Monday, June 23, 2008

Real Talk or Religious Talk

In recent days I've had several friends and family members who have faced sickness, surgeries, losing a loved one, and other life-changing events. As I have.

I've interestingly observed the differences in conversations and communication. A few fill their words with many religious phrases. Sometimes this just leaves me wondering, where's the grief? where's the natural fear? where's the sadness?

It often seems that the more religiously one talks, the less of real humanity is being experienced.

Rare is the believer I've encountered who seems real in his/her humanity and equally real in his/her God relationship. I have met a few, but not many.

Some years ago I became aware of this in my own life. I noticed that in some group meetings if someone said they had prayed about it and "God told me..." that immediately stopped all conversation and that person must be the "chosen one" because they had God's Word on it.

I also noticed that in other groups if there was a tough decision to make, someone would say let's just pray about it and let God speak. That ended it! If you had an opinion to offer, the obvious climate was, not now! I became cognizant of favorite phrases and religious talk that permeated Christian groups. I began to question, where is reality here? Can we not be who we really are, who God made us to be, and still be Christian? I sometimes wanted to scream, "Stop the canned talk! Just be real!!" But, of course, I didn't. I usually was the pastor's wife and I just kept the smile on and was questioning inside. However, I did make sure when I talked that I didn't go into that mode.

Some of my "Christian" friends would say, "Do you still believe the Bible?" I would laugh and say, of course. They had noticed my dropping and not using the language and phrases. On the contrary, non-believers would sometimes say, "You're really a different kind of Christian, not like those we can't stand to be around." Hmmm... Food for thought.

To the point I'm making today, too often (in my opinion) we as believers pull out this coded language that masks real human thoughts and feelings, and though we might think it's a testimony to how we're trusting God, it often comes across as nonsense and non-reality.

Are you now thinking I'm a heretic? I hope not, but I respect your opinion. =)

In these my latter, wisdom-filled years (JK) I have come to believe and experience that you can be fully human, fully alive, and fully Spirit-filled. You can weep and grieve and question and hurt and still know you are accepted and loved by God.

Of course, my recent experience of Paul facing two back-to-back surgeries has caused my rethinking this. Some said to me, "I know God won't let anything happen to Paul. Don't worry. He'll be okay." Oh, really? 

Here's my thinking: I know Paul and I both are in God's hands. What He does and when He does it may be tough and it may not be what I would like, but it's okay. He's there. He loves both of us and He has a plan. If His plan is death, I'll hurt and grieve and cry and be sad. I'll feel my human-ness and let my humanity show. And at the exact same time, deep in my inner being I will know that I'm in His Hands! 

Two examples come to mind: two sides of the same coin, and you cannot look at both sides at the same time, but you hold the entire coin.

Another example: two train tracks–one track is my humanity, the other track is God's sovereignty and control. You need both to carry your train of life, and you need both completely. If either track becomes more important than the other, the train of life is lopsided.

Well, enough of this. Those are my thoughts today and my reality check. Am I really real or religiously coated? 


Cathy H said...

I think we don't often see how much of our Christianity is cultural. For instance a friend of mine--who recently joined an AOG church--often tells me to "Have a blessed day" or says, "Praise the Lord" in response to good news. These are new phrases for her and for the most part reflect her new church culture.

My church friends use prases like "missional" or "incarnational." Unless you are part of it, it doesn't translate. And it definitely doesn't mean anything to the people they want to be "missional" or "incarnational" to.

It occurs to me that when uncertain we revert to the cultural because it makes us feel connected to "our group." (Much like my daughter's "let's bounce" or "whatever.")

The thing is that it isn't the cultural that connects across lines, it is the humanity.

Maybe that's the whole "perfect love casts out fear" thing. When we love people enough to be real with them, we don't need our cultural words as security blankets.

Thanks for the "reality check." I'm really enjoying your blog.

Mary Burleson said...

I like your statement, "When we love people enough to be real with them, we don't need our cultural words as security blankets."

Right on. My point exactly.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Mary: This is so true, and I find the hardest for people to do. In fact I have always practiced this and have had people with good intentions tell me that I was losing my faith. In fact I had so much faith and was so secure in God's love, that I knew it was ok to grieve, question, wrestle.

God knows our humaness, he created us after all. When things happen that temporarily crush us, I don't think he expects anything less. In fact in the end I think it strengthens us in our faith and certainly in our relationship to God.