Today’s post is actually two posts on the same topic, specifically, why we choose to be Christian. So, we combined them to be one post. So, without any further ado…
Is Religion my Crutch?
Am I a Christian because I am afraid of meaninglessness? I am afraid of meaninglessness. I can barely think about it. The whole concept of the meaning of life is so overwhelming to me that the thought of it makes me want to stop what I am doing wherever I am, lie down, and start crying. I have what is popularly termed, “Existential Angst.” I’m very proud of it and it makes me feel very smart. But also sad. And anxious.
Am I a Christian because it provides an easy solution to the answer of the meaning of life? I remember my catechism. The answer to the question “What is the meaning of life?” is “To glorify God.” Isn’t it great to have such a snappy answer? No! It’s not great! It’s torture! How can the answer be so simple? It can’t be that simple. The meaning of life should be mysterious and unknowable. Anybody who tells me the answer is easy, clearly hasn’t lived long enough or experienced enough pain.
I had a friend in college who called my religion a crutch. I had no idea what that meant. I think I was too afraid to think about what that would mean. I had a lot of blind faith back then. I had been brainwashed pretty effectively by the evangelical church to think that I wasn’t brainwashed, but I didn’t have enough distance to properly self-evaluate. I majored in philosophy though which is weird. I guess I suspected a weakness in my faith and wanted to explore. I really struggled with my faith during those four years, but continued to cling to it. I constantly tried to defend it and justify it, but I don’t think that was the appropriate context. A secular institution is not the place to gain a religious education. I was very arrogant and naive. I feel bad for my professors now. I was a pain. Ironically, my senior year, I received an award from the history department for my “curiosity about life.” They were extremely kind.
I have done a lot of research on my religion and continue to search. I feel confident in my belief in the Bible, but I am still exploring my decision to commit to Christianity. Have I made my decision based on pure motives or based on a selfish fear of oblivion? Am I a Christian because I want to serve Jesus Christ, or because I want to save my ass? I’m a little embarrassed to say it might be the latter. If that’s the case, then am I really a Christian? Thus the anxiety begins anew.
Don’t Pee in Your Shoe
I am on the planning committee for the ladies tea at our church. This year, due to scheduling issues, I have needed to take both boys with me to the planning meetings. For the most part, this works well. Last week, my oldest discovered the amazing restroom. You have to go through the lobby, past the kitchen, and down a dark corridor with several doors, before you get to the one door with the restroom label. After 3 trips to the restroom, I decided he was just enjoying the adventure, and when he asked AGAIN at the close of the meeting, not even 5 minutes after returning from a potty break, I told him to wait. A moment later, a women lets out a horrified scream, and I turn around to find my son neatly peeing in his shoe. In. His. Shoe.
Needless to say, he got in trouble. (Did I mention the part where he PEED IN HIS SHOE?) His response? “But why is it bad? I didn’t pee on the floor or anything.” In his little microcosmic world, life revolves around his desires and needs. He couldn’t care less whether his behavior is socially unacceptable. But as his mother, I refuse to let him grow up to be the type of man who pees in his shoes when he needs a restroom. Sometimes, I deny my son candy, and make him eat his protein or vegetable instead. Sometimes I make him go to bed right in the middle of…well, in his world, absolutely everything is better than going to bed.
In his world, this makes me a mean mother at times. He can’t see the big picture to understand why these rules are necessary. But I want him to be a better person. And someday, when his teeth don’t rot out and his kids don’t die of embarrassment when he pulls out the “pee shoe”, he will thank me. So will his kids.
And this is my understanding of God: I would like him to be the parent my son wants me to be. I want him to give me things I want, and take the shortcuts to make my life easier, but I often don’t get the things I want, and life sure as hell ain’t easy.
In fact sometimes life sucks.
My pastor once told me, “God is the ultimate recycler. He doesn’t waste suffering.” And there you have it. I don’t want to admit that all the crap I have survived is for no use. I want my pain to be meaningful. Perhaps, if there is some ultimate meaning, if there is some use behind my pain, then it makes a better. I want all the lessons I’ve learned mean that I’m becoming a better human.
I do believe there is a God. Which means that I believe He lets me experience crappy and painful things. But I also believe that he will somehow re-use my suffering. His purpose for my pain and suffering, seems to be his way of teaching me to be a better me. Suffering is God teaching you not to pee in your shoe.