I Lie at Church

One Sunday as I sang along to the song on the screen, I realized I might not entirely mean what I was singing.

My wealth is in the cross *
There’s nothing more I want
Than just to know His love
My heart is set on Christ

Or another song, one I haven’t sang quite as recently:

You’re all I want **
You’re all I’ve ever needed
You’re all I want
Help me know You are near

You are my desire
No one else will do
‘Cause nothing else could take Your place
To feel the warmth of Your embrace

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Photo by Bill Hamway on Unsplash

Do I intend to mean those words? Yes. Except most days, to say “There’s nothing more I want than just to know God’s love” would be a big lie. I want that, sure, but it’s one on a list of many wants, and while I know what the order of those desires should be, it rarely actually looks that way. As I go through my regular days, if I thought about, “What do I want most in this moment?” my answers would often be very small, immediate things. A hot piece of pizza, a kind reply to a difficult email I had to send, some hazelnut coffee left in the pot in the kitchen at work. Digging a bit deeper, I might also want a friend to reply to my text, a nice guy to notice me, my dad’s recovery from surgery to be going well.

Should God be all I ever want? Absolutely. Should he be the only thing I think I truly need? Yes. But I also feel like I need friends and a house and food, and while on some level those are needs, they aren’t deep-level needs like I’m supposed to need God.

And then, maybe, after those are out of the way, I’d remember to articulate my desire for God to be enough in my life. But I’d still want all of those other things.

Should I stop singing these kinds of songs until I can mean the words with 100% truth?

I don’t really think so. As godly and noble as the writers of songs might be, not even they could mean the words they write every single moment of every single day, yet they still go ahead and write them anyway. When we sing worship songs or read psalms as our prayers, I think God knows our heart behind them even if we struggle with fully meaning what the words are saying.

It’s helpful for me to think of singing these kinds of songs as both a proclamation and a prayer. There are glimmers of moments where I truly do believe God is all I really want, but also, I sing those words as a desperate plea for God to continue conforming my wayward desires to look like his. The hope is that day by day, month by month, year by year, the times God truly is all I want will only ever increase, until maybe, someday, it’s more true than not true. I’ll never perfect it in this lifetime–I’m far too full of human-ness for that to be possible–but the hope of the Christian life is that we continually become better than we were the day before.

So I’ll keep singing the worship songs with gusto, even if I don’t feel like I fully believe or mean every single word as fully as I should. Because while I may not be at that place today, maybe someday I will be.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

*Read more: Hillsong – Crowns Lyrics | MetroLyrics
**Read more: Kutless – Draw Me Close Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Good Christian Guilt

Following Jesus is, in theory, quite simple. Except for all the times that it’s not.

Growing up in a Christian environment has been both a deep gift and a multilayered complexity. When kids are taught about what it means to follow Jesus, it’s essentially boiled down to the good characteristics people who call themselves Christians should have. None of this is, at its core, a bad thing–nuance has to be introduced at some point, but most kids wouldn’t have the capacity for it at young ages. At some point though, all the “shoulds” of following Jesus start to get complicated.

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Photo Credit: Flickr User Volker Stetter, Creative Commons

Recently, a new group was starting up at my church. They were going to read and discuss a book I own and have been meaning to read for quite some time. As I thought about my fall though, I realized adding one more activity, even one as good as reading a book that would likely challenge and inspire me, would not be wise for me right now. And as I realized that, I had a twinge of guilt over not being able to participate.

Fortunately, I later came to my senses about how absurd it is to feel guilty about not being able to join another group at church.

But there are other areas of the Christian life where I have, and do, feel guilt, and it is these complicated spaces that I struggle with. For example, I believe there’s nothing humans can do to earn God’s grace in all its various forms–whether it’s the grace that saves us, the grace that loves us, the grace that holds us–all of it is, and must be, completely free. Otherwise it wouldn’t be grace at all.

However, I also believe that if I say I follow Jesus, that should manifest itself in my life in daily, tangible ways. The way I treat people, the way I do (or don’t) use my resources of time and money, the way I make decisions, and all the other pieces that make up a life–all of those should be absolutely saturated with and informed by my faith. All over the place in the Bible there are mentions of serving others, of gathering in community with fellow believers, of praying, and so many other good actions that demonstrate thankfulness for what God has done in our lives and our desire to share that with others. None of these actions, on their own, have the power to save. But we’re supposed to do them, as long as our intentions are right.

