Wednesday, February 26, 2014

That Stupid, Stupid Song

I hate the song "Blessings."  There.  I said it out loud and pushed myself to the outside of inspirational Christian music circles everywhere.  I hate it.  And I refuse to listen to it.  Feel free to share your feelings about how this song is so meaningful, blah blah blah, but don't expect me to sit around and soak it in with you if you start singing.

More than once people have asked what my issue is with what has been called a beautiful ballad in many music circles.  In simplest terms, I feel it's a trite response to real human suffering.  I'm sure I haven't been the only person stuck in spiritual quick sand anticipating suffocation only to run into a well-meaning individual who wanted to play this song in hopes that I'd find comfort and the faith to believe God's Word.  My actual reaction was to seriously consider slitting my wrists.  I was praying to survive--for "comfort" or "for Your mighty hand to ease [my] suffering"--but I needed to know that God loves me "way too much to give [me] lesser things"?

That's a strange way to encourage an individual to "have faith to believe."  And I guess I feel like those lyrics do little to outline where one goes from this point:  we suffer; we believe; we understand it will be better when we die.  In the darkest days of my depressive fog, that continual message would have been enough to convince me I'd gotten out of my bed for the last time.

There's also something about the perspective of the song that makes me feel like an outsider for struggling to understand why God allows such deep suffering on the part of some individuals, or why He often chooses to be silent.  The last lines of the song ("What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life/ Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy/ What if trials of this life/ The rain, the storms, the hardest nights/ Are your mercies in disguise"), while not necessarily untrue, make me feel as though I'm being chastised by someone outside the suffering circle for not immediately recognizing the situation as one that is clearly meant to bring glory to God.  Frankly, I don't feel like the speaker of this song is in the trenches.  I feel like she's on the other side of the fence telling me to believe God's plan without understanding that's the very thing I'm (and others) are clawing to hold onto--belief.  (And it's a little simplistic anyway, isn't it?  "And long that we'd have faith to believe"--believe what, exactly?  The promises in His word?  In my case, believing those promises wasn't the issue.  Reconciling myself to the possibility of a different plan--one that didn't eliminate my desire or respond to it--was a bigger issue than believing God's promises.)

Maybe it's too much to ask for all song writers to sit in the ditch of lamentation and lay it out honestly the way Rich Mullins did with "Hard to Get."  I guess I just feel like it's my responsibility as a Christian to get real with you about suffering in the midst of belief--that it's not always about a lack of faith or a foundering belief system.  Sometimes we struggle because we believe.  Sometimes we hurt because we can't see the final picture even though we know there is one.  My problem isn't that I can't see suffering as God's "mercies in disguise"; it's that I know God and want to follow Him, but sometimes I have to acknowledge the reality that some things are just His "ways and [He is] just plain hard to get."

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Elusive Priority

One of my great gifts is an ability to make almost anything more difficult than it has to be.  So when I say Christianity is simplistic, that's from a purely intellectual standpoint.  Practice is more difficult--probably because I think far too much about how I should act and then end up acting viscerally instead of according to my belief (which, unfortunately, is not yet that ingrained).
This action (inaction?!) is a pattern.  It is one of the main reasons I started leading women's Bible study (for consistency in study and relationship) and likely the reason I need to eliminate outside influences (topix, anyone?) that may not impact other people.  When I miss that stead influence and allow those outside influences play time, I see a significant decline in my attitude and more paralysis in my Christian action.
So it stands to reason that I would know what to change when I feel that paralysis creeping up my neck, but, oddly, I don't.  I don't know what I am supposed to be doing despite the fact that I know I belong where I am.
A friend told me once that education shouldn't necessarily be a Christian priority.  That thought has been in the back of my mind this entire school year...
  • because I believe education can have a beneficial effect on the masses
  • because I want my sons to be able to reason through situations instead of simply swallowing someone else's lecture
  • because my union is currently fighting a Tier Two salary schedule I fear will impact the type of education students at my school would receive.
Should these things be a priority for me?  I honestly don't know, and I don't see a lot of clear examples to illuminate the path.
That issue alone would be enough.  But it's rare any person gets to handle one situation at a time so I find myself, as I've said, in this bizarre "in between" place.
My word for the year is gratitude.  Like last year's word, "peace," gratitude should be a fairly easy concept to navigate.  After all, there is so much for which to be grateful--my little miracles, Ryan and Eli, in particular.  In the midst of all that baby excitement, though, are the situations that cloud that same sense of gratitude.
I'm not writing this because I have conclusions, but rather due to my lack of them.  That's what writing used to do for me--in the days before I started panicking that my kitchen was a mess and neurotically cleaning before bed.  Priorities, y'all.
But seriously, PRIORITIES...
  • for Christian action
  • for consistency in study (and maybe revisiting the idea of a study group?)
  • for a balanced view of education
But mostly?  For gratitude--in all seasons.
And maybe for grace to navigate the in between until everything is a bit more clear.
(If you read, forgive the lack of clarity.  My pregnant brain struggles to put one coherent thought together, so it's precarious to write anything at the end of the day.)