“I think every conscious person, every person who is awake to the functioning principles within his reality, has a moment where he stops blaming the problems on group think, on humanity and authority, and starts to face himself. I hate this more than anything. This is the hardest principle within Christian spirituality for me to deal with. The problem is not out there; the problem is the needy beast of a thing that lives in my chest.” ~Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz
Compared to some people, I may be considered “cool”. But, more and more, I’m realizing that this is far from the truth. I depend on my friends to keep me in-the-know with fashion, music, trends. In fact, I rely on a particular friend to burn me cds because clearly the radio and People magazine don’t inform me of the best music in the market. I usually download music weeks after it’s been on the charts, I watch tv shows once they go to dvd because I wasn’t aware they were they were a must-see. I read books like The Da Vinci Code years after their peak of popularity. I’m not that “with it” as it may appear. Case in point: I just picked up Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz, 7 years after it’s publication.
This past weekend, Josh participated in a camping trip with some dudes, titled “Meat Ball 2010.” I spent the weekend cleaning and organizing the house, an ongoing task that will only end when I’m old and in a nursing home. Even then, I’ll probably find counters to clean and cabinets to organize. Josh brought a sleeping bag, his Bible, and some hard cider on his trip, and a great deal of his time was spent discussing theological concepts like limited atonement. When he was giving me the shortened version of his weekend, he told me that one of his buddies asked him, “Does Becca like to discuss stuff like this?” and his response was a quick “no, no, no…”. He was right in the sense that the concept of limited atonement was boring me just a bit, but there was definitely a part of me that was engaged enough to want to reach an answer to an exhaustive, age-old question. I remembered my Hope College days as a religion minor, and how much energy I spent philosophizing, theologizing, and head-scratching…earnestly seeking answers to the deepest questions of life. I had the ability to exhaust rabbit trails of thought; that is, until my faith collapsed on me, leaving me burned and empty. Since then, I’ve been slowly rebuilding what once stood firm. The coffee shop and classroom-type debates and discussions about religion and theology disinterested me for a long time. They felt stale, heady, unhelpful, even selfish.* I didn’t know what I believed in many ways, but I retired from the debates to figure it out. Perhaps this is why Josh so instinctively said replied “no, no, no…”.
Brian Aulick, our pastor at Engedi, preached yesterday from 1 Peter about Christians’ responsibility to think, challenging and forming ideas, always looking to Scripture for guidance and Truth. He made the point that Christians are often seen as intellectually flawed, even ignorant, because of our dismissal of arguments and debates our culture engages in. We can be seen as lazy and foolish because our faith is blind and we often avoid difficult discussions that challenge our faith. We need to be…we are called to be…people that not only participate in difficult discussions, but that initiate them.
When reading Blue Like Jazz, I felt pulled into a greater discussion. I feel like I’m back in the game, able to come to the table to discuss hard stuff. In the chapter “Problems”, Miller writes:
Still, I knew, because of my own feelings, there was something wrong with me, and I knew it wasn’t only me. I knew it was everybody. It was like a bacteria or a cancer or a trance. It wasn’t on the skin; it was in the soul. It showed itself in loneliness, lust, anger, jealousy, and depression. It had people screwed up bad everywhere you went–at the store, at home, at church; it was ugly and deep…It was as if we were cracked, couldn’t love right, couldn’t feel good things for very long without screwing it all up…From a very early age our souls are taught there is a comfort and a discomfort in the world, a good and bad if you will, a lovely and a frightening.
It doesn’t take long when you have a child to realize that we are born into sin. If you’re not a Christian, perhaps you put it this way: we’re not all good. And the biggest theological questions, for me, seem to be best summed up here in Donald Miller’s point: something isn’t right. The world is a scary place with a current that flows toward a sea of pain: “loneliness, lust, anger, jealousy, and depression”. At the deepest levels, I believe all humans know that the world is not supposed to be the way it is. My friend Linda recently found out her 18-month-old, Isaac, has leukemia. My sister-in-law was, in a sense, abandoned by her dad, my father-in-law. Jackson often decides he will get pleasure out of pulling my hair or giving me a good slap. Things in this world are not the way they are supposed to be. Which is why every human being–undeserving–needs a Savior.
*I still believe Christians need to be more cautious about theological debates. Oftentimes, this is more for our own benefit of being right rather than earnestly and sincerely attempting to build up God’s Kingdom of believers.