Monday, August 15, 2011

Legalism


So, this whole time, I’ve been working on moving away from a legalistic attitude about spiritual things. And yet, a friend pointed out to me that my format in the blog so far was somewhat legalistic. I laid out a path to follow and didn’t deviate from the plan, even when I felt frustrated by the limitations. To be fair, there is something to be said for following through even when you don’t feel like it. I mean, what kind of flake would I be if I didn’t come to an arranged lunch date just because I didn’t feel like it? But, at the same time, following “rules” is one of the fastest ways to kill spiritual joy I’ve experienced. 

So, what is legalism? For me, legalism meant feeling obligated to perform certain duties within my church group, even though they didn’t bring me spiritual enlightenment, growth, or joy. I didn’t feel called to take up the burden’s I’d picked up (cleaning up after certain events and organizing worship, among other things), but I picked up those jobs anyways, and wore myself out. Worship became a chore for me because I was constantly worried about the details (did we have enough food for dinner? Were there enough volunteers to clean up? etc.). I was frustrated with and tired of doing taking care of it all. I was tired of working so hard for God, but getting nothing in return. 

Despite all my efforts, I didn’t feel any closer to God, I didn’t feel anymore love, or have any greater direction for my life. And I was tired. So sick and tired of working for God. After talking to my leaders in my church group, I realized that I had imposed a lot of the burdens upon myself. Why? Because despite my theoretical knowledge of Grace, I had yet to fully experience it. I didn’t believe that I deserved Grace. So I tried to earn it, to make myself worthy of that incredible gift. Legalism was a safe escape for me. It felt comfortable to have rules to surround myself with—they were familiar. We have rules in every other aspect of our lives, why not in our spirituality?? It gave me something “stable” to stand on when I couldn’t explain or rationalize something as honestly crazy as grace. 

Grace is fundamentally irrational to me. I can’t explain it. Jesus loved us as a creation, as well as me as an individual, so much that he decided to repair the breech in man’s relationship with God—a breech we caused in the first place! And then, to top it off, the cost of repairing our messed-up relationship was His LIFE! He voluntarily came to earth to die to save a bunch of screw-ups like me. I can’t even fathom a love that big. We compare it to the love a parent has for a child, or a lover for his/her beloved, but I don’t think any human emotion can ever compare with how ginormous His love for us must be.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Scripture

So, Scripture is an interesting topic for me. Here's the basics: the Bible, is the word of God, given to man so that we might understand who He is, how He loves us. The message contained within those pages is amazing and mind-boggling to me. But, the actual stories, the words on the page aren't really personal to me. I have friends who love meditating on certain passages and replacing all the "you's" with their name, so they feel that God is speaking directly to them through that Scripture. Other friends draw inspiration and guidance from the words of Jesus. If you've never tried reading scripture as a way to draw closer to God, or communicate with Him, I encourage you to try it. Ask your friends or mentors for recommendations on good passages to start with and go from there. Try reading every day, even a guided reading plan! Some of those are really great ways to learn about God's character and love for us.

For me, scripture is one of the clearest symptoms of my spiritual numbness. I think because I heard so many Bible stories from a young age, and I never really understood why they were significant to me, the stories seem irrelevant to me. Add to that a college degree in English (i.e. analyzing texts) and a strong historical understanding of the time, it's hard for me to see the text as God-written, or God-inspired. I don't in any way mean to criticize my church families or leaders. It's just the way my mind works. Hearing it so many times, I grew immune to it. It's kind of like a kid who eats way too much cake. After a while, it doesn't taste sweet anymore. So, I'm slowly trying to re-learn how to approach scripture in a way that works for me, because I believe that scripture is a critical part of our relationship with God, and I want to know what He has to say to me.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Discipleship

Before I start, I have to apologize for the delay between posts. My intention was to post at least every other week, but SO much has happened since the beginning of July: minor surgery, starting a new job, and moving into a new place! Needless to say, my world's been a little hectic and my schedule turned up-side down. From now on, please look for new posts on Mondays, hopefully every week to every other week.

Discipleship
I had never heard of this concept prior to college, and it took me a while to understand why it's so important. In my experience, discipleship is kindda like having a mentor and a small, close group of supporters in your spiritual walk. At first, I didn't really think a group like this was necessary to spirituality. My relationship with God is between me and Him, right? So why should I need someone else telling me what to do? Or pointing out my failures? Or dismissing me and my questions? Since I hadn't previously experienced a lot of direct spiritual support, I was doubtful. During my first year of college, I joined a Bible study for Freshmen Girls, and, quite simply, it was fantastic! I loved hanging out with those girls, and our leaders were so sweet and kind, yet they challenged us-- made us questions and really look deeper into what it meant to be a Christian woman. 

The next year, we split up into two smaller groups and continued to dig into our spiritual lives, but we continued under the name of a discipleship group. Essentially, we met once a week to discuss scripture, talk about our spiritual lives and just love on each other. It might sound like a typical Bible study, but it went so much deeper than that. We pushed and challenged each other to really open up, to talk about the deepest, darkest secrets hidden away in our hearts. We found that some girls felt that they weren't worthy of God's love, so they worked really hard to earn it, others realized that they felt distant from God because they were too prideful to admit that they really and truly needed  His help. Because we were so open with each other, we were really able to support one another through some really difficult stuff. Last summer when I reached the end of my rope with trying to follow all the rules and obligations I mistakenly felt were necessary to be a Christian, my group supported me and allowed me to step back from the responsibilities of the group, without letting me slip through the cracks in their busy schedules and completely fall off the spiritual path. 

I really encourage you, if you're trying to find out if there's more to spirituality, or just want to really know God, find someone to disciple you. Yes, just like Jesus had his followers, his disciples, find someone who you trust in spiritual matters. It could be a friend, a youth pastor, or a leader in your community. If you're not connected to a spiritual community, ask around--ask me!-- and I'll be someone can recommend a church with some strong leaders. You need someone who is a little further along in their spiritual path, simply because if you ask someone who's at the same place you are, neither one of you can lead the way for the other. Find someone you're comfortable asking hard questions, and who is willing to give you an honest answer. You need someone who will call you out when some of your actions don't line up with the way of Christ, but will also show you the way back. 

Discipleship can be an amazing tool for growing in your understanding of Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit, as well as your relationship with Him. In fact, a lot (if not most) of what I will share of my journey comes straight from my AMAZING discipleship group and dedicated leaders-- they've made a huge impact on my life, and I'm excited to share it all with you.