Saturday, November 1, 2008


Today I spent 45 minutes having my ego stroked. It only took a moment to whisk that all away, turning an otherwise stimulating coffee shop conversation into a metaphysical slap in the face, with these five words-"I used to be you." What I hate about those words is the arrogance behind them. Here I am intently listening to someone's list of big questions for god, all the while posturing as a wise, loving, deep listener. That is who I like to portray myself as. That is who I try to be. I figure I'm working my way into this person's top favorite people, and building up to a climactic moment when I breath out some brilliantly insightful observation about life and god and suffering that they haven't considered yet. But she's not been baring her soul, waiting for me to wow her with a modern, updated, better than ever insight on Christianity that proves that we two are the brilliant minds who really understand Christ and his work-instead, she's been taunting me. It turns out that, in her own words, she used to be me.
Me, the one who still knows God as a loving father, a king worth serving, a God who intimately cares about the biggest and smallest matters of the human condition. The God who waits for us to ask, impassioned to intervene in supernatural ways we could not even ask or think.
She used to be on fire. She used to be hot hot hot for Jesus.
She used to be me.
(Implication being that I too may soon realize that most Christians are probably fooling them selves into believing in God's intervention, slapping God's name on every good thing that randomly happens, and tritely explaining away tragedy, loss, and his bad judgment calls like letting a 5 year old's mother die of cancer.)

I feel so insulted. Mostly it's my pride that's been hurt. Here I am thinking that people see me as some source of wisdom and connection to God, and in fact I'm being condescended to, pitied maybe, and pegged as the same old blind faith believer who simply hasn't seen through the veneer of human religious indoctrination that assumes as Christians, we have the corner on truth and spirituality.

This person expressed a belief that Jesus is not interacting in our lives like we'd like to think. She knows personally a Buddhist who has been healed from terminal cancer through the power of sans-Jesus meditation and prayer. She says healing is possible through the power of faith in Jesus, self, or a witch doctor- that faith heals, and not just for Christians.
She also shared a frustrating meeting in which a whole community of believers prayed for a woman's healing from cancer, and...nothing happened. People who had faith, and tons of it.
So why wasn't the woman healed? Could the Buddhist's faith have been stronger than a room full of believing Christians? What about the absolute faith African's have in their witch doctors?
She said that you can find the miraculous if you look for it, and expect it, and you don't have to be a Christian to do it. Maybe she's right. Wouldn't that mean that the roomful of believers did not have enough faith for the cancer stricken woman? Jesus said that "it has been given to the poor to be rich in faith." Maybe as Americans we are just too handicapped by our wealth to have enough faith for the job, at least most of the time. Jesus certainly said some things that would support that. I don't think that means he doesn't want to intervene.

My friend confessed she just doesn't really see God at work in her life. She thinks many things she once attributed to the intervention of God were simply random, or brought on by the power of expectant faith operating with or without Jesus, according to her account of Buddhists and others. I asked her what she would like to see God do, to show himself in her life. I asked her to list the top three things she'd like to see God accomplish, even if they are impossible, and we'd pray and ask God to do them in the next three weeks. (A good friend and mentor, Steve Sjogren told me he does that all the time with people he meets in line in Starbucks, and that he's not had God let him down yet.) She hemmed and hawed. She said she couldn't think of three things. I asked her what she had to loose. If you want to see God work in your life, one place to start is to ask. That's what I would do.

Is that where the conversation shifted? I feel like that line of questioning is what precipitated her comment that pained me so. When I suggested biting the bullet, crapping or getting off the pot, being hot or cold, did I offended my friend? She is convinced that God isn't who we think he is, that many Christians are buffoons, but that she isn't willing to put that to the test. She doesn't want to totally loose her faith or anything. I am ready to risk looking like a fool and asking God to show himself in her life...but she isn't. I have so much confidence in what I see God doing in my life every single day, that I am willing to ask him to do something big and dramatic in the life of a doubting friend, though I risk looking like an idiot if nothing happens. But she'd rather write my confidence in God off as a fad she once jonsed on too. She used to be me. I guess that automatically invalidates me. But maybe she's just chicken. Perhaps I am naive. Or maybe she's just had it too good for too long, and has forgotten what it feels like to need God's help so badly that even when he says 'no,' there is a spiritual proximity that his love and presence bring in suffering that teaches and mends and enlightens. Oh how I'd hate to miss the exhilaration of his 'yes'! There is nothing like when it God comes through for me. There is no pride like pride in Him. Totally free from guilt, self doubt and selfish ambition, being proud of what my God has done is the bulwark of the richest part of my life.