“Have you repented?”
“Repented for what?”
I am offended, but at least she asked. Others do not pose the question, they instruct me. They tell me that I need to fast and pray for days on end, that I need to bend my knees until they bleed and plead for restoration.
What is grace when guilt is assumed? (Most will politely leave that assumption unsaid.)
Good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people, but when the worst occurs, you deserve it. I’m starting to believe that I am a bad person. I must have missed the salvation boat. “I don’t think I can be a Christian anymore,” I tell my pastor, because how can I say that “God is good” and mean it? I will not lie to myself, and I have no energy to pretend for others. If this shit does not make sense, let me cut my losses now.
God came to make you happy. That is why we have his promises highlighted in neon. It stains the tips of our fingers and bleeds through pages, thin like cigarette paper. Neon like the lights of Las Vegas, selling hopes, dreams and assurances.
A sure bet.
I signed a contract with God. I cut and pasted these sentences, paraphrased approximations, and looked for signs and misread them. I did what I was meant to do, and now I’m waiting. Waiting for the right answer. The answer I’ve worked so hard to deserve.
All of our heroes are martyrs. Hung, drawn and quartered for the cause. Whipped and ran through with swords. Crucified, skinned alive, and beheaded.
And yet, we feel so entitled.
Were you hoping to be saved from Hell? (Hell is empty and all the devils are here.*)
Were you hoping for this to make sense? (He has set eternity in their heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.**)
Were you hoping to make friends? (Didn’t you know? We’re all awful, terrible people.)
I see someone who was talking about me. Broadcasting misfortune to the world under the pretence of…it doesn’t matter. My first instinct is smack her so hard her wig escapes her, but when I realise it is her I’m out of range. (Divine provision. God must listen to her prayers, she should be grateful.)
If people say, “I love God,” but hate their brothers or sisters [fellow believers], they are liars. [For] Those who do not love their brothers and sisters [fellow believers], whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have never seen.***
Then I am a liar.
And if I see this bitch again, I will be worse.
The longest I have not been to church is ten weeks, but this year feels like a good year for breaking records.
There are practical excuses, like the car accident, and babies, and distance – “Youknowhowitis!” And then there are the things you can’t explain. Like how some days you can’t get out bed because your body physically aches with the weight of your heart. Or how your mind is so scattered, that your thoughts shift in and out of focus and you can’t tell your left from your right. Sometimes you’re tired of trying, so you just let the days wash over your body like the tide, and when you open your eyes time has dragged you into Tuesday.
God doesn’t owe you anything. Not the anonymous $1,000 cheque that the televangelist told you came in the mail that time, not the better job or the bigger house, or the perfectly pleasant life that the preacher whispered over you when you were at the altar call, crying until you began to gag. God doesn’t owe you any of that, but if you thought he did, that’s because you made him in your image…
…the image of:
- the bartering negotiator, exchanging conspicuous devotion for conspicuous consumption;
- the benevolent fairy godmother, washing your life in soft hues and flattering Instagram filters (#soblessed);
- the salesman exchanging access for sterling piles of freshly pressed currency.
That’s not how this works.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick.****
Everyone around you is dying.
I have stopped crying. And there are prayers that I know I should pray, but I don’t. Is this stillness a form of peace, or the empty sensation of numbness? My heart has stopped breaking, but I fear that it is not the zen of acceptance that is ministering to me, but a cold hardness setting in. I will deal with whatever comes, but is this faith or resignation? Either way, God will do what he wants, when he wants.
I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]*****
(Courage is essential, but joy? That’s a stretch.)
Whatisfaith? Whatisdelusion? Whatishope? WhyamIstillhere?
How do you stay a Christian when you life is falling apart?
I don’t know.
But somehow, I’m still here.
* from The Tempest by William Shakespeare
** Ecclesiastes 3:11
*** 1 John 4:20
**** Proverbs 13:12