I Still Have a Hole in my Heart

When I grew up in church, there was a lot of talk about Jesus filling “the hole in your heart.”  The implication was that before becoming a Christian, you were empty inside, and after, you became full.  This is an incredibly dangerous theology, because it is absolutely not true.

In middle school, I went through a period of pretty significant depression.  I would pray for God to kill me, because thankfully I was too scared to do so myself.  A lot of my pain came from the fact that I carried an enormous amount of guilt.  I was a Christian, so why wasn’t I perfect?  If God had filled me up inside, why did I still want so much?  Why did I long for a perfect life, perfect relationships, and perfect experiences?  If Jesus was the answer to everything, why did I still feel so empty?

I wrestled with these questions alone, because I worried I was the only person thinking such things.  My doubts seemed to fly in the face of the salvation narrative I had been taught, so naturally, I thought perhaps I was not saved at all.  The combination of adolescence, evangelical guilt, and suffering alone put me in a very bad place for a couple years.  And honestly, I didn’t heal so much as I ignored my doubts in favor of legalism and distraction.  Continue reading

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Is God Male?

The answer might seem obvious to Christians.  After all, throughout the Bible, God uses male pronouns to describe himself, and when God become flesh, he came as the man, Jesus.  Most people are content to leave the issue there, but since I love thinking about culture, gender, and sexuality, I wanted to dig a little deeper.

In a fallen world, anything can become a source of division.  This is true of music preferences; how much more when the character of God is in question?  There are some who find solace in thinking of God as Mother rather than Father, and there are others who react against this with scorn and even hatred.  It seems to me a part of the age old (Genesis 3 old) battle of the sexes:  whichever sex God identifies with “wins.”

After all, if God is male, then it is one small step to assume that being male is like being God.  And unfortunately, many of our Church forefathers taught wonderful truths about God alongside vicious insults about women.  For instance, Thomas Aquinas viewed men as the default perfect image of God and women as defective copies:  Continue reading

Falling in Love with Mumford & Sons All Over Again

Mumford & Sons has been one of my favorite bands for the last five years.  Naturally, when they announced their new album, I was ecstatic.  Also naturally, when I first heard their single “Believe” on the radio, I was appalled.  Rock had replaced folk, and my knee-jerk reaction was to recoil from change.

However, my love is nothing if not loyal, so I bought their album with the intention of listening to it until I loved it.  So far I’ve listened through the whole thing twice.  I might have done more, but I got stuck on “Broad-Shouldered Beasts.”  THIS SONG.  This song reminded me of everything I love about Mumford & Sons.  It’s still not folk and there’s still no banjo, but the heart of the band is the same.  Continue reading

A Fully Realized Christian Hope Counteracts the Cynicism of Postmodernism and Legalism

I grew up in two worlds: the postmodern culture of my public education and the isolationist culture of my church. Although I was not consciously aware of the secular culture in which I grew up, it influenced me all the same, both implicitly shaping me and as I explicitly reacted against it. On the positive side, postmodernism taught me to value individual experiences and to look on the world with wonder at the multitudes of cultures and belief systems around the world. On the negative side, I internalized a belief that I could never fully be sure of anything. This applied to friendships, family members, and truth. I became a cynical person who doubted people’s love and wondered if I had any purpose in life. Although I was a loud-and-proud Christian at my public school, the theology I parroted rarely took root on an emotional level to counteract these fears.

In fact, although my church tried to offer hope in the face of a “sinful” culture, the theology I learned only exacerbated the loneliness and detachment of postmodernism.  I was taught a theology that was centered upon the cross in hope of a future in heaven. I learned about the depth of love Jesus had for us by dying a horrific death in atonement for our sins. I had a guilt-based relationship with God in which I feared every new sin I committed would crucify Jesus all over again. The only hope, I believed, was in heaven. This world was entirely awful, and I certainly was not capable of making things better. Therefore, I looked forward to the day when I would be dead and blissfully happy in heaven, a nebulous place of whites and golds where I knew my sin-stained self would be able to see Jesus face-to-face. Continue reading

The Struggle to Go with a Servant’s Heart, When I Want to be a Hero

I’ve been thinking about working in HD.  My reflex is to think of myself as these girls’ savior, and I plan how I will help them and love them and show them Christ.

Today I got a glimpse of something else.  I stepped outside of myself for one moment, which is both a profound relief and an intense discomfort.  I thought about each individual woman I will meet.  I thought of a young girl who will be bold and brash and powerful.  I thought of another woman who will be timid, thoughtful, and scared.  I thought of another who will ignore me, lost in her own world, unwilling to be helped.    Continue reading

Good Friday

Tonight is Good Friday.  I asked to get off work early so I could go to church, where everyone wore black in anticipation of our mourning.  Our service was somber, lights dimmed, people hushed.  People read the story of Jesus’s arrest, trial, and murder, not as a skit, but as something more than a recitation.  The story was interspersed with music, sometimes performed by a choir, by the congregation, by a soloist.

I’ve been learning about the value of walking through Holy Week one day at a time.  Too often we jump to Easter, because it is easier to focus on good news and hope and life than to let ourselves sit with disappointment, rejection, fear, and death.  But I think it is valuable to walk with Jesus and put ourselves in the shoes of those who knew him, listened to him, trusted in him, and watched him die.  Continue reading

Holy Week

I often forget to celebrate Holy Week.  Sometimes this is for amazing reasons–like a visiting friend who brings me so much joy.  Sometimes this is for dumb reasons–like being anxious about the future and how to make hard decisions.  And I think God is patient with me, understanding my distractions, waiting for me to realize the gift He’s given the Church in walking through Holy Week year after year after year.

On Palm Sunday, we celebrate Christ as humble King, entering the city not on a military horse but on a plodding donkey.  At my church, we walked down the aisle with palm branches, laid them on the alter, and took Communion from our elders.  We were encouraged to symbolically lay down something along with the palm branch, and I gave up control.  Or rather, for one moment I gave up control, hoping that God would honor that fleeting moment of trust and see my heart that is scared and doubtful but so desperate to lean on Him.  Then I took the bread and the wine, looking back at what Jesus did for the world so that I can look forward to what He will do when He returns.  In all this, Christ is King.  He is in control.  Continue reading