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Questioning God


Sounds prideful? Outlandish? Rude? At times it really is.

When I am most angry at my circumstances is when it becomes a question of pride.  When I put my own feelings on a pedestal and my questions become more of a demand.  When I am so frustrated I’m throwing a fit, this is when questioning God becomes a problem.

It also becomes a problem when my insecurity speaks guilt into my soul.  Pride is a problem, but insecurity is like a different form of pride, or is it the same? Pride says I am more important than God, insecurity says I am too un-important for God.  Pride says I am more than God, insecurity says God is not enough for me.

When I am in a state of pride I say that my questions are more important than God Himself.  When I am in an insecure state I say God’s grace is not sufficient for my questioning.

But sometimes I get to be right in the sweet center of these two extremes. 

I am neither demanding answers nor denying the existence of my questions, but instead seeing a need for resolution.  Right now I am in this sweet center, so I want to take advantage by writing down my end goal before I swing away.

For months now questions have been creeping into my mind.  Questions that have been scare and intimidate me. They all focus around one entity: God.  Who is He, how can I know? How does this determine how I make choices? These questions started out just as empty words with a question mark at the end, but slowly became like a common belief.  As an example: how can I really know Jesus is God?  Yes the bible says so, but why should I trust the bible? Wait, does the bible really say so, or is this just information I’ve heard that I’m just accepting as truth?

I would try to shake them off, blinking really hard as if I could open my eyes and the scary monster would magically disappear.  But they stayed, throughout the day, the evening, the week, and the months leading me to today.

So now I embrace the questions (or I try to, maybe Jesus won’t send me to hell for asking them after all…)  But this brings me to another problem: I am not an expert in anything to do with religion or faith.  I have no educational background in these matters, I am a teacher with relatively few connections to the church, and no connections to experts in the church.  I am a tired, young wife and educator.  I’m still trying to survive this school year with relatively few hours in a day.  I’m still trying to figure out who I am, and what I want to focus my time on (the classroom, family, community, questioning?)

I say all of this in my attempt to count the cost.

Not that I can count perfectly prior to this journey.  But first and foremost, it will take time.  I have prayed for revelations (don’t hate, I’m tired and a revelation would take a lot less time), but God does not seem to be leaning towards that route.  I have read the bible and been confused in the process feeling alone in my confusion.  Once I tried YouTube only to be disappointed.

Now I am going with a new approach.  I have started to reach out to people who may have resources or the connections that I lack.

This brings me to the next cost, humility.  Like I said, I swing between insecurity and pride, so being in a state where I can ask my question simply for an answer is difficult.  By asking questions I open myself up to criticism (put on that helmet! Protect  yourself from the flaming arrows of the satan!).  Not only for asking the questions but also for how I ask them.  Already I have been corrected in my approach, and though at first frustrated, I realized that it was a great correction and has reshaped my approach.  But how many more times will my question itself be criticized, and am I up for this challenge?  Can my ego handle it?

I can’t count the costs  of the journey fully when I am only at the start, but I can at least attempt to, and I pray that this will be exactly what I call it, a journey.  As I step away from the bubble that I have been in my whole life, the bubble of a Christian God with republican policies, of a manGod who I hold at arm’s length, I trust that God is and will be bigger than this bubble, that His grace will be sufficient, and that He will lead me to answers.

I will be asking the following questions one at a time, in the following order:

  1. Is there a God?
  2. Which God is the God? Is there only one?
  3. Why is the bible viewed as accurate? As a Holy and True source?
    1. In specific Paul’s writing.
    2. How should one approach reading the bible?
  4. Why is Jesus special? What makes Him God? Why is He the only way?
  5. How does this affect how people make choices?  How can one be considered a follower or Christ or a Christian?
  6. Where are there freedoms/liberties in Christ, where are there absolutes?
    1. In specific, what does the bible really say about homosexuality and marriage?

If at any point I arrive to a negative answer, for example, I tackle question number one and arrive at the conclusion that there is no God, then I will stop my search for answers, as the remaining questions stem from the previous questions.

