I’ve never been very good about reading my Bible or putting time aside for God. I know I should but, every time I start a new ‘kick’ of reading or devotion, I seem to fall to the side as the ‘regular’ pressures and distractions of life come to me. Even if I *do* remember, there’s no guarantee that my mind will stay where it should be for long. One minute I’ll be reading the Sodom and Gommorah story in Genesis…that usually leads to a mental recitation of the scene in Dogma where Loki and Bartleby (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in all their glory) are shopping for a gun while recounting stories of raining down fire and brimstone. From there, I’ll go over other Kevin Smith movies in my head until I find myself arguing with Jason Lee about whether or not the cookie stand is part of the food court at the mall or playing roller hockey with Dante on the roof of a convenience store. I suck, by the way.
I usually pass it off as a function of my bipolar/ADHD, but that only goes so far. I usually try to fight it, but today I’ve decided that I’m not going to. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.
I know so many people who think of religion as a series of ‘dos’ and don’ts’ for life. Some groups such as the Southern Baptist Convention-my former ‘stomping grounds’-put more emphasis on the ‘don’ts’. The Episcopal church, on the other hand, seems to focus more on things like prayer and service-things we ‘do’. That’s how the liturgy in my church looks, anyway. I suppose each group has to teach the Gospel in the way that works for them, but these things greatly affect what kind of relationship a person has with God. For instance, do they love Him or fear Him? Do they pray to praise Him or only pray to ask for things? I’ll admit I do the latter most of the time. Do they feel like a beloved child, or do they feel like a bug who gets ‘zapped’ if they go too far in the wrong direction? Or is it all of the above?
We’re taught that the reason sin and death even exists in the world is because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden. Basically, all of humanity inherited that tendency from them. Maybe that’s true and maybe that’s where the emphasis on sin as an act comes from, but I’ve come to see it in a different way.
My family has been touched with a lot of medical conditions-high blood pressure, high cholesterol, alcoholism, breast cancer, sinus issues etc-that have a strong genetic component. That’s not to say that they can’t happen independent of such things, but those of us who have such conditions in our families have to be especially vigilant to make sure that the negative effects don’t happen to us. We have to eat right, exercise, lay off the liquor and carry tissues around with us everywhere we go and have everyone in school make fun of us. Okay, that last one was just me, but you get the point. It seems pretty obvious that the condition of sin can be better controlled by staying away from things (and people) that cause us to stumble. I’m definitely not disputing that because I’ve had to take such measures myself on a number of occasions. Perhaps you have too.
What happens, though, when the illness ‘hits you’? If you get a sinus infection, you go to the doctor for antibiotics. When you get cancer, you have several treatment options. If you fall and break a bone, you go to the hospital to get a cast. In other words, you deal with it. You don’t sit around and blame God (much) or expect a cure to happen instantly. You do whatever you have to do to get your condition treated and get on your way.
Perhaps we should see sin the same way-a condition that needs to be treated? I’ve heard of churches referred to as a ‘hospital for sinners, not a country club for saints’. Perhaps the treatment for the condition of sin takes place in church among a community of other believers and starts once you begin to trust in Jesus as your savior. When I had the hip replacement surgery to repair damage from an accident about eight years ago, my faulty hip was replaced with a new one that gave me back the range of motion I lost. Perhaps my new hip can be likened to the new heart and new creation we become when we come to Christ, and the damage it repaired to the punishment He took when He died on the cross?
Also like my hip, we can’t stay idle. My surgery was over in five and a half hours, but it took a while before I was able to do much for myself. In order to walk again, I had to do a lot of work. The therapy exercises were painful and difficult at times, but I had to keep at them so that my muscles could heal and get strong enough to support my weight. There was no ‘shortcut’…it took as long as it took. Such is the Christian life…difficult at times, but we have to keep on going and working in order to grow stronger in the faith. The process of becoming more and more like God is like my recovery-it happens over time and takes as long as it takes.
I have recovered very well, but there will always be precautions I will have to take to ensure that I don’t dislodge my new hip. Otherwise, I’ll end up right back where I started and might even do more damage. I have to trust that the doctors know what they are talking about when they tell me how to care for my new hip properly. To give another example, my ‘recovered’ friends will have to keep working their Twelve Steps and live their lives differently so that they won’t fall back into the trap of drugs and alcohol that got them in trouble to begin with. It’s not easy, but the effort is worth it. Maybe the same can be said about our walk with God…we have to trust that He knows what He’s doing? Without this trust, we’re liable to fall even harder than before? This isn’t to say that we’ll never stumble or fall again…in fact, it’s pretty much a guarantee that we will. There’s always the temptation to have just one more cigarette, to put off laying off the junk food and soda for ‘just one more day’ (another issue of mine) etc. With the support of others, however, we can continue on the right path. Could this be likened to the way that we’re always going to have trials and tribulations but, with the support of Jesus and our brothers and sisters in Christ, we can get through them?
I don’t know…I’m probably getting way off track and sounding like a blithering idiot. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time. I guess what I’m getting at is that our faith isn’t just about what to do and what not to do-it’s about a lifelong change, a lifelong effort at a relationship with God and becoming like Him. Sin isn’t an act so much as a condition, a condition that will need to be taken care of. It takes time and work to ‘get better’, and we have to trust that the Person who we’re trying to serve knows what’s best for us. We can’t do it by ourselves or in our own way. The support of a community of believers can help keep us on the right track, and help pick us up when we fall.
Speaking of which, I’d better go eat something before my mind goes and I start typing even more nonsense. Oops, too late. 🙂