Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Belief

It's been weeks since I've posted, mostly because I've been under multiple deadlines for multiple things I've committed to so I always feel a touch guilty when I think about writing a post to my own blog. However, I'm also honestly getting sick of being victim to the Tyranny of the Urgent, so here I am again. Nice to be back.

So a friend posted a prophecy to my Facebook wall yesterday. Not something that happens everyday. My friend (who has been my friend for 15+ years, and is a very humble and Godly woman not necessarily prone to prophesying on Facebook) told me that God had laid me on her heart, and that she needed to tell me, basically, to batten down the hatches, cling to God, and be very sure what I'm about doctrinally. Obviously, I'm paraphrasing, but her message was clear: storm's a brewin' on the spiritual front, Moff. Get ready.

I love guidance from the Divine. I believe in continuing prophecy and revelation and I get very excited about it when I hear of prophets whose messages come true. I also pay very close attention because I'm not someone who knows a heck of a lot of people who say "the LORD told me to tell you X" (I'm glad for that, by the way. There really shouldn't be all that many people saying such things, IMHO, at least as I understand scripture's take on the matter... and the experience of people close to me).

I don't like warnings, though, for the obvious mundane reasons. The specific words she closed her prophecy with were "something is stirring..." which is awesome because it means God is on the move, but is also scary because for every move of God there is an equal and opposite move of That Which Opposes God... at least in the spiritual world as I was raised to see it.

So I prayed a lot of "ehhh so what do You want me to do, exactly?" prayers yesterday and wandered around doing this and that errand and task feeling fairly detached and like it was all a bit pointless when what I really wanted to do was go plunk myself down in a Blessed Sacrament chapel and pray like Hannah on the temple steps. I don't mean that I wanted to appear drunk, although getting drunk may have helped... but that I didn't feel prepared for someone to Drop Prophecy on me, and I felt like I could use a mental break from everything I have going. Inmediamente.

What I came up with, in lieu of a full mental break, was a small challenge to myself to try to explain my spiritual journey in a way that gives God His full due for what has been good about that and also acknowledges where I've f**ked up. I dunno that it all will, or should, go up on this blog, but I think that this might serve the purpose of clarifying what God has taught me to believe and to clear up what I definitely don't believe and why. Of course, it's not the first time I've done something like this. A couple of years ago, I wrote a post called "This I Believe" (in response to my friend Andres' challenge that I write an essay for the NPR series of that name) where I wrote about the deep importance of forgiveness. A year later, I wrote a post called "A Chastened Epistemology" that consisted almost entirely of a post written by Liz Dyer summing up the value of humility in knowledge and how the emergent conversation has really exemplified that value for her.

So I guess I'll start with my Label. I tell people that I'm a Presby-Cathlo-Episcopa-Mennonite and sometimes they giggle. Sometimes they look bored... oh look, another Overly-Educated-Young-White-Woman-Who-Thinks-She's-Clever-YAWN. Of course, no one really takes me seriously when I say that. I'm not stating it in a serious manner... but I am actually being serious. What I'm trying to express is that *I* see a unity in those things and in the spiritual path God has led me on even if *YOU* don't. The events and decisions that were behind each switch of denomination are complex and largely mundane --it's not like I saw a vision telling me to leave the PCA and become Roman Catholic-- but they weren't wholly pragmatic and earthy, either. God has been behind my weird patchwork quilt of experiences.

Looking back over it, I used to tell people I kept looking for Jesus and kept finding people with a bunch of rules they used to beat each other. That sounds lofty and like I Alone Sought Christ, which is not what I intended to say. Truth is, I was a nerdy, lonely kid who prayed and read the Bible a lot, and I was looking for adults like me who were coming out of that sort of early desert-y experience of imperfectly (and somewhat narcissistic-ly) knowing and loving God as Father. Showing up on Sunday, dutifully sitting through a service and then talking about football and work afterwards just seemed utterly beside the point and a waste of time.

I should mention that as I've gotten older and remained Perpetually Single, I've come to see the value of social institutions like "church" for providing a network of friends and resources for folk. I continue to believe that this expression of "church" does not equal "Church" because it relies on a set of social norms and visible leader/archetypes to persist, and doesn't necessarily require spirituality as a discipline from most of the participants. In other words, it's like virtually any other social grouping, very useful and perhaps necessary for the maintenance of social order and the happiness of many individuals, but it's not necessarily the Body of Christ.

That was one layer that led me to ping around from place to place. Another layer was the very certain interior knowledge that I needed mentors in humility... and that frankly, I didn't trust any leader who I didn't believe in my gut had been really humbled by God. I've had various church-y leaders (almost all male) question my salvation and give me the stink-eye for years over things I've believed and blathered on about, and I know that underneath their criticism is the rock-solid conviction that I have a Problem With Authority. My conscience is clear on this point. What I have a problem with is idolatry. I will not submit to the authority of some guy in the pulpit simply because he is some guy in a pulpit (SGIAP). If Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit to guide us, then dagnabit, I'm listening to the Holy Spirit as well as I'm able. To listen to SGIAP as my stand-in for my own relationship with God and thereby fail to listen to the Spirit's witness is idolatry. I have enough problems with placing stuff and people in the way of my relationship with God, dude. Not even tempted to place you in that position.

