Sunday, February 26, 2012
Relationship v. Religion: Going Through The Motions
I'm not a big fan of organized religion. There are numerous things that rub me the wrong way about what some people do, or think they are REQUIRED to do to show love for The Big Guy and stay on the straight and narrow of eternal progression. Some of you are probably like, "Well goodness knows YOU'RE perfect, Whitney--tell us all about what we have to do, God Girl" (**insert eyeballs rolling** statements about being full of crap**and generalized heckling**). To those who think I'm here to give you the 411 on perfection that leads to the path to exaltation, you will probably end up disappointed by this blog.
GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS
Does your church service require you to get down on your knees? Do you pray with beads? Do you not drink coffee for God? Does your priest wear huge robes and have people following them up and down the aisle with candles and crosses? Do you go to confession? Do you get baptized with water via "the little dab'll do ya" method, or with the "Nestea plunge" method? Do you feel like you have to throw your hands up in the air (and wave 'round like ya just don't care) in order to praise God?
I grew up in the Presbyterian church. We used to recite all sorts of stuff during the church service. I think they were supposed to be prayers, but once you memorize a prayer, and say it 250 times, it loses a little somethin'. It starts to feel more like you should be living in a cage having people feeding you crackers and calling you "Polly".
How about communion? Is it a huge thing where you go to the front of the church with a bunch of people, get on your knees, and have your priest "pass the cup" around (Nurse Whitney disapproves of this "share-zees" method...I'm just sayin'). Does your church do the "pass the plate" and take the bread and the juice while simultaneously telling your neighbor that "this is His body/His blood broken/shed for you"? Do you go to the church where you get honest to goodness, for real WINE with your communion (rumor has it that it's Port wine...puke...why not Merlot?)? Or do you go to the church that doesn't want anything to do with wine, so they bless water instead?
How about going through the motions of life? Do you help old ladies cross the street and see who is watching your good deed? Do you work at the soup kitchen so you can put another check on your "To Do" list to secure your spot in heaven? Do you donate to your local charities so that you can lift weight off of your conscience and pat yourself on the back?
"OMG, Whitney!!!!! You have pretty much dogged on every single sect of the Christian faith, and good deeds done by man thus far!!!" I know. I'm a huge jerk. I'm not really trying to be, so much as I am trying to make a point.
We are continuing our series at church called, "Weird: Because Normal Isn't Working". Don't all those "Going Through The Motions" things that I just brought up seem kind of "normal" for church? Sometimes it can be a little annoying. Sometimes it can be a lot annoying. Perhaps it's the reason that some of us don't go to church altogether. It can seem like a well choreographed production.
You've seen the TV evangelists, right? I have a gal at work who always puts the God channel on at night--in every available hospital room. Sometimes I feel like I've secured my ticket to hell just because I can't stop laughing at the CRAZY idiocy that I see on some of those programs. We humans are pretty good at shooting ourselves in the foot religion-wise with some of our extremist behavior for "the sake of worshiping God" and recruiting others to "join His team".
Anyway, a lot of people go through the motions. And then if you don't go through the motions with everyone else you end up looking like an ungrateful dork who is too good to go through the motions. Like the black sheep among the sea of white sheep (sheep can swim?...hmmm).
I get that. I struggle with it myself. I go to a very enthusiastic church where people throw their hands up in the air to praise God. I'm the one who sits there looking like a dork because I don't. Is it because I'm a rebellious punk? No. Is it because I think they all look goofy and I don't want to look goofy cuz I'm way too cool for that? No. I just have never worshiped that way, and I don't affiliate my praising God with that motion, so I don't do it. I have also seen a lot of people do it in the past just to fit in with the cool kids--because everyone else was doing it. "Whitney, I liked it better when we had the option of saying you didn't praise God this way because you're a big jerk." Ok. Fair enough. Fire away, my friends. Moving on...
"Um...Whitney...why did you title this "Relationship v. Religion" if you're only going to blabber at us about religion?" I'm so glad you asked!!!! Cuz now I'm going to blabber at you about relationships, too!
Love is something you can depend on.
It never fails!
It's a beautiful thing!
Ok...maybe these photos were not the best way to prove my point. As a matter of fact, our investment in human relationships can often lead to disappointment. WHY? I'm not really sure, but I am going to go out on a limb and blame a little bit of it on us simply being human. As a matter of fact, more often than not they are HUMAN based, and not GOD based.
We kind of "go through the motions" in our relationships, too. We see someone. We like what we see. Maybe they make us laugh. Maybe they are intriguing to talk to. Maybe we start to date them.
