Tuesday, January 7, 2014

fear and faith and fumbling the food

A man named Soren once wrote a book about faith called, "Fear and Trembling." Though I read it and loved it, I must admit I don't remember many details. The subject and title, however, stick with me like a patch on a scout's uniform. I run my finger over their embroidered outline when I need reminded that fear is not an uncommon companion of faith.

Not long ago, a friend of mine posted a quote about religion being an opiate for people who have not learned how to cope on their own without it. I thought it and chanted it myself enough in college that it feels like some out-dated political slogan to me now. "Ah...the opiate of the masses stuff again. Well, good thing I don't have to believe someone's opinion just because they said it loudly," I thought. But inside, I started wondering again. "Do I just believe what I do because someone else said it?" "Why is it I believe what I believe about God, again?" "Are my reasons any better or do we all just pick what someone else said that we like and believe it?"

Ugh. Will my mind never tire of bringing these things up? Most days, I simply remind my mind that we've already been through all of this and I don't want to re-play the years it took to arrive back at this point of departure. If other people think I'm weak or not smart or whatever, they can think it. Belief in God is at least as rational as anything else out there. I have yet to see any other reasonable explanation for, say, existence.

All the same, I want my belief to be active and now -- not just something I decided back then. I become afraid that I'm living more in laziness than in true faith, more in not feeling like asking the questions than in trusting God for the answers to them (if they are to be answered). Maybe I have to address these questions (again), after all. At the very least, I need to ask God to help me in my unbelief. Perhaps He will show himself to me again in some way that I could not have conjured up.

Wait. Am I asking God to show up because I believe He will or because I'm afraid He won't? Is one question faith and the other not? Since I have pledged to follow Jesus, (ah, Jesus...much easier to follow than my own set of ideas and proofs!) I don't want to act in bad faith. I'm like Thomas, saying, "I believe! Help me in my unbelief!" when I was just thinking about how unlikely it was that I would ever have my questions satisfied. Thomas was good enough for Jesus, right? Am I only looking to scrape out a passing grade? Here's that fear and trembling, again. I'm afraid of leading people somewhere I am not sure we have business going. I'm also afraid of having an empty faith. I remind myself that we all have faith in something and it makes great sense to place my faith in the Maker of the universe -- especially if that Maker was willing to come and die for me. It doesn't sound very likely, though. Could you repeat yourself again, God? I'm so hard of hearing and quicker to forget than Israel. I may be one of the worst Christian leaders ever. Don't follow me, guys. Find your own way.

Enter my friend, Lauren, asking me to serve communion. I had just recently been talking with her about how meaningful it had been to me once when I had served it before. I had cried the whole time as I announced to each person that Jesus died for him, for her. This is not that time. This is a time when I feel so distant from God that it feels almost hypocritical to go around offering Him to anyone else. But I've just told her earlier this week how much I like serving communion, so here it goes. I hope this is somehow okay with God. I'm hypocritical if I do and hypocritical if I don't. So I sing the songs as earnestly as I can. I listen to others share their fresh experiences with God and feel completely happy for them. I take the bread in my hands and say the words.

"My sister, my brother, this is the body of Christ, broken for you."

Person after person, we look each other in the eye. "This is the body of Christ, broken for you," I say, before they tear off a piece to dip in the juice. Each time, there is the moment where it's just me talking to the person in front of me. "This is the body of Christ, broken...." For just a small moment, I've said the words without having given them anything. It's just the other person -- the person I've known for years, the person whose name I cannot remember, the child I knew as a baby -- and me, saying, "This is the body of Christ, broken for you." It's as though, just for a split second, I'm talking about myself. I greet them with just myself: "My sister, this is the body of Christ, broken...." Then the moment shifts to the bread they're actually tearing and then it's that small moment again with just me and the next person in line. I gradually begin to realize the truth of both moments. There's the bread I'm offering, but there's also myself. In both cases, I only have the smallest bit of anything to give. I watch the loaf of bread being picked away until it becomes difficult to know what it looked like when it was whole. I feel myself unraveling in the same way.

"This is the body of Christ, broken..."
and I recognize Him in my own skin again enough to be okay announcing it:
"...for you."

1 comment:

Mark Guinn said...

Lezlie, this is beautiful. Thank you.