Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Falling into Hope

My religion used to make perfect sense to me.

I believed that Jesus came to earth and died for me so that, once I prayed to him in a certain way, I could go to heaven after I died.  My purpose in life until then was to get as many others as possible to pray that way, too.

I believed this way as sincerely as I could--many lovely, wonderful, priceless people do.  But I could only go along if I didn't think about it too hard.  I had to be careful to avoid certain mental paths, certain wild thoughts that didn't fit neatly inside the lines.  After all, I didn't want to be a Heretic or a False Prophet or an Apostate (which is what we called those people who chased those untamed thoughts).

Eventually, I had to follow those paths and chase those thoughts.  My questions became paralyzing, and my inability to accept the status quo left me drowning in guilt and shame and worry over my eternal destiny.  But what I found on the other side was God was already there waiting for me, and that I was certainly not the only person having those kinds of thoughts.  As I prayed and read and talked and listened, a new hope swelled within me and filled me with a joy unlike any I'd ever known.

I began to see the good news as not just good for me and people who agreed to pray and believe and behave like me, but for all people.  I began to understand the kingdom of God as not some event to come in the future, but as being truly here, now, at hand, just as Jesus said.  I began to view God's people not as a body standing at the heavenly train station, checking the time and waiting to be airlifted out of this world, but as a body pulsing with the potential to touch and heal and help and love people here, now.

(And as a side note, I find more joy in people now that I don't have to categorize them based on my judgment about their eternal destination.  I think the "Jesus-as-our-ticket-to-heaven" mindset makes believers seem aloof and closed-off, even smug.  It sets up an insider vs. outsider dichotomy that is the opposite of helpful.)

My religion used to make perfect sense.  Everything fit.  Anomalies had explanations.  Every situation had its applicable verses.

And I was empty, weary, and blind.

Now that I don't feel the need to pretend to have it all together, I don't.  I trust God to handle whatever happens, here and hereafter.