Such an Inner Strength

Yesterday, I listened to the latest sermon at Holy Covenant UCC. As regular readers know, I’m a very progressive believer, hardly even calling myself a Christian. I tend to doubt God’s presence a lot. I mean, why is there so much suffering in the world when God is loving and ever present?

The pastor delivering the sermon said that Jesus could’ve had these same doubts while on the cross. Yet what seemed like God the Father abandoning His son was, according to the pastor, the greatest moment of all creation, as God opened the gates of Heaven.

One of the things I find hard to deal with in Christianity is the idea that only certain people will make it to Heaven. I mean, according to the Bible, only 144,000 people who ever existed will be allowed entry into the Kingdom of God. My husband uses this as one of his reasons for being an atheist. My former pastor at the psych hospital though said that this number may be symbolic: twelve times twelve times a thousand is a lot! I like that. Some other progressive Christians at one point told me that there’s a theological theory that says that all of Hell was shattered on the cross when Jesus died for our sins.

At first, when listening to the Holy Covenant UCC sermon, I felt weird. The pastor said that God had hidden his treasure in the plain and ordinary, that is, us. That had me go uhm. I somehow wish I was more than just an ordinary being and a sinner at that. Isn’t that a bit narcissistic of me?

Then the pastor went on to tell the church that we are more than our outward appearance. In other words, we are more than ordinary beings. Because of God, we each harbor a huge inner strength. A treasure. We are more than how we come across to others. We are also more than our experiences. We are more than the racism, sexism, ableism, etc. we endured. Through God, we can overcome the odds!

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight for what is right. The pastor, who I assume is of color, talked about the great abolitionists and civil rights activists, who maintained their faith in the presence of immense hardship. They kept going despite opposition and oppression. That is what we should do. Don’t give up, but fight knowing that God is by our side. Ultimately, even if evil prospers right now, it will not always.

Born

Last Friday, the prompt for Five Minute Friday was “born”. I assume many writers, being Christian, will have written about the moment of their salvation. Even though or maybe because I consider myself a progressive believer, I didn’t have such a moment. I was saved 2000 years ago. Rather, something else came to mind. Here goes.

I am still not done reading the book Preemie Voices by Saroj Saigal. It is a collection of letters from people born very prematurely between 1977 and 1982, which was published in 2014. One of the letters I did read, however, spoke to me.

In it, the woman said she was born three times. Once, when she was actually born. Then, when she was supposed to be born, so her due date. For me, this would be September 29, 1986. I was actually born on June 27.

Then there was her moment of rebirth in a spiritual kind of way, but dit didn’t have to do with any organized religion. Rather, she considered the day she was diagnosed as autistic to be her day of rebirth.

I am also autistic. For me, the day of my diagnosis was March 16, 2007. It wasn’t some type of epiphany moment though. My support coordinator at the time called the physician who’d assessed me because she hadn’t heard anything about the results of my diagnosis after my assessment was complete. Neither had I. She was told I had been diagnosed with autism and the report had been sent to my GP. How blunt!

I didn’t even dare write about it on my blog till some days later. It was so weird. Because I was diagnosed three or four more times, I never quite considered this day to be of any significance. Sometimes I wish I had such a moment of rebirth.

Expressing Faith By Expressing Anger

Last week, for some reason, I felt called to listen to a church service. When I do, I usually listen to United Church of Christ services, though occasionally I check out Protestant Church in the Netherlands services locally too. The service I ended up listening to was delivered at Mayflower Congregational UCC in the Oklahoma City area. It was titled “disorientation”.

The topic was how many Christians think they’re not healthy or whole enough to attend church. Many Christians are taught to believe that we shouldn’t show our distress or be angry with God. Though I grew up in an atheist home, I too was taught not to complain or be angry. “Gets angry easily” was often written about me in psychological reports. This may have been so, but anger in itself isn’t bad.

Rev. Lori Walke, in her sermon from May 10, talks about the psalms, nearly half of which are psalms of lament. In one of the psalms she discusses, psalm 13, David cries out to God in anguish:
“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.” (Psalm 13:1-4 NIV)

Rev. Walke goes on to recite the rest of the psalm:
“But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.” (Psalm 13:5-6 NIV)

This expression of anguish shows, according to Walke, that David deep down still has faith. After all, if he didn’t believe his anger would do anything, what good would there be in expressing it? As such, those who hold their anger inside and keep silent, usually are more hopeless than those who cry out.

This is why Walke invites us all to take our troubles to church. We don’t need to put up a happy face all the time. Indeed, in our expression of anger, we also show an expresssion of faith.

This totally struck a chord with me. I was taught as a child not to express my anger. Like I said, it was said about me that I was angry too easily. When I landed in the mental hospital at age 21, I even for a while had the unofficial nurses’ “diagnosis” of “angry and dissatisfied”. While there definitely was some truth to this, stuffing my anger only fueled my hopelessness. It was in my expressing my despair that I also showed that deep down I still believed in a good outcome.

Joining in with Let’s Have Coffee.

More of Jesus

Today, I am joining in with Five Minute Friday (FMF), for which the word today is “More”. I regularly read the posts from other bloggers there, but rarely join in, as I”m not a practising Christian. I do believe in God, but am generally a lot more progressive than most Christians and do not like the practical requirements and political implications of organized religion. This feels odd to me sometimes. I crave spiritual guidance.

I found out through Five Minute Friday today about Betsy Cruz’s Book More of God and the title struck a chord.

I want more of God. I want more of a spiritual life. I feel I should be engaging in meditation and prayer more, but I don’t.

I also feel I want to connect to other believers more, but feel generally left out because I’m too progressive. I was kicked out of an apparently conservative Christian blogging community when I mentioned (without condoning it) the possibility of connecting to a higher power other than God in a post on my old blog. I felt sad about that, so I got angry with the Christian blogosphere and by extension with christianity as a whole. I wanted no more Jesus. But yet I do.

Jesus didn’t kick me out of that community. He loves me (and I’m sorry if this gets me kicked out of FMF too) even if I don’t follow the rules of conservative Christianity. He can and does help me find inspiration in life. I want more of Him.