Sunday, September 18, 2011

My Heart Has Its Reasons

A day has passed and I have not written anything that has a price tag on it. I can't. For some reasons I don't know. For someone who writes online to be paid this is a disaster! Yet I must come here to write...some words have to be written for free...some words have to be spoken for love.

Testing the waters
I don't know how it all began. I remember how I have always told my brother I have no time for anything else but work, work, work. And work I did...there was no end to it. And then I thought maybe if I try to take some time it will do me good, clear my head. That was three years ago - I'd go to Misa de Gallo with no petition in mind. The following year I did the same for nine days before Christmas. And next year again.

And then I did the unthinkable. I started to join what we call Alpha in the Neighborhood - some kind of a review course on the basics of what we believe in. It has a funny tagline: "is there more to life than this?" Listening takes a great deal of effort for someone who wants to do all the talking somewhere else. It was not disappointing but it was not satisfying. Was it a waste of time? No, of course not. The fact that it was not satisfying was the point of it. It's not Alpha for lack of other cool terms to use. It was the beginning.

And so the months wore on and life has to go on as it should. Again I got caught in the nitty gritty of everyday living. It was like I have re-learned something.and but I didn't know its application.

Losing it
Then came one big setback - when I found myself facing new versions of old problems. In the past, I would simply get angry with the world and become even more miserable. This time I questioned what I re-learned from Alpha, felt miserable and got angry with God. It's like I got re-acquainted with a dear friend from the past, and now seeing this friend in a different light my expectations are bigger, the risk to be disappointed greater. If there's anything in Alpha that struck me most, it was the course about Jesus.
A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. - (C.S. Lewis)
I have to make a choice: to let go or accept Him. It's the all-important question when dealing with the problems of pain or suffering or with life's craziest problems (not to solve them but to understand them). So I looked further, listened more, explored everything I could find. If Alpha was the beginning of the second part of my life, now I'm in the middle of this part. I am amazed at how truly lazy and deluded I have been not to see this. I can't plead ignorance because I had 15+ years of Christian education. It's true, knowledge is not enough..."it is only through the heart that one can see clearly."


I knew it was reason that I sought. Why did I have to listen to apologists, theologians and read the Bible and so much more? Do I need proof? Do I need to see that everything falls into place? Yes, I wanted proof but the proof that I need is the proof from my heart.
"The heart has its reasons, which Reason does not know. We feel it in a thousand things. It is the heart which feels God, and not Reason. This, then, is perfect faith: God felt in the heart." - (Blaise Pascal)
 And by listening, I felt the intimacy I have never felt before.Words fail miserably to describe it. The Father glorified by the Son and the Holy Spirit makes it possible for my mind to wrap around this mystery. A mystery that makes everything easier to accept and understand.

What this is all about

It's both a struggle and a delight to be writing about this. It's crazy to think I'd be worthy to see Jesus' hem or his feet -- but seeing it, I am. It's even crazier to find joy when life is at its most difficult part - bills to pay, work to do, pains to deal with, say sorry to those I have wronged.

However, why do I feel so unworthy yet loved at the same time?
So alone but alone with Him?
So helpless but so hopeful?
So silly but wise?

Of course, God doesn't take our troubles away or make life painless. We must reap what we sow and He watches us with love. There's more to life than our problems and our pain ---- there's God. Always and for real.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Questioning God's Reality

For at least a year, I've wanted to write interesting, wacky funny, informative things on my blog.  You can tell by the titles I had fun with my posts. There's just so much to talk about--with 42 years behind me and most of it spent as a freedom-hungry, happy-go-lucky, single-mother-by-choice, let's-have-fun-no-matter-what person. 

I thought motherhood or age or luck can change a person. Somewhat. My boys are all I have and they have changed me in so many ways. Age? Oh, well, booze doesn't work for me anymore these days. A decade ago, I could drink a big bottle of gin plus gin and tonic--believe me, I don't get drunk. I just eat and can drink so much more. I have lost that kind of tolerance. Good riddance. Luck? Money brings comfort and a false sense of security but even before I have truly enjoyed it, it's sets one up to need more.

For years, I've been struggling with my inner agnostic. You know, the kind that speaks to me in the middle of the night and says "This is all there is to it. Deal with it" or one who prays just in case someone listens. 

Re-discovering what I know already
I'm not sure if it all started with Alpha Course, but I can say it was an excellent starting point. A review class or a refresher course of stuff I have known for so many years. But knowing is just knowing; what difference does it make? It was the effort and time spent trying to know or re-think what I know that made the difference. And it takes so much more than listening for anything to make any sense.

Defending what I know
If you only knew the hours I spent on YouTube engaging with non-believers, you would think I was being very silly (regardless of whose side you are). However, I was not there only to defend. I was there to confront myself because most of them were saying what I've always thought (my dirty little secret). That was then that I knew with certainty what I truly believe in.

Asking the same questions again
But God you don't need is elusive and can be just a theory. When you need God most, that's when he seems to be real but absent. Funny how I confront God when I have my most malevolent doubts. But, shouting out the question "Are you even there?" presupposes that God listens. I know I sound like a lover who says "do you even love me," knows that he is loved and waits for "I do."  All the days spent reading the Bible or talking about what I believe in come crashing down with that simple question during the worst days of my life. Again and again. 

Listening to the words of Ravi Zacharias, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Fr. Robert Baron, Nicky Gumbel, C.S. Lewis, G.K Chesterton, Fulton Sheen, and my Alpha witnesses and so many others I re-think my question and found the answer. Not from them, but through them who spoke of the Gospel so loudly you have to listen very closely. 

The answer is always in the person of Christ. How can one person's life, passion and death be so important for me? I've read about so many heroes, fiction and non-fiction, so many people dying for others or for a cause. 

What difference does Christ make for me?
A great deal of difference and this is a gross understatement. Life is so marvelously beautiful that any pothole makes it grotesque and ugly sometimes and terribly unbearable. When someone comes along to tell and show me that this is not all there is in life (despite its beauty and its pains), He changes it.

Christ changes everything. Most of all, he answers the question: "God, are you even there?"  

There's an old story somewhere about whispering your little secret to a hollow place on a tree and bury it with mud. I have whispered literally my secret plea to an invisible tree "I see you, I know now you're revealing yourself to me"

God, who doesn't seem to answer our questions or doesn't seem to care, comes alive in Christ---flesh and blood. All the question that I ask or will ever ask, Christ answers. He is as real as I've always wanted God to be. He has known pain, ridicule, humiliation, rejection, life and death...yet He tells us not to be afraid.  There's more to life than this.

Do I really need miracles to know that God exists with certainty? No, I don't. I need answers to my questions (and I have loads of them). After all, we wanted to know why we fall (gravity), we didn't really wish that falling does not happen at all because we do fall.

The Gospel has Christ's answers to all the important questions and presents the promises that God keeps.  God must understand, He should...He does--Christ has proven that with his incarnation, His passion, death and resurrection. Personally, my joy is not only for the fact that He died for my sins. My joy is in knowing in my heart that God exists, and that Christ is God Incarnate...for me, for us.

Knowing this...truly knowing Christ, I can whisper with sincerity all my heartaches and gratitude to my God who listens and who is truly present here and now.

Jesus of the Scars
Edward Shillito (1872-1948)

If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;
Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow;
We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.

The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
In all the universe we have no place.
Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?
Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars we claim Thy grace.

If when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near,
Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
We know today what wounds are; have no fear;
Show us Thy Scars; we know the countersign.

The other gods were strong, but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.