We go out on some dates. After going out on a few (or few million) of these, then we decide that we should get married. Why not? It's the natural progression of things, right? Life's too long not to have someone to do your laundry and listen to you gripe about your day, right?
Then you have kids. Some people have kids because they really want kids. Others have kids because they are married, and isn't that what you're supposed to do at some point when you're married? Everyone else is doing it! You don't want to stand out and be one of THOSE people who are actually married and don't have kids! They'll call you a DINK (Double Income No Kids)!! You won't fit in! You'll have nothing to talk about with your "married friends", because your married friends want to talk about how they put Cheerios in the toilet so that little Johnny could work on his "aim" with potty training by shooting breakfast cereal with his pee! And then there are those people who have kids but "weren't really trying to have kids" (minus the frivolous sex part that involves using your reproductive organs--hence the name). Whoops.
Relationships can be tough. They put a lot of undo pressure on us. It's hard when people actually EXPECT us to be a certain way, or do certain things for them. It's hard when people have built us up in their mind to be a certain way--a way that we struggle to maintain FOR THEM...not for us. We are people pleasers. Between going through the motions for life, and going through the motions for religion THIS LIFE CAN BE EXHAUSTING.
So why don't you stop? Stop living a life that looks like what everyone else thinks your life should look like.
HOW DO I DO THAT????
Take your focus off yourself and start living more for God. Sometimes that is easier said than done. Wait...NO IT'S NOT! THAT'S A TOTAL LOAD OF CRAP!!! Living more for God is actually one of the easiest things you can possibly do. Is work stressing you out? Give it up to God. Does your relationship suck? Give it up to God. Are you worried about finances? Give it up to God. The more you start inviting God to your party ( your life party), the more you will realize that he really doesn't care if you sent out Gucci invitations, or sneezed in a napkin and wrote, "Dear God, please come to my party" on it. He'll be there! Why? Because He is a people pleaser!
I was reflecting on this today during our church sermon. One of my pastors had said, "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--imagine! Three beings in one!" It made me think. Then it made me OVERTHINK.
See, I grew up in the Presbyterian church, but at one point had converted to the Mormon church. To this day, there are still some things that make more sense to me from the Mormon church than ever did in the Christian church (and this goes vise versa, too). What my pastor had brought up was one of those goofy things I can't wrap my head around. See--in the Mormon church there is the concept of the Godhead. Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Three separate, unique beings that work together as one--this sort of "synergistic" relationship. This makes perfect sense to me. I understand this. However, I have always struggled with the concept of the Trinity--Father, Son, Holy Ghost as one being split into three. It's like Voldemort from Harry Potter with the horcruxes. It freaks me out! I don't know why it bothers me so much. I think part of it is just that it's really hard for me to wrap my head around Jesus pleading with Himself (God) while he was hanging on the cross. Like celestial schizophrenia or something.
Then it was followed by a sermon given by my other pastor who made it very clear that THIS IS THE VERY POINT of the RELATIONSHIP V. RELIGION concept!!!! It's getting caught up in the logistics, and the motions of things, instead of the actual relationship with God. RELIGION dictates concepts, and motions. It deals out rules, and regulations. It deals out expectations, and things that you need to achieve to get into heaven. The RELATIONSHIP is where the focus should be. The focus should be on GRACE. The focus should be on LOVE. Some of you are probably like, "Um, Whitney...I don't have a whole lot of either of those things...does this mean I'm screwed?" The answer is NO! Why? Because there is actually Someone out there who has these two things in abundance! This same Someone also happens to think you're worth showering with these things! And no...it's not Micheal Bolton. Sorry. Guess again...
We get so caught up in the logistics of RELIGION that we forget why we showed up to praise God in the first place. I've kind of adopted the "whatever floats your boat" philosophy with respect to going through the motions of religion. When you truly believe in God, and in the grace of God, then all the other fluffy stuff just seems a little, well...fluffy.
DON'T BE FLUFFY! (well...you can lift your hands to praise God like Fluffy if that's how you roll...)
Make your focus and your priority what YOU do to maintain your relationship with God. Don't go through the motions. Don't be a lemming! Don't do what others are doing just for the sake of doing it! Be different! Be YOU for the sake of HIM. He made you! He already thought you were worth enough of his time to put you together the way that He did. Enjoy it!
And don't get so caught up in the fast pace of everything in this life that it ends up kicking your tail or else you'll end up like this guy. Give it up to God. Then take a breather knowing that the most important pieces of the puzzle are already in place.