Tuesday, November 20, 2012

SOS (on Tuesday, I know!)

My thoughts are scattered today (and they shouldn't be, because three of my middle children have been gone all day at Nana's and Papa's house, so all's quiet here), so I'm not sure if I can get out what I want to say, but I'm willing to give it the proverbial college try.  This small portion of scripture has been on my mind for quite some time:

     "Enter through the narrow gate, For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to
destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.  Matthew 7:13

I've known it for a long time (and the more expanded version in Luke 13), but never really paid much heed to it.  But lately I keep coming back to it.  Christianity stands as the largest religious group in the world - approximately 33% of the world population self-identifies as Christian.  The number is substantially higher in the US, with as 73% (!) of the population claiming Christianity as their religion.  You know, it really doesn't make sense.  But the Bible ALWAYS makes sense, right?  So, something's gotta give, and it isn't God's Word.  I'm almost scared to put this out there, because I don't want to step on any toes, but, here goes:  I think that the majority (yes, majority) of people who self-identify as Christian aren't.  Now, it's definitely not my job (and thank the Lord for that) to say who is and who is not, let me make that perfectly clear.  That's not what my post is about.  It's about the need for the so-called Christian community to wake up!  And this is not one of those "oh, the world is so bad and evil nowadays, and how I wish it was old times" things (I really, really despise that line of thinking and think it shows an incredible lack of critical thought and historical knowledge).  I would think it's been trending this way ever since the widespread persecution of Christians stopped and the Christian faith became mainstream.  Christian faith has become more of a culture and less of a relationship.  If you act in certain ways (or, perhaps more accurately DON'T act in certain ways), celebrate the big "Christian" holidays, or even, at the lowest common denominator, were born into a nominally Christian family, then you consider yourself Christian.  But Christianity is not an ethnicity or a guideline for living a good, moral life (although that's there too).  It's so much more personal than that.  And even I, who have considered myself Christian for, well, just about my entire life, didn't grasp that for many, many years.  For me, I "aspired" to be a good Christian and that was good enough.  But that's hogwash, quite frankly.  Let me explain it through metaphor.  I view nearly everything through body image.  It's something I don't like about myself, but it's simply fact and has been for a very long time.  It's a problem for any woman in western society, I think, and that's especially true a thousand-fold for someone like me, who struggles mightily with weight and self-image.  But anyhow, how many times have I (and maybe even you) looked through a magazine, or a blog, or a movie and saw a woman with a beautiful, healthy physique and longed, with great intensity to look just like her?  And then that's where it ends, most every time (or, perhaps, I'll be motivated to do something concrete for a week or two, and then fall back into old habits).  But longing, however earnest, is never enough.  It takes sweat, pain, dedication, self-denial, and self-discipline to acheive a strong, healthy body (or at least it would for me).  And I haven't been willing to do that yet.  Faith is much the same.  If your faith doesn't ASK something of you every day - then you probably aren't doing it right.  It's not enough to merely desire to be a good Christian.  You must be intimately connected with God and on a journey closer to where HE desires you to be.  This sounds nearly impossible, doesn't it?  And indeed it would be, but here's where the beauty of having a relationship with God comes in - He's right there beside you.  He will catch your elbow when you stumble.  He will point you on the right direction when you come to a fork on the road (if you are quiet and patient enough to only listen).  He will share his Bread with you when you are famished and feel like you can't take another step.  When you know that God is your truest and most faithful companion on this journey, THAT's when faith becomes something more.  And once you've discovered that, you'll find that you simply can't really, truly live without it.