I was annoyed when I started the first draft of this blog post. I had just read a Facebook post that ticked me off. I swiped through my phone gallery to find the most appropriate image to go along with a prickly acerbic rejoinder. I was thinking, “How can people be so dumb!?!” Barely halfway through, I got stumped. Trying to remember the phrasing of a popular Bible quote, I sat quietly and the metaphorical steam pumping out of my ears dissipated.
I know that when people are afraid, they think and say a lot of things, including things that are untrue – whether to hide behind, to justify a wrong, or to whitewash a truth. Because I know what it is to be afraid; and because I too, have blanked out truths that had been too horrible to bear at the time, I can understand the irrationality that comes with panic and sheer terror. I am promising myself that I will have more compassion for some of the purveyors of conspiracy theories.
2020 has witnessed the loss of thousands of lives, globally, to the COVID-19 pandemic. The uncertainty that comes with the novel virus is what has caused me the most anxiety. I have been afraid for myself. I have been afraid for the people I love. I have been afraid of What Comes Next.
How will the world be when this is all over?
I do not know how many times I have asked myself this question. “When this is over,” has been my most constant prefix to resolutions I have already made. An unhelpful mantra, it only muddies whatever calm I have been able to achieve.
Up until Palm Sunday, April 5, that uncertainty had been difficult to manage. Despite cheering phone conversations with friends and a busy day in my garden and working on a column, I was in a depressive state. I cried through most of the night. I was angry at Life itself. I am a believer in honest prayer and I do not shy away from expressing myself in private prayer even if that includes throwing a tantrum. I had a meltdown. The Bible quote, “weeping may last through the night but joy comes in the morning,” proved true for me. The next day, I began to focus on the things that I know and the things I need to learn. I changed my perspective.
This brings me, in a really roundabout way, back to the first question: Do you want to be a Christian?
In my experience, first as a church girl, and now as an unchurched Christian, I have had to “work out [my] salvation, with fear and trembling.” What has that looked like for me? In no particular order –
• Getting to know my Creator for myself.
• Getting to know myself.
• Accepting that Earth is my home.
I will not attempt a definition of Christianity. I will say, though, that the Christian Walk is not American Idol – We aren’t here to sing our hearts out and win prizes. We are not in competition with any other Faiths or with Science. Jesus did not send us on that errand.
One of the most powerful messages about Christ was His Humanness. He referred to Himself as the Son of Man. We are given stories about parts of His life:
• A lowly birth
• Childhood rebellion
• Family relationships
• Punishment; and,
The above listed are typical of Human Life, not necessarily a god’s.
The Temptation of Jesus is a story that has intrigued me my whole life. My understanding of it is that that “devil’s voice” is actually our ego – telling us we are greater than; that we can work miracles; that we ought to elevate ourselves above others; that we can risk our lives to prove how special we are.
This story, more than any other told of Jesus, highlights to me the Human Experience. We are called to work on ourselves. That is what it is to be a Christian.
The grace of God does not cover our ignorance. If we do not know something or do not have the requisite experience, we are not qualified to teach of it.
The grace of God does not cover our willful acts that will endanger the lives of other people (and ourselves).
The grace of God does not cover our wastefulness of resources and time.
The grace of God does not cover taking our positions of privilege for granted.
Throughout the teachings of Christ, He shows us practical, workable, commonsensical ways to follow Him and to obey the laws of our countries and be productive, compassionate members of the Human Society.
If we really want to be Christians, our job includes picking up our crosses and following His Example.