Monday, March 25, 2024

Very Superstitious

As we enter into Easter week, I've been thinking quite a bit about Jesus. That's probably no surprise. But what I've really been thinking about is the way that we believe in Jesus, the message that we have of Him. And that's led me to think more about superstition. 

Superstition is basically magical thinking - ascribing power to where it doesn't belong and holding onto some very irrational ideas about the way things might be connected in the universe. And it's not limited to unbelievers; Christians, too, have a fair amount of superstition in our lives. It's simply an easy trap to fall into. 

For example, I will give you a fairly recent story from my own life. Several years ago, I acquired a sterling silver ring that I wear every day on my right hand. The ring is carved out to say, "Blessed." I have worn this without any particular magical belief in it; rather, I have appreciated the reminder of my belovedness that goes with me everywhere I go. I have liked being able to look down in hard times and remember that God truly does love me. That's what this ring does for me. 

Then, a few weeks ago, it broke. (For a second time.) The thin space between the "l" and the "e" cracked, making the ring completely unwearable. So I sent it into the shop for repair, since it came with a lifetime warranty (because of course, God's blessings also come with a lifetime warranty). 

And then, weird things started to happen. Not horribly bad things, just weird things. Things that don't normally happen in my life. And I was thinking to myself, "This is strangely weird. Must be a weird season." 

Until unexpectedly, the image of that broken ring popped into my mind, and I laughed to myself. "Of course. I'm not blessed any more." 

It's a silly thought. Things in this world break. It doesn't necessarily mean anything. I would not have previously put any magical power into that ring or thought of it as anything more than the reminder that it was. Yet, I laughed at myself because it was so easy for this kind of superstitious thought to pop into my head, even as a person of faith. A thought that, I confess, I don't believe. But here it was, intruding into my belief system. 

The truth is that it's an easy trap for Christians to fall into. We know our faith is not a faith of works, but of grace, but we spend so much of our lives still searching for works, trying to justify our faith. Trying to justify ourselves. And it is this searching for works that leads us into things like superstitions. It is this kind of searching for works that leads us to magical thinking - to putting power into things that have no power at all, even when we would confess that thing's impotence if you asked us on a perfectly rational level. 

It doesn't take much from here for us to be convinced that our works are failing us, and that's why our lives are a mess. It doesn't take much from here to convince us that we are doing something wrong, that we are broken sinners, completely hopeless. It doesn't take much from here to convince us that God is disappointed in us. And now, here we are, wrestling with failure and feelings of inadequacy and looking at the broken things in our life and thinking they must mean something. They have to, right? 

But what if they don't? What if things just break? 

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