Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Christian Confessional

Let's get something straight - as Christians, we are not immune from the same kind of thinking that the world has about prayer (or about any number of other spiritual disciplines, for that matter). We are just as aware as anyone else that it doesn't seem like our circumstances have changed. We are just as aware as anyone else that our lives after prayer are often extremely similar to our lives before prayer. 

And honestly, we're asking ourselves the same questions. Most of us, if we're being real about it, have asked ourselves (or even still ask ourselves), are we drunk? 

Are we just lying to ourselves to feel better about things? Are we holding onto something hollow, hoping not to hear the echo of our souls in it? Are we pretending in the face of all objective evidence to the contrary that something is different? 

Is this for real?

Because there's something about being human in today's culture that cautions us against faith. It just does. That hasn't always been the case; in the pre-modern world, faith was a given. It was natural to simply believe that God was up to something and to live one's life on the basis of what one could know, or even suspect, about God. The modern era changed that, demanding evidence for things both seen and unseen. The postmodern era has changed it even further, insisting that everything we do is driven by our own experience or feelings. Which means that those of us who experience the power of prayer today are naturally conditioned by our culture to question it, recognizing how subjective the "feeling" of peace is. 

I'm not saying that these things are noble. Or that they're not. Or that they are Christian things or that they are not. Or that God honors them or that He doesn't. All I'm saying is that this is a reality of being a Christian in a postmodern world: we question even what we know. 

There are a lot of things I'm not saying about this, but I am saying one thing, and hear me on this: That's okay. If you're a Christian and you find yourself questioning sometimes whether this whole thing is real, whether you're lying to yourself, whether you're fooling yourself, whether it's you just telling yourself the things you know you want to or need to hear...if you're a Christian sometimes wondering, right along with the world, whether you're drunk, it's okay. 

It doesn't make you less of a Christian. It doesn't make you less of a believer. It doesn't mean your faith is somehow weaker than someone who never seems to have any questions of the sort. (And let's be honest - someone who doesn't seem to have these questions is either living blindly in denial or has skeletons of doubt in their closet that they aren't willing to let out. There may be exceptions to this, but they are rare.) In fact, however, I think that a faith that does question itself, one that continues to ask the big questions, one that seeks affirmation again and again and again and is constantly seeking to know whether it is a human voice speaking or a holy one...this is the faith that ends up the strongest. 

Because this life is full of questions, and if we don't practice asking them, they will knock us off course. If we're not comfortable digging deeper into the unknown, we're never going to get any closer to God than we are right now. It is only by asking, by reflecting, by yearning, by desperately wanting something more than we could ever give ourselves that we come to faith. And a faith that has to choose again and again and again and again to believe there is a God and He is everything He says He is is a faith that is ultimately stronger. 

Let's not pretend that once upon a time, we confessed our belief, prayed a prayer inviting Jesus into our hearts, were baptized, and went on and never doubted. The truth is that the best among us, all the way back to Thomas Didymus, have wondered at one time or another whether or not we're just drunk. 

And then Jesus pours us a drink at His table...and that's how we know. 

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