I need to also state that I am obviously biased in my search.  Not necessarily for Christianity, but of the Jewish God.   There is just something about his fierce devotion to his people that makes me love Him.  In this process I hope to grow to know Him better, and if Jesus really is, his Son as well.  May God be gracious, my husband supportive, and my heart mind and soul persistent.


 

I wrote this several weeks ago and have already begun the process of seeking answers. I am posting this now because after many many frustrating months I have finally reached a point of peace in my questions, no longer feeling angry or guilty for having them.

My husband supported this effort best while reading about the next steps I have taken:

“I don’t want to rob you of this journey, but know that I have asked these same questions before, and that I have found answers, I know you will too.  I’m here to talk when you want to.”

I hope in some way to encourage you as I am encouraged while Questioning God.

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Since I met Tim at the wonderfully fashionable tacky Christmas sweater party in 2008 we have just clicked.

Image

And marriage hasn’t phased us terribly yet.  We’ve definitely had some nasty fights, and there are days where we get so frustrated with this person we live with that we can’t fathom another day, let alone a lifetime of being with each other.

But most days we are just having a great time with the person we love: watching TV, walking our dogs, grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments, you name it, we will have a blast being together.

But what happens when all of a sudden two people have dramatically different visions for their lives?

I never considered this as a potential in marriage, I always assumed God would move both of our hearts in the same direction at the same time… always.

But apparently this can happen and it did.  After we found out that we would not be going to Malaysia, we were both really bummed out.  Instead of sulking (for too long) we decided to seek God on the matter, and what we found were two beautiful paths, that did not align at ALL.

As Tim prayed he became more convinced that this opportunity had been purposeful, and that we should be seeking other opportunities like it.  I always use the phrase if Tim could have packed up and moved us two weeks ago we would be gone to describe his enthusiasm for living internationally.  He was confident, steady, and determined.

I prayed as well, but instead of receiving this same message it became abundantly clear to my heart that God was calling us to live more intentionally in our community here in Houston.  I have at times felt Houston is not our forever city, but our city for now.  I prayed about this from the perspective of a teacher wanting to know if she should be looking to sign another contract, and received a very firm answer that we should plan to stay another academic year.  I was confident, steady, and determined.  And scared… but save that for another day.

So Tim was ready to pack us up and ship out, and I was ready to dig roots deeper here.  Hmmm.

So many nights we would get frustrated with each other both saying “I don’t feel like you are honoring the call that is on my heart” and both being right.

When I wanted to talk about what we could do here to settle in Tim wanted to talk about applications for positions across seas.  When I wanted to invest time in friendships, Tim wanted to invest connecting internationally.

Oh crap.

Compromise.  How do we compromise?

His heart:

Tim and I have decided to visit some friends in Kurdistan this summer and also take some time to visit Jerusalem.  On our trip to Asia, we will also be stopping in London and Istanbul.  Tim has been planning like crazy for weeks now and I have been doing my best to stay focused during our itinerary meetings and keep up with his enthusiasm.

I have no idea how we will react to traveling.  We are both so excited, but we could go and decide another country is indeed where we need to be, or we could go and decide that this country is where we need to be.  Either way there are so many questions we will then want to ask.

Her heart:

And when we are not running around new cities and airports? We will be focused on being present here where we are.  Being more intentional about time with others and service (hopefully starting in July when we return).

So many things are still undetermined.  We know that we will be in Houston this next year, but doing what? After that, then what? We don’t have a five year plan, or even a 5 month plan, but in this we feel most content.

Some may say we are being unwise, but we are learning to trust our Savior daily, a difficult lesson indeed.  For now we do our best to honor each other, and above this, the one who calls our hearts to live fully and wonderfully, individually and together.

I’m alive.

and well…ish.

I feel like I should update this if I want to keep my blog alive, and I want my blog to eventually thrive, so living is a good goal for now.

Thank you for reading this, you are helping me, tell me you read it and I will write you a thank you card.  Seriously.