But I'm drawn to humble leaders. The Best Writer I Personally Know won't like me saying this (and I've probably said it before on this very blog), but I stayed at Common Table initially because I believed in him (and in his wife, whom I don't talk about a lot but whom I internally refer to as The Warrior) because he kept refusing to be The Leader, and because he had suffered intensely in his personal life. That's a guy I'll follow, a guy who has learned through suffering, and who doesn't parade about all martyr-like but who tells you straight up that suffering SUCKS. Because it does, and because he's not trying to impress anyone with how virtuous (or frighteningly detached) he is.

I don't mean to be mean. I know a lot of people who follow Guys Who Freak Me Out with their, errrr, "leaderliness"? That's not the right word (it's not even a word), but I guess you know what I mean. Leaders who seem very comfortable and confident in the pulpit, who bound forth from personal affliction with a Battle Cry for the Cross. It may just be a matter of personal preference that I'm more drawn to the image of Martin Luther trembling, terrified to offer the Eucharist because of his realization of what it actually MEANT to be touching the Body of Christ, than I am of the image of him nailing the 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Door. It may be an unimportant detail that I find the trend towards Hyper-Masculine Shock Pastors preaching against "wimpiness" to be nothing short of blasphemy, trampling on the reality of Christ's humbling Himself on the cross, beaten beyond recognition and bleeding to death.

Clearly, I don't think it is unimportant, and I refuse to get behind ecclesiastical structures that support the Ascendancy of the Naturally Dominant. I think the tendency to follow the "alpha male", the Guy Who's Got It All Figured Out, is basic to human nature, and it's gross. It's also the opposite of the Gospel. The Jews fully expected a leader who would lead them to military victory, not die on a cross. This is not an original thought nor is it rocket science, but I want a humble leader because I want a Christ-like leader... because I honestly don't need anyone else to teach me how to Think I'm the Shit. I'm human, so I've pretty much got that one down.

Anyway, so there's installment #1 of What I Believe 2010. I'll keep thinking and praying on this... because the storm's a brewin' and I guess I need to get ready.

8 comments:

Craig Frogale said...

Love this. I have also recoiled at the notion that Christ came to justify social Darwinism or any other model of human society that resembles a troop of Baboons. I can't say that I am not tempted by the prospect of Napoleonic domination including a harem of passive young virgins, but I am hard pressed to declare this to be the story of our Holy Bible. I'm not saying that being poor or afflicted frees you from the possibility of being an asshole either. This right is reserved for us all. I am also faithful that "Gods ways are not out ways". Although I know some resist this notion while hoping for a more "natural" solution. The choice to strive for strength and righteousness or meekness and humility don't really matter to me. I have observed that both lead to the devil's play ground. For me there is no other solution to being the arrogant, selfish naked ape that I am and not jumping off a cliff other than repentance and God's saving grace. In other words, we all suck, now lets party and maybe help a few folks join in along the way.

Moff said...

Thanks for the appreciation, man. You really do have a way with words. :^)

Craig Frogale said...

Oh yeah, the part about your prophetic friend. Sounds for real to me. I know I sense a lot of changes coming, and I think you could be part of it. So keep praying and pushing sister. My only advice is to remember to have fun. I like to think about the wedding feast with JC and the saints. See you there Moffitt the Prophet.

John E. said...

Great post. I enjoy all of your posts, actually; I have you on RSS to make sure I catch them fresh. Thanks for writing. I'm glad that your other deadlines and urgencies haven't caused you to give up blogging. (As, it appears, has happened to me...)

BTW - one thing you wrote, about [not] using SGIAP as a stand-in for your own relationship with God, reminded me of Richard Foster's "meditation vs. mediation" contrast in "Celebration of Discipline." He argues that one reason we find it hard to meditate (listen / talk directly to God) is that we're used to letting our religious leaders mediate with God on our behalf.

Moff said...

John!! Dude it's been too long. What's going on in your world?

Thanks for the Richard Foster reference... it's been a while since I've read Celebration of Discipline, so I'd forgotten that point. Such a solid book...

uJ said...

Amy, am I ever glad that I dropped by for a cybervisit. I do not want to trivialize what you are doing with a bunch of trite superlatives. But I have got to say that there is a rare generosity here in the depth of your personal sharing. And there is a delicate beauty in the journey you have described as a fragile, but resilient person. I think we're all fragile, resilient and beautiful. But some people make us dig through a layer of defenses that create barriers of inauthenticity, which I empathize with and understand and abide with best I can. Others are transparently fragile, resilient and beautiful. And, Amy, mon amie, you are beautiful, indeed.

Moff said...

Wow, John... I'm glad you stopped by, as well. I'm really grateful that you hear me the way I'm intending to be heard. Thanks for the generous words!!

ben said...

great post, amy. i laughed pretty loud here in the office a couple of times. especially at, "I think the tendency to follow the "alpha male", the Guy Who's Got It All Figured Out, is basic to human nature, and it's gross." being a non-alpha male, i appreciate this and find it gross too. is there any update on the prophecy? i've been searching for a "spiritual advisor" of sorts for years. which is a large reason i joined the roman catholic church. however, with that experience as with all the others, i've started to realize that i just take my spiritual life way more seriously than anyone else takes my spiritual life. which is sort of suiting, seeing how it's mine and all. i guess i'm just now starting to interact with my freedom in this space without feeling bombarded by guilt. as a result, my faith is way deepening. which has been rather, um, let's say intense as of late.