Sometimes I find myself struck by the absolute absurdity of the Christian religion.
Sit down and think about how strange some of the tenets of Christianity appear to the outside world. We eat bread and drink wine (or grape juice, for some of us – where my Baptists at?) and call it parts of a body and blood respectively (some of us say it literally becomes the body and blood of Jesus, aye – where my Catholics at?)
We gather every Sunday, sometimes even as early as 8 am! Think about how diverse denominations are and how vastly different they practice the truths they find in the Bible. For example, visit a Pentecostal service one Sunday and then a Presbyterian service the next. Take a huge pause, and consider the question, “Why are you still in this thing called Christianity?”
Who knows, maybe you find yourself going to church simply because that’s what you do in Oklahoma on a Sunday. After all, church isn’t so bad. You’ll get a nice pep talk, catch up with your friends, and have an excuse to eat out. Maybe that’s why you’re in this thing called Christianity.
Or maybe, you made a decision a long time ago, you know. You prayed the prayer, said the things, did the baptism, and *wham* here you are all those years later, attending the right bible study, singing the right songs, and on occasion, listening to KLOVE. And now, after a while, the magic seems to have worn off. Life has become more than difficult, and the motivation to live a good life is nowhere to be found. Now, I get that one in particular.
Perhaps you’re actually scared of who you might be as someone who does not go to church. Perhaps going to church gives you a sense of protection, a culture, a way of life, a feeling of superiority perhaps, because you are a good person, and you tithe, and you volunteer once a month for the soup kitchens.
And if you’re not in this thing called Christianity, ask yourself, “Why am I not doing this thing?” I’m sure you have your reasons, and some of them are probably more than valid. But, if you’re taking the time to read this blog, then you might as well ask yourself the question.
Maybe your reason for not doing this Christianity thing is because you have seen “Christians.” Maybe, you have been burned by the church, devastated and rejected by the church. Maybe those who were supposed to welcome you with all your jagged edges thought you were too sharp to handle.
Maybe the denominational difference don’t make sense. Like, why couldn’t this Christianity thing just all agree on what it means to be a Christian? And why would I be a part of a group who can’t even figure out what it looks like to follow their own religion?
Maybe you just don’t care. I mean, waking up at 8 on a Sunday is a big ask for someone like me. There are many other things I would rather be doing than waking up early, only to try not to fall asleep as I hear other people talk for about 2 hours. And like, do we need a bunch of old people who wrote some stuff down a long time ago to tell us how to be good humans? I mean, isn’t it kinda self-evident to not be a jerk?
Wherever you are, dear reader, I would like to relate to you why I am still doing this Christianity thing, even though I have found myself in almost all of these “categories” at one time or another. I only share my story, simply because, it’s my story. This is genuinely what has happened to me. You don’t have to read and walk away shaken or your mind changed, but if I can connect with one person, all will be well (and even if not, then, everything will still be ok.)
Have you ever been hit by a Mack truck going 70 mph? No? I didn’t think so.
My encounter with Christianity has been something like that, though perhaps less grisly of an image. Someone doesn’t just get hit by a Mack truck, and walk away the same, and I’ve been hit by something so astoundingly beautiful, in a type of slow collision that has happened over the course of 23 (almost 24) years.
The Bible is too vast a book to boil down to one central theme, and to then hold that above all the rest, but one thing I have encountered in the Good Book is the continual story of a God, or divine reality, who meets his people where they are. From the garden to the cross, the divine reality steps closer, inches nearer in bridging the gap between us and him, and pretty much, there’s nothing we can do to stop the process. Which is kinda crazy, and absolutely irrationally beautiful.
No matter what I do, or have done, or will do, there’s a divine personal reality out there that will love me regardless. Not only will I be loved despite how many times I screw up, this divine reality also has a plan to form me into being exactly who I was made to be, able to fully express who I am in who he is.
Every breath of wind catching the leaves in a tree, every beam of light piercing the clouds at sunset, every flicker of a firefly at night reminds me that the beauty found in this world are moments where the divine reality is breaking through.
Every act of reckless love and every moment of wonderful justice is that same divine reality making itself known. Every time I read the stories in the Bible, I encounter broken and jagged people trying to make sense of a divine reality manifesting itself in a broken and jagged world, and I can’t help but see the similarities between my story and theirs.
I see in the Bible the truth that there is a beauty in this world, an incomprehensible love trying to break through the veils of mundane reality to get to me. To get to you.
And I just can’t seem to ever get away from that.
I always find myself returning to what Peter says in the book of John: “Lord, you alone have the words of eternal life – to whom should we go?”
Peter’s basically saying, “Jesus, we are freaking hooked on everything you say, how you say it, how you go about doing it, and you’ve messed us up eternally. We want more of it, we need more of it, and we will never be able to find life apart from this ‘way’ that you are showing us, apart from this relationship we have with you.” Peter realized that Jesus through God was that divine personal reality that is seeking us. And I have realized it too.
That’s why I can’t walk away from this Christianity thing; that’s why I don’t want to walk, though I so often seem to try.
Because, friends, this life is most certainly not about me. My thoughts continually return to the divine reality who is coming closer, and closer, and nearer to me, even though I may try to run or get away in moments of disbelief, doubt, and despair.
It’s not about me. It never was.
The featured painting is none other than Van Gogh’s Starry Night – a painting that captures the jagged blackness alongside the beauty found in the night sky. And there in the middle, reaching up just so slightly is a church steeple. Fun Fact: Vincent tried to be a pastor, which didn’t work out, and so he tried to be a missionary. That didn’t work out either.