WELL.  All year I have been working and working and working.  I have come up against more trials than I could have anticipated at the beginning of the year, but they have forced me to grow professionally and I am a much better teacher now than 3 months ago.

I am thankful for the blessing God has given me this year, like my friend in the geometry team.  She is awesome and together we are not only alive, but actually doing well, but mainly we’re just alive.

Sometimes on our really good days we’ll even say we’re kicking ass

but on most days, like today, we’re just happy to survive till Christmas

We’re both first years so… we get each other.

A few weeks ago I went through a random cranky phase where I was convinced that all my hard work was pointless (I called my mom like 8 times that week complaining, so professional right?).

“Why work hard when you can NOT work hard and the outcome seems to be the same?”

or WORSE

“Why work hard when you can NOT work hard and STILL get ahead?”

The real world is confusing, so very confusing.

But finally, FINALLY, on one fateful day, the principal stepped into my classroom.

Things were not going well, comparatively.  The lesson was running as normal but this period the principal was in is my most high maintenance, I love them, but it takes everything in me and more to help this class stay on track.  The principal pulled a seat up next to my students, looked around the room and observed the lesson, then got up and left.

Moments later the bell rang, and I gathered my energy to get my next period started.

Finally lunch came and I ran to my teacher friend and told her what happened.  We sat and speculated for a while, I was totally freaked out.  Do I sound immature? I’m working on it.

After lunch I checked my e-mail before my students returned and I saw that the head honcho had sent me a message.  I took a deep breath, opened up the electronic letter, and almost started to cry.

“Great job”

There was more, not much more, but it is unnecessary to quote.

“Great job…”

oh LAWD!

So much work, so much time, so many tears.

2 words

Great job

Why do I believe in positive reinforcement?

Why do I use positive reinforcement so much in my class?

Why is my whole classroom management based first upon positive reinforcement?

BECAUSE IT WORKS

Great job.

Great job.

Great job.

I stepped away from my computer, I took a deep breath, “its all for you Dad.”

Though I love positive reinforcement

and though it is such a huge blessing to receive some from my boss

and though I’ve been waiting, at times in desperation, for a sign that my work has been on the right track

There’s only one reason, I really do any of this.

Thank you.  It’s all for You.

 

We live in very confusing times.  As a Christian this really isn’t surprising.  God never said the world would get fixed after he left, he said it would continue to spiral until he came back.  The problem though, isn’t the confusion in the world; it’s how the church and non-church respond to our circumstances.  From my perspective, the two most controversial non-essential spiritual issues I have faced have been drinking and views on gay marriage.

 My experience with alcohol has presented itself to be the epitome of how poorly we handle confusion and of the tension Christians feel in and outside of the church.  As a kid, I knew that beer and wine were for the adults, and I never had a problem with that.  My dad usually had a few of what he called, cold “brewskies” in the fridge and it was never a shock to find a box of mom’s weird grape juice in the lower cabinets.  I knew the rule that the wine was for my momma, and the brewsky for dad, leaving all other liquids in the fridge up for grabs for my sister and I.  This never concerned me, and alcohol never stood out to me, it was just there.  This isn’t to say I didn’t see the problems alcohol could cause.  My parents and adults around me weren’t perfect, but they were great at teaching me from a young age that when I would drink when I was older, moderation would be the key word (though to say I didn’t learn this lesson fully the hard way would be a lie).

It wasn’t until college that I first began to see that alcohol was the great divide between the prudes and the popular.  As a freshman before becoming a Christian I drank underage a few times thinking that it was just “what you did.” However, after becoming a Christian and getting involved in a youth ministry I chose to stop drinking until I was of age.  No big deal right? It’s not like I actually enjoyed the Natty Light frats served or that disgusting mix o’ crap they called punch. 

WRONG!                          

Oh my gosh, you would have thought I was a leper from the way some people reacted to me and my friends for not drinking.  Not all people, I met some really awesome people who drank underage and were really cool with me not joining in.  But oh my gosh, this was like THE thing that distinguished a “Christian” from a true Christian in college, or it was the thing to defend if you were a Christian.  I felt so on edge and left out all because I wouldn’t drink! In the defense of the insiders, I probably acted as awkward as I felt, which was probably more of the cause for being (or should I say feeling) on the “outside” than drinking.

