Things sure have changed here on Walton’s Mountain. When I left off in the last post in this series, I was struggling with my new found identity as a Christian. No surprises here, I’m still struggling. I hate rhetoric. I don’t like meaningless phrases, or phrases that get so carelessly thrown around that they can’t possibly be sincere. When a stranger on the street tells me to have a blessed day, what are they really saying? Are they implying that without their request that I wouldn’t have received God’s blessing? Do they genuinely want me to receive blessings? If so, what exactly? It’s stupid for me to get riled up about it, but I do, so there.
The phrase “Praise Christ” or “Praise Him” also gets peppered throughout Christian conversation. If it seemed in the least bit genuine, then maybe I wouldn’t have such a problem with it but the tone is far too reminiscent of my daughter’s second grade teacher as she says things like “Super” and “Fantastic” as some child is telling her a 25 minute story about a smiley face sticker she found.
“So I was walking down the street today and found a penny face up in the gutter. Praise Christ!”
My frustration with all of this stems from the discovery that the modern Christian establishment is largely lacking in genuineness as the secular community. There are just as many people, if not more, who are participating for the attention, for the recognition, or for other completely selfish reasons. They say things such as, “For the glory of God,” but do so on million dollar sound systems, in multi-million dollar buildings. The early church was meeting in people’s homes and back rooms. They were finding fellowship in other Christians, not in giant corporate headquarters that remind me far more of what Paul speaks against. I spoke with someone in the praise band at one church and he told me how their board paid a contractor $100,000 to install their new sound system. This doesn’t include the gear itself which was easily another $100,000. Could they really not think of a better way to use that money for the glory of God?
Of course the explanation given was that they’re playing music that glorifies god, and spreads his message. It also attracts more people to the church so the message gets spread even wider. I’m afraid I must call BS on that one. While the music may or may not glorify god, it does allow them to personally express their faith in a way that they feel is appropriate so we’ll move past that one. They’ve managed to set up a sound and lighting production that rivals most mid level touring acts, and so I can see how that would appeal to a large, possible secular audience. But how does a service that’s 90% rock concert and 5% socialization, and 5% theology help anyone? From what I’ve seen, it’s a giant gathering of people who already agree with each other, getting together to listen to music they all seem to enjoy already, and then high fiving over the fact that they’re all saved. Where’s the ministry? Where’s the outreach?
The church at the corner of my neighborhood had a carnival a few sundays back. They had some secular cover band blasting horrible 90’s rock into my backyard, they had fire engines sounding their sirens, blow up jumpy house things, and games. it was loud, it was a spectacle, and who was it helping? Who were they reaching? What is the message? God is loud, flashy, and fun? Where are the banners that read “You’re completely broken and lost. Get your life together and get back to God!” Probably not going to pull as many people off the street with that one. I’m frustrated and ranting. Moving on.
I’ve been reading my bible every day for almost a year now. Romans and Acts have probably been the most enlightening to me, but I’ve taken so much from all of it! The hardest lesson for me to learn, and to retain is that it’s God’s plan that matters, not mine. That’s an easy one to swallow when it’s something small like “Oh the showing of that movie was cancelled? Well that’s God’s plan.” it gets way harder when it’s something like “Oh I think I might be dying, well if you say so God.” Not that I’m actually dying, but I had a bit of a scare. Without going into a million details I was getting some pretty extreme dizzy spells, occasionally “checking out” for about a second where things just kind of disappeared or went fuzzy on me. I of course had myself convinced that it was a brain tumor, and while waiting to see a doctor I began to think about the end. A bit over dramatic given that I’m not dying, but at the time I was freaked. I was holding my son one night, as he was sleeping, and I was just overcome staring at him. He’s young enough, and so is my youngest daughter, that if I die they won’t actually have any memory of me existing. I would be completely erased. That thought had me haggling with God over my life. It was after a few rounds of this that I realized that this is where it truly matters to trust in his plan. This is where it’s the most difficult too! Accepting that he may take you away from your wife and children, two of whom may never remember that you raised them and loved them more intensely than anything before. Accepting that all of your plans for the next 60 years mean nothing, because it’s his plan that counts. I struggled greatly with it for days, but then I remembered that it has been his plan that has given me everything that I have to fight so hard to keep. I have to trust that if he takes it away, it was with the same knowledge and wisdom with which he gave it.
I’ve been fortunate in that God has been answering my prayers in a very obvious way lately. I think it’s because I’ve been asking him to, but still, I appreciate the gesture. One thing that I had to change my perception on was praying in general. When I was younger, and even into my twenties, praying was a sort of wish list. “hey God, I want this, that and the other thing, oh and don’t forget those things from yesterday too. Cool? Alright then.” I realized that my prayers were pointless and counter intuitive. I was asking him to do things like “keep me healthy” or “help this friend with this.” Am I really going to change his plan? If he was planning on keeping me healthy, will my prayer really seal the deal? If he was planning on helping my friend, was my prayer a prerequisite? Similarly if he was planning otherwise, would he change those plans because of my prayer? “Holy crap, the Psychopath put in a request! Stop the presses guys, we need to change things up!” No of course not. He has his plan, it will stretch out for years to come, and has been playing out for centuries! That was when I realized that the only valid prayer I could offer him was of thanks, and to pray for myself. Not the same old wishlist for me, but rather to help me understand his plan. Don’t pray that he grants me wealth…that’s just greed! Rather pray that he grants me understanding when he does test me with hard times. Don’t pray for a long healthy life, but pray for patience and grace when I’m not given one. Pray that he helps me not lose focus on what truly matters, when it’s so easy to get lost in a sea of crap that frankly doesn’t matter. Most of all, we pray in thanks at our house. Even now I have an amazing wife and three kids fast asleep in my house, with my dog keeping me company as I write this. If I say anything other than thank you, then I’m pretty much wasting my breath.
I struggle with one very large issue these days. I don’t speak to my mother. It’s been discussed at length on this site, and in my music, so I won’t go into it, but I don’t speak to her. I feel that it’s what’s best for me, for her, and for my children. I’ve forgiven her for what she’s done, and don’t hold a grudge, but I simply don’t want her to be a part of my life. I know that by doing that, I am hurting her though. That begs the question of whether or not I allow her back in. Is that what God would want? Of course there are countless verses about honoring and respecting your mother, but there are just many reminding you that if something leads you to sin, eliminate it. If you’re right hand causes you to sin, cut it off. I believe that if I speak to her again, or if I have to see her again, that no good will come of it, other than she will get to satisfy her own selfish desire of seeing my children. Here’s hoping that I’m shown where to go on this one, because I am torn.
So I’m still growing and learning. I’m still trying to shake off old habits, as I grow into this completely new life. I’m still caught in the middle of a circle of friends who either despise, or are indifferent to, the church in any form. I still have a thousand questions, even though a thousand have already been answered. I’m still as intrigued by life as ever though.
Until Next Time