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Saturday, May 04, 2013

The entire ball of God wax

My latest book from the library is What We Talk About When We Talk About God by Rob Bell. So far I like it :) Here's a bit that I've just listened to (pp. 11 - 14) ...

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One Sunday morning a number of years ago I found myself face-to-face with the possibility that there is no God and we really are on our own and this may be all there is.

Now I realize lots of people have questions and convictions and doubts along those lines – that’s nothing new. But in my case, it was an Easter Sunday morning, and I was a pastor. I was driving to church services where I’d be giving a sermon about how there is a God and that God came here to Earth to do something miraculous and rise from the dead so that all of us could live forever.

And it was expected that I would do this passionately and confidently and persuasively with great hope and joy and lots of exclamation points!!!!!

That’s how the Easter sermon goes, right? Imagine if I’d stood up there and said, "Well, I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I gotta be honest with you: I think we’re kinda screwed."

Doesn’t work does it?

I should pause here and say that when you're a pastor, your heart and soul and paycheck and doubts and faith and hopes and struggles and intellect and responsibility are all wrapped up together in a life/job that is very public. And Sunday comes once a week, when you're expected to have something inspiring to say, regardless of how you happen to feel or think about God at the moment. This can create a suffocating tension at times, because you want to serve people well and give them your very best, and yet you're also human. And in my case, full of really, really serious doubts about the entire ball of God wax.

That Easter Sunday was fairly traumatic, to say the least, because I realized that without some serious reflection and study and wise counsel I couldn’t keep going without losing something vital to my sanity. The only way forward was to plunge headfirst into my doubts and swim all the way to the bottom and find out just how deep that pool went. And if I had to, in the end, walk away in good conscience, then so be it. At least I’d have my integrity.

This book, then, is deeply, deeply personal for me. Much of what I’ve written here comes directly out of my own doubt, skepticism and dark nights of the soul when I found myself questioning - to be honest - everything. There is a cold shudder that runs down the spine when you find yourself face-to-face with the unvarnished possibility that we may in the end be alone. To trust that there is a divine being who cares and loves and guides can feel like taking a leap - across the ocean. So when I talk about God and faith and belief and all that, it's not from a triumphant, impatient posture of "Come on, people - get with the program!" I come to this topic limping, with some bruises, acutely aware of how maddening, confusing, frustrating, infuriating, and even traumatic it can be to talk about God.

What I experienced, over a long period of time, was a gradual awakening to new perspectives on God - specifically, the God Jesus talked about. I came to see that there were depths and dimensions to the ancient Hebrew tradition, and to the Christian tradition which grew out of that, that spoke directly to my questions and struggles in coming to terms with how to conceive of who God is and what God is and why that even matters and what that has to do with life in this world here and now.

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