And therein lies the difficulty. It’s easy to say things about living in God’s love and letting our actions be an outflow of that, but it gets very messy in the conflicting motivations of life in the real world. Where do we find the balance between living from a place of knowing we can never earn God’s love, yet following his words about praying and serving and being generous and all the other wonderful actions the Bible tells us to take part in? Is signing up for a service project because my friends did still a good action? Is giving to a good cause still good if it’s out of guilt because you haven’t given to anything else that month? Is it even possible to be a “good Christian?”

A simple definition of guilt from Dictionary.com is, “a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong,etc., whether real or imagined.” Even the definition gets complicated though–the feeling of guilt doesn’t always correlate to an actual offense, but there are times when guilt is a legitimate, even necessary response. When I know I’ve done something wrong, I should feel a sense of remorse about it. That doesn’t mean I have to forever dwell in that feeling of guilt, but allowing myself to feel it allows the severity of my actions to sink in, hopefully so that I’ll learn from them. 

Yet I don’t think we’re supposed to live in a constant state of feeling guilty about all the things we could, or even should, be doing for God. That level of guilt would be crippling. It would be too far to say that doing things out of guilt negates the good of those actions, but it does forget the true purpose of those actions. None of it is supposed to be about us and how we feel, and all of it is supposed to to be a response to God.

Again though, “a response to God” is one of those Christian-y phrases that sounds really nice but is crazy difficult, arguably impossible, to truly implement. But I’m beginning to hope that God honors the process. Our motivations may always be a little off-kilter and with a few blemishes, but God already knows that. Since the beginning of time he’s been using imperfect people and their mixed-up motivations to accomplish his work, and I have to trust he’ll continue to do so–even through me.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. How do you live in the tension between guilt and grace?

Saying Yes to Jesus (From the Midweek Encounter Blog)

Every few weeks, I write a post for my church’s Midweek Encounter blog reflecting on that week’s sermon. In this week’s, I ponder what it really means to say yes to Jesus–which doesn’t always mean selling all our stuff and becoming a missionary, but that’s how I’ve often felt.
Saying Yes to Jesus
When I hear stories of people selling all their stuff and moving to another country to become missionaries, I want to like them. I really do. I want to be able to applaud their sacrifice, their willingness to give up all they’ve known, their dedication to following Jesus even though it seems so extreme. Except most of the time when I hear those stories, I get kind of annoyed at these other people’s piety, and then feel kind of ashamed that I’ve never done anything so extreme for Jesus. Almost every time I’ve gone to another country, it’s been for a vacation, not to serve Jesus.

There are two rather different stories of Jesus calling his first disciples. In the book of Matthew, it takes all of two verses (Matthew 4:18-20):

 

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.

The book of Luke records things differently, and I appreciate the perspective it offers. Instead of instantaneously dropping everything to follow Jesus, Luke 5 shows that it takes a bit for Simon Peter to come around to the idea.
Keep reading at the Midweek Encounter blog.

Hugging the Cactus

Talking is my strong point.

Listening, on the other hand…isn’t always quite so strong.

Particularly when I don’t want to hear it.

Or, more specifically, when I don’t want to DO what I’m being told.

Throw God into the mix, and I’ve got a conundrum.

I don’t feel capable of doing some of the things he seems to want me to do. Of course, that may just be a scapegoat for the fact that I don’t WANT to. I’d much rather choose to pretend that I’m not getting what he’s throwing down, that I’m totally missing the point and lost in ignorance. (Ignorance is bliss, right?)

But when I’m nearly running into it, how can I pretend that I’m not seeing it?

Issues of the heart are much messier than those of a more physical nature. If I had a tumor, I’d go to the doctor and have it removed. But when the cause of the problem can’t be seen or touched, how do I begin to get rid of it? Cause even though I want to, there’s a piece of me that…doesn’t really. I’ve gotten used to it, and it seems much more difficult to let go of it than to keep holding on.

Makes tons of sense, I know.

But sometimes, I think the familiarity, even if it’s with something yucky, is more comforting than the unpredictability of the unknown. So we hug the cactus, instead of letting go in hopes of catching the bubble.

I guess that’s why Jesus didn’t say, “Follow me, it’ll be easy.”

Til next time…

~Brianna!~