No big deal, push through and it will all be over after college.  We’ll all move on from the drinking issue and no awkwardness will exist when the drinking age has come and gone along with the rebelliousness or newness that had come with it in school.

WRONG!

Now I’m not worrying about people on the outside of the steepled buildings thinking I’m a prude, I’m more worried about the people inside thinking I’m living in sin (gasp!).   This feels ridiculous to write about, but I know I’m not alone.  Once when I offered wine to a couple friends, a girl came up to me and whispered “I really needed some Christian friends who drank, thanks.” I totally knew where she was coming from, and I totally understood her need to whisper.  For whatever reason, alcohol has become this very uncomfortable topic.

What? Why?

Why is this such an unspoken hot button issue for the church?

I’m going to go ahead and get it out there right now: I drink! I love a good margarita, white wine, Dos Equis, or hard cider! Yum!

To some people that may not seem like a big deal, and back in the day I wouldn’t have thought so either.  However, having experienced people whose view is that drinking means I can no longer be a part of the church, and having felt the pressure of not letting others see me participate in what is really such a simple thing compared to, oh, I don’t know, war, hunger, poverty… just to name a few, I love being able to just put in writing that I drink.  Moderation, like my parents so wisely taught me, is key.

This isn’t to downplay that drinking can be a problem. I have seen what alcoholism can do to a person and their family, and I always want to respect that person and their sobriety over having a freaking drink.  In other situations a person may not be able to drink because of medication they are taking (I have been this person at times).  In instances such as these, a beer just wouldn’t cross my mind. It just isn’t a big deal to not consider alcohol in that case.

I write all this to show how something so unimportant in the big picture (again, war, poverty…), can be blown out of proportion.  And amid all of what I wrote about, amid my whole experience, how often did Jesus come up?

It should have been simple when I was in college: I met a man named Jesus, and his love has changed me, so now choices I make look different than before, but that doesn’t mean I love you any less or look at you as any less.  If anything it is the exact opposite. I love and value you more than ever. 

The same awkwardness and tension arises in our nation over things such as the marriage debate.  In our hearts there are so many devoted followers of Jesus that know that our job is well defined: love others.

Not love others unless they drink or unless they are homosexual or unless they use bad words.

And yet we’re scared because you see all of these controversies where the church is trying to protect the “sanctity” of marriage (let’s just ignore the 50% divorce rate in and out of the church), and we’re scared into silence.  Are we not being truthful enough? Defending what God defined as marriage? Are we not honoring God if we vote the “wrong” way? God, am I going to have to be the prude once again?

And amid all of this, how often am I, are we, mentioning Jesus?  How often do we ask about him, talk about him, consider him? After all, he is the cornerstone of our beliefs and our church, and yet we aren’t talking about him at all.  No one is discussing the man who lived over 2,000 years ago, let that soak in.  People will argue till they are blue in the face about the morality in marriage without considering who they are following, a man who died, over 2,000 years ago.

Everything about this situation is strange. 

First, that we aren’t talking about the foundation of what we believe; the one who started our movement, the reason we (Christians) exist, while we exhaust ourselves trying to figure out how to defend which politics we side with.

Second, that who we are forgetting is strange in and of itself considering he died over 2,000 years ago.

We are distracted, as individuals, as groups, as a nation.  We are so caught up in defending what we believe is morally “right”, that we have forgotten to discuss the one we believe in.  This is really our loss, because it is quite fascinating that 2,000 years later, a lower-class individual from an afterthought of a country still has people so devoted to his story and to him.

My sincerest desire is to step outside of our cloud of confusion, step outside of alcohol, outside of the marriage debate, outside of the politics and the mundane distractions, and focus on the question that matters, the question that started over 2,000 years ago, the question that changes everything.

I want the masses to stop bickering, so the individual can ask: Who was Jesus?

 

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