cereal for dinner. Not the worst, but bad enough to just give me a dire stomachache.) So, help, God, help me to want to eat things that don’t make me sick.
Help me, God, in my writing. Help me, God, to write a Christmas list for myself, like my husband asked, and get the gifts ordered for my family.
Help me, God, to say the things that need to be said, clearly and with kindness, and help me to not feel so afraid just to show up, as the person I am.
Help me have trust that I, too, am part of your world, as you have made it. Not a better version of myself, but this version. Right here. Help me show up and just trust that I am good enough as you have made me. I am good enough as I am.
And who is this God I am praying to?
Well, that’s a mystery to me. I know this is a dangerous thing to say in front of Evangelical Christians, but for most of us, God is mysterious beyond belief. And, Jesus, too.
And only by accepting the mystery can we non-Evangelicals find any faith at all. And it has to be good enough. Because that’s all we have. This thin reed, a question – Are you there?
That question alone builds the relationship. And that’s good enough. Faith is personal. We alone build this relationship with God. And if we want to have a faith that feels real, we have to truly engage, and that means being honest.
It may be that you already have a robust and hardy faith and feel certain. Or maybe you don’t feel so certain today. Either way is ok. Either way is an excellent place from which to converse with God.
Maybe you don’t have any faith, but you try it anyway. You pray on your way to work, in the car, switching the stations from channel to channel, looking for something, you ask, God, are you there?
God, you say, I don’t know if you even exist, but show me how you are working in my life. If you’re there, show me.
God, show me your love for me.
God, show me you are here for me.
God, make me feel your presence. If you are real, make me feel your presence.
And I find, when I do this, things happen. I start to notice things. I’ve called them “God winks” before and they work magic in me. (You can read about them here.) I start to see little connections. Indications that something bigger is at play in the world. And that thing is what I call God. This thing that shows itself in connections.
I start to see there is some web that is only dimly visible to me that’s holding me.
And whatever it is, I’ll take it.
I’ll take this mystery. I’ll take the prayers. I’ll take the connections and the God winks, and the sense that something is out there that can help me.
And I’ll trust it. Today, it’s enough.