This is Holy Week, the apex of the Christian calendar. (Or it should be. The Christmas capitalist gift binge seems to swamp Easter — it’s hard to make a bunny and fake grass and plastic eggs sexier than buying stuff. We’re American after all.)
I don’t tend to put my Christianity up on a pole on social media, which stands out to me every Easter & Christmas as my Facebook news feed gets overrun by people posting hymn lyrics and pithy quotations and Bible verses.
I’m not criticizing; sometimes people post wonderful content that I find enriching. I’m just saying, I’d prefer my Faith inhabit my Facebook posts in the bones rather than on the surface. OK, that’s going to strike people as judgmental and I promise I’m not judging. Really! Post all the song lyrics you want. I don’t care.
I do find that my slow march toward the end of my 30s has brought a few subtle but significant changes in my understanding of God, faith, and religion:
- My faith is deep and quiet rather than noisy and visible. I don’t have anything to hide, so I present the same version of myself basically to everyone… and usually that doesn’t mean I lead with “I’m a Christian.” People tend to figure it out rapidly.
- If God calls something sin, my desire is to avoid it; and when I find myself sinning, I repent. Or I confess my hard-heartedness. Either way, it’s a pretty straightforward life. I don’t have much room for pretending some things are wrong or bad or sketchy to make other Christians feel comfortable, and then sneaking around in my own home to enjoy them. That’s a weird double life. Usually the Holy Spirit jumps all over me when I wrong someone else or gossip or lie or lay around like a lazy fool. So I don’t spend a lot of mental/spiritual energy keeping up an external moral code that God didn’t write. (Example: I unapologetically will drink a beer in front of you or anyone else, unless you’re a recovering alcoholic or you ask me not to. I don’t need alcohol any more than I need chocolate cake, but I enjoy both as good gifts from a kind Creator. If you disagree, we can definitely still be friends. And I don’t need to guzzle a beer in front of your face to prove a point. But don’t get offended by the glass of wine you’ll see in my hand at Easter brunch this Sunday.)
- I’m intensely interested in questions that matter to me, but I am so over the hot controversies of my 20s: sovereignty vs free will; Arminianism vs Calvinism; denominational distinctives; creation vs evolution; mode or time of baptism; scholarly arguments about texts or historicity or whatever. I don’t know the answer to most of that stuff, and I’ve got a lot more important things to do. I know the arguments on both sides and I probably have an informed opinion. Good enough.
- I spend a lot more time concerned about how my faith interacts with the people I’m called to love. I don’t really care about eschatology, but I will lie awake at night wrestling over the way the Church reacts to homosexuality. I got this way through a decade of teaching. People matter.
- I’m tired of the typical expressions of Christianity. That doesn’t mean I’m tired of Christ — not at all. My commitment to faith is deeper than it’s ever been, despite a much more honest approach to my doubts. You could call it an “eyes wide open” kind of faith. But the franchised editions of Christianity that clog popular media really wear me out. It’s so much noise and so little good preaching, so little Gospel.
- It’s easy to criticize the Church, and religious people rightly push back with “that’s just an excuse people use not to deal with their own problems.” But I think Christians are using that as an excuse too — not to change our disobedience to God’s commands to love Him and others as hard as we can, with everything we are, all the time. Ultimately, I don’t think God’s impressed with our attempts to deflect criticism (which is often legitimate) because the critic is an unchurched sinner. We’re all sinners; the “churched” modifier doesn’t give us a free pass to treat rich people better than the poor, to swamp our conversations with judgmental speech in the name of “love,” or to misrepresent what God says to push a particular agenda.
- Sometimes I miss out on what are probably good things because I hate jumping on Christian bandwagons. We’re wrapping up the 40 days of Lent; 6 weeks ago everyone was asking if I was observing Lent; and if so, what was I going to give up? I didn’t do Lent this year. I hadn’t thought about it until Fat Tuesday rolled around, and then it seemed totally lame to just hop on to the cool thing to do rather than undertake the prayer and Scripture that ought to accompany a vow before the Lord. So I abstained from observing Lent. Joking aside, I don’t want to do something “spiritual” because people think it’s cool.
I’m wrestling with some pretty deep questions these days. Sounds like a good topic for the next post….