I've been thinking a lot lately about my faith--specifically, my expression of it. I've always been resistant to manufactured emotions--it's all too easy to persuade a room full of people of any age/income/background to start crying and raising their hands and emoting their fear/gratitude/love/adoration. Cue the music, start the tear-jerking testimony, I cringe when I'm in the midst of Cattle- Call Christianity. I don't roll that way. For the same reasons I don't enjoy graduation ceremonies, 9/11 memorial services or what SanDiego Momma Deb calls "Grief Porn." They're contrived events capitalizing on high emotions to make people say and do things we all know perfectly well they won't follow through on the moment they return to their normal lives. I don't enjoy faith based on feelings. Feelings are tricky things--they change on a dime and they're often empty. For me, faith is a choice and it has to be based on facts.
A good parallel would be my relationship with Mr. D. I love him. Every day. I wake up and I decide "I will love this man." It's so easy to look at someone else and think, "Oh, they make me feel attractive." Or special. Or younger. Or happier. But by choosing to love Mr. D, I take the good and the bad and my loving him is a decisive action--a verb. Verbs are action words. Love is a verb that requires my participation. Feel is a self-centered kind of verb that requires merely my reaction. I don't want to live my life reacting to my spouse. That's both unrealistic and dangerous--the very reason most marriages collapse (not all--abuse is a good reason to divorce somebody) is because somebody doesn't make somebody else happy anymore. I could say that once a week about Mr. D, but in the big picture my constant happiness isn't the only thing at stake. Likewise, I don't want to exercise my faith reacting to God and how He treats me. Because right there, folks? Is where most people fall off the Faith Wagon. Things go down the crapper and so goes their faith. Pretty weak, if you ask me.
I don't participate in most Bible studies because they're feeling-based--"How to have a happy heart" sort of stuff. Women join together to complain and convalesce (I can do that just fine with my friends, thank you very much) and while praying for each other is very nice, it always comes with fluff that I don't enjoy. Like getting advice on how to decorate for the holidays. Or having your colors done. Or taking a quiz to find out "Are you the mom of teenagers." I mean really. We know perfectly well I get more soul food from visiting The Women's Colony where authenticity abounds--and is embraced.
So how do you practice your faith, Green Girl? Excellent question. I'm a reader. I've spent lots of time gathering the facts and lining up the arguments (C.S. Lewis is one of my favorite writers of theology). I pray. I compare my life to what I read in the Good Book. It surprises me how many people, women especially,who are all Gung-Ho God but they can't tell you a single Bible Fun Fact. I hoard them like Reece's Peanut Butter cups on Halloween night. Like this guy named Caleb who was sent into the Promised Land by Moses. In Numbers he comes back and tells the Israelites to go for it--conquer the land. He was 40 at the time. Moses promised him in return for his faith he'd get to claim some land. Later on he goes to Joshua to claim his promise--he's 85 years old. He sits on God's promise for forty-five years. In Joshua 14 you can read about how God blesses Caleb through Joshua and he claims Hebron as his inheritance. I often return to meditate upon that point when I'm feeling a little, well, ignored by God--when I'm frustrated with Mr. T and school or with my parents or with the big mystery of what my future holds I consider Caleb. He had to wait 45 years to bank on his promise--but he claimed it and it was his. That story gives me more confidence than any amount of Precious Moments plaques telling me God keeps His promises.
Because I don't fit the mold of Emotive Christian, it's really hard for me to find my niche at church. I'm looking for a Bible study for the rational thinker. A prayer partner to discuss the deeper stuff I dig up every time I reread the Bible. I'm not wired to get teary-eyed and speak in tongues, shout blessings at my neighbor or wear a WWJD bracelet--or slap a fish on the back end of the Momvan, thankyouverymuch. I do teach Cubbies, train leaders, work the nursery counter, cook and deliver hot meals to people needing a hand. I donate my kids' clothes to a family with 2 girls and a boy with no hand-me-downs. I discuss the Sunday School lessons with my sons and try to help them see God's got a plan for their lives. God cares more about the things I do and how my heart is while I'm doing them--I get that. I also understand that just as some folks aren't good at teaching Cubbies, I'm not good at hugging and sharing my faith with total strangers. He gets that because He made me the way I am.
Despite the fact that I'm not going around blabbering to everyone and their borther about my business with God, I'm becoming more at peace with the fact that on Judgement Day, He'll have plenty of other areas to hold me accountable. He created people with all kinds of gifts and talents, He loves me just as I am.