I sat down to write this afternoon. A few themes suggested themselves:
Learning to live with disappointments.
A slow learner discovers love.
Experiencing loneliness.
Body image for the unmotivated.
All worthy enough, but they didn't make the cut today. Instead I've opted for a bit of reflection.
I've noticed that reader feedback and interest correlate strongly with the topic. Things like photography and travel guarantee responses. Discussions on philosophy or spirituality generally less so. We are into secular materialism it seems. So be it. I enjoy a good dose of the secular from time to time, and my share of worldly pleasures as much as anyone. Today though I will tempt being left on the outer by indulging in a bit of reflection on my own spirituality.
(Lake in the grounds of San Soucci Palace. Potsdam, Germany)
I live with an imperfect Christian faith; not a bright shiny one. Just like a TV evangelist with an orthodontic smile, I have cracks and defects I'd rather you didn't see. Unlike many TV evangelists though, I mistrust superficial images. I try to avoid them. I'm more of a sucker for sincerity than authority, especially when that authority comes gift wrapped with glitter. One of my favourite stories is the one about the old emperor convinced he is wearing the finest garments, invisible to him but amazingly dazzlingly beautiful to everyone else. Sucked in by his own vanity, he is humiliated with a thud. Does anyone else get a dose of schadenfreude from that tale?
I prefer my inner beliefs and values served real, without the garnish or the floss some think makes them more palatable. This isn't just a passing preference. I have been known to irritate and annoy a whole string of people over the years by snorting, eye rolling, shifting uncomfortably, or just getting up and walking away when my bullshit detector redlines. The trouble is and has been that this happens more often than not when a more considered person would hold their counsel, and sit there and nod in affirmation. Now I think about it, maybe that has cost me a few opportunities here and there; and maybe that doesn't matter.
You've got it, right? I can be impatient and intolerant when I think I am being patronised or snowed. Something I need to work on I guess. Then again maybe it's a bit late for that. The die is cast I think.
So, to return to where I began. My Christian faith is covered with dents and scratches. It's out of warranty and has a lot of miles on the clock. Thankfully no one would believe it's only been used once a week to drive to church. On the contrary, I've never been much attracted by the idea of Sunday Christianity. Although my faith has been miniscule from time to time, and invisible to all but a careful observer at other times, it's well worn and fits me comfortably. I wouldn't have it any other way.
I don't get defensive about religious belief. It's an essential part of me and I live and breathe it. My faith is so precious to me that I can't imagine I will ever give it up. Despite that I'll walk away more often than argue about 'religious' stuff. I leave that to the nutters of all persuasions. I don't need anyone else to have the same faith I have. That's up to them. I'm not interested in converting anyone else or convincing them that it's my way or the highway. I don't live in anyone else's skin or walk in anyone else's shoes. I have enough issues with my own life. Why would I want to interfere with somebody else's?
I believe that rather than my knowing the truth, the truth knows me. That is enough for me: No piety necessary, no hypocrisy appropriate, no religious ritual necessary. Just God . . . and me, known and loved. I'd probably better add at this point that I am not anti-church or anti-ritual. There's no need to cross my name off the list of church goers and brand me a modern heretic. Good gracious me, no. The church and its rituals and sacraments are hugely important to me. They are not central to my spirituality however. Or, more accurately, they contribute to it rather than define or limit it.
I believe absolutely in the existence and majesty of the Christian God. I believe in and worship the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe in and participate in the sacraments sincerely and whole heartedly. There . . . have we clarified that bit? Now, to continue.
Can we go back a couple of paragraphs? I don't know the truth. The truth knows me. That pretty much sums up my faith in a couple of short sentences. Comfortable with the assurance that I am known and loved by the creator of the universe I feel pretty much free to be myself (and let everyone else be themselves). Quite liberating really. I could go on about this point but not now.
My faith is not bright or shiny. It's real. Blemished and tarnished, marked by lots of tumbles, it is nevertheless a thing of value above all else. It's my assurance, my security and my purpose. It's the only answer I need (or indeed get!) when I ask “why”?
I can't say I've worked hard at developing or growing it over the years. It has grown in me despite myself. That's a real puzzle . . . but one I don't agonize over any more. I used try and work things like that out, worrying over whether God was real etc., etc.
As I said above, the truth found me rather than my finding it. Maybe that's difficult to understand or accept. After all, we all have a brain and an intellect don't we? I haven't stopped using mine. Not at all. I use it to see the wonder and transcendence of creation as a fully fledged participant. I no longer delude myself that I am at the centre of it.
(Holy Spirit sculpture in a church in Marburg Germany. I forget its name)
So, I hope the dip into my pool wasn't too unwelcome? I would like to hear from you.