Sunday, November 27, 2011

Depth is Not Just for Deep-Sea Divers: Part 1

Life has its way with me, a way of stunning me with questions.


Today in church we talked about Jacob being "stunned" to once again be united with his boy Joseph because Jacob had been under the impression that over a decade or so earlier his boy had been killed by his brothers. My pastor described the Hebrew word translated "stunned" to be more akin to "experiencing a brief cardiac event" and that the word "stunned" did not give us a sufficient understanding of what Jacob was legitimately experiencing. Now, I won't be so naive or haughty as to claim that my life is a series of literal brief cardiac events per se, but sometimes I literally believe my brain stops firing neurons because its system is simply overloaded and cannot compute the breadth of thoughts passing through its circuits.

Ask anyone who has ever been remotely close to me and they will testify that I am always thinking and questioning and wondering why (and that it drives them crazy!). Some see it as a waste of energy, and I have been told many times to "lighten up." There is probably some merit to that advice, but in moderation, I don't think I will die as a result of being intensely interested in life and wanting to explore the depths of thought and existence. After all, it is highly accepted and encouraged in most academic settings (shout out to all my peeps with philosophy, sociology, psychology, anthropology, and theology degrees), so why can't I, an everyday teacher-woman, don these same processes in search of something more fulfilling or at least a little bit more sensical than what I make of the world currently? I can and I will, thanks :)

Seeking depth does not have to be as challenging as diving to the bottom of the deep blue sea. Obviously, that act takes loads of expensive equipment and training. True depth, in its existential meaning, comes from building trusting relationships and opening oneself a little bit at a time to come to understand the world better. The beauty of this process is that once I become a bit more fulfilled or feel like things make a bit more sense, another "existential crisis" (a term applied by my boyfriend when referring to my own "brief cardiac events") manifests in order to encourage me to begin questioning again, and the whole process begins again instantly.

It is natural for humans to want more out of life. We see it play out in a perverted way within our consumerist culture as the dissatisfied grow weary of their quantities and acquire more quanitities as they seek greater fulfillment. In a more metaphorical way, as we grow older we may grow less fulfilled with our knowledge and experience, but naturally we develop an evolved understanding  of the world as we gain more knowledge and a broader spectrum of experiences. We may not realize it is happening, and when we fail to acknowledge and reflect upon our gained knowledge and experience, we may not find fulfillment.

I find that living intentionally in community with others is one of the most forward propelling acts of exploring fulfillment of coming to a better understanding of life's questions though the intellect and emotion. One person is incredibly individual, and yet a group of people is colossally congenial. As a direct result of living within an intentional definition of community, we can simultaneously gaze upon reflections of ourselves while attempting to stand at a variety of distinctive vantage points that may not be natural to us. Our primary lens as humans coming to understand the world better is undoubtedly through one another's experiences and knowledge, allowing us to develop highly informed and evolved worldviews/perspectives.

This brings me to my personal community: the Christian community. Because so many spend their time and energy bashing the church and not doing anything to act out the change for which they are yearning, I want to simply explore and not bash the issues within the community. I am currently in a leadership position within my local church community and feel that I am wrestling with questions and disconnections that could use some communal thoughts. I want to see possibilities of change and specific solutions or at least questions asked in order to come to specific solutions. For each smaller community, depending on specific theology, demographics, cultures, etc, the answers to the questions look different, but I think the questions make sense and some of the answers will translate because after all, we are one unified body, the Body of Christ.

(see part 2)

Depth is Not Just for Deep-Sea Divers: Part 2

As I have stepped into the role of "Worship Coordinator" within my current church community, I have gained a responsibility to be intentional about the way that I interact with my church community. This is something that has always been very natural for me, so "making it official" seemed like a natural step for me. For some reason, though, the weight of this new responsibility is great. No longer am I held accountable for my own spiritual health and maybe the spiritual health of those around me in proximity. No, I am now held accountable for the spiritual health for anyone interacting with our community, especially during the communal worship service.

I am not in this alone, which is such a relief to me, but even at our staff meetings this search for community can be lost because we are under an unwritten time constraint because people naturally have other things going on in their lives. You may be inclined to believe that after attending a church for 5 years, serving in ministries within the church community, moving to the town in which the church is located, living within three blocks of at least 10 people who I would call my brothers and sisters of my church community, and serving as a leader on staff that I would feel I am reaching some point of depth with the community, but I can tell you that it is not so.

I believe that somehow, as invisible and far-away as he sometimes seems, God has called me, led me, and allowed me to take those steps for some greater purpose that will be unknown wholly to me until I die. I trust that this is true because I see needs and I see my abilities line up with the potential to help meet those needs. It is very beautiful, but within the context of depth, it is also very difficult. Hope is hard to sustain within myself. I am left alone (too much! haha) with my crazy questioning brain with little or no outlet for exploring those ideas and desires and dreams.

It is no one person's fault, but I am just trying to figure out what to do with it. There is little time or space for long, deep discussions to take place because people are busy with their lives, working ridiculous amounts of tiring hours, watching their favorite TV shows, reading their favorite websites, keeping track of their favorite sports teams, researching the newest technology, and just generally being caught up in the small world that they have control over and with which they can keep up in a sense. I am equally guilty. I will confess and say that my world is made up of (in order from greatest to least) my job, my sleep, my boyfriend, my roommates/house, my facebook/internet, my church business, my music, my reading, etc.

It's funny because I don't think this is unique to my local church community. I am often involved in reading online blogs and articles written by other Christians across the nations who want to explore meaningful topics and discussions with other Christians. I am blessed by these opportunities for interaction, but I am also left disappointed when I see that people are offering the same old, cheap, pre-packaged, non-Biblical, culturally steeped answers to the deep and messy questions I am asking. Take a look at THIS DISCUSSION and see my point. If you list the comments from newest to oldest, you may see my post and some of the questions I am asking to which no one responds. The responses above me mirror the responses below me, and none of them get to the deeper issue at hand, in my opinion. My reasonable understanding of this is that since we all come from a very similar context (age, probably race and socio-economic status, religious affiliation, etc), we all come up with very similar answers. I simply wish that there were other people involved in the discussion who could be courageous enough (or maybe experienced enough?) to look deeper, ask deeper questions, and seek deeper solutions than the insufficient, inadequate, surface-level answers they have been told at church all of their young lives.

It is so frustrating. I am craving this depth, but cannot find it in close proximity or far. I must say that I am thankful for my boyfriend who is currently studying at a school of theology because he lets me bombard him with questions and thoughts, but I would like to give the poor guy a break every once in a while. So you, reader, can help me. Here are some questions:

What kind of answers does Christianity. the Bible, God himself have to offer concerning issues of sexuality? Homosexuality? Gender roles? Worship? Environmental issues? Capitalism?

I realize there are multiple books written about each of these topics, so I would love recommendations if you have any. I would also love to just hear your thoughts. Feel free to comment here or facebook message me. The purpose of this blog is some attempt at communal living and learning from one another, so let's do this thing!

PS- a blogger who wrote something stimulating! Yay!