God as Yin and Yang

The biggest problem in Christian theology is the question of suffering. If God is so merciful, why is the Bible full of stories of him destroying countless countries–including his own people–over and over again?

I’ve always seen God as the source of all things and a personification of the life force itself. But I’m only just now starting to understand what that actually means.

To quote a magnificent anime, “the world is beautiful and cruel.” Consequences are impassive and properly harsh, no matter who they happen to. That’s the definition of justice. God is justice. He’s the balance in nature and that balance can be extremely cruel if you’re on the wrong side of it.

But God isn’t only the personified impartial substance of the world. He’s also an entity himself with thoughts and feelings and a deep, pervasive, heart-aching love for other beings. He wants to bend the rules for his friends.

He wants to take care of the consequences himself and find another way to keep balance. He wants to give second, third, fourth, and fifth chances to those who are trying, even when they keep failing. Because he’s not only justice, he’s also love, and love overlooks mistakes.

I often find myself wishing that we could just have the loving part without the justice, but what kind of world would that be? We need both. We need balance in order to thrive. Reality works in yin and yang, and I believe God does too.

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companion on the shared journey

I had an experience I haven’t had for a very¬†very long time; I had a chance encounter with someone who shared my faith.

Now, being a Christian in America, that doesn’t sound like it would be such a rare thing, but it is. To meet a stranger who is on their own unique dialect of the intentional journey you’re on, seeking God and spiritual formation passionately and honestly, not doing it for recognition or favors or obligation… what a privilege to meet someone like that.

He came in the form of an old man walking into my shop to ask me if I knew anything about the little church next door. One moment later, we were swapping church in the area recommendations and I was telling him about the best church I’ve ever attended. Two moments later, we parted as friends, as brother and sister, with a “God’s blessings on you.”

It was such a small thing, but it moved me. In a time where sarcasm is praised and authenticity is condemned as naivety, camaraderie is truly precious.

I hope he comes back to my shop someday.

Planning Your Way to Enlightenment

I’ve been trying to manage God.

I want enlightenment so badly. I want to merge and disappear into the Holy Spirit so much it’s almost a physical ache. So I had been trying to plan out how to achieve that, keeping a strict eye on the horizon to make sure that I’m staying on course and that I’m progressing fast enough. As though developing a relationship was as simple and linear as reading a book. But it isn’t.

The only way to achieve intimacy and enlightenment is to do as that old Christian song says and let Jesus/the Holy Spirit drive the car.

The only way to take the next step is to let go. We are finite and we don’t know the path to enlightenment. God does, and he wants us to reach it even more than we want to reach it ourselves.

So do what you know is good for you (ex. pray, meditate, learn, practice), but do it without keeping an eye on your progress.

Trust that if you go where God leads, he will lead you where you are meant to go.

American Church and the “Real Christian”

I’ve been going to a new church with my friends and it is unlike any church I’ve been to.

We lovingly call it “hipster church,” but jokes aside, seeing a church thriving that holds different cultural views than the ones typically associated with church is refreshing. It’s nice to see a church that is quite liberal and still just as serious about seeking and knowing the truth as the conservative ones.

When it’s come to Christianity, I’ve been disheartened by how pervasively sticky culture becomes, how it saturates what we call truth and is then spread around with it as universal, objective truth.

It has been a mission of mine, by spending times outside my culture, to see what in Christianity is purely cultural, and what is true no matter where you go. The two are very different.

There’s nothing wrong with the cultural aspects to religion, but they shouldn’t be welded irremovably to each other. When they are, churches start creating oddly specific sins, saying things like “Real Christians will boycott Disney for this or that reason.” They end up making the price to enter too steep, so eventually people stop entering.

Never mind that God has already invited everyone to know him deeply, even those who like Disney.

Religion vs. Spirituality

It seems to me that, while religion and spirituality go hand in hand, they are not the same thing.

Spirituality, in the broadest term, is the conscious recognition that things exist in this world. Whether you believe in a spiritual realm or whether you believe that the physical is all that exists, everyone has their own spirituality. Everyone understands that the world has many facets and that these facets work in a specific way.

Religion, then, is the practical application of this understanding. What do we do with this knowledge? What is the healthiest way to live, taking all of reality into consideration? What is the balance of discipline and relaxation that best allows a person to live to the fullest?

That is the real question. There are probably a few objectively right answers in there, but not nearly as many as people think.