Monday, June 15, 2009

do this, do that...but not that

i recently showcased my penchant for being on top of the most recent trends by reading william p. young's book "the shack". yes, i know. it came out well over a year ago and the buzz has all but died on it. that's why i was being sarcastic.

while it is not the most well-written book, it does make some great points about religion, our relationship with our creator, faith, and a whole host of other issues. kudos to william young for making his portrayal of god in the novel an african-american woman and the holy spirit an asian. i've never been able to relate to the traditional pictures of god or jesus. you know, like these:

while there is nothing inherently wrong with these images, it bothers me that these are the default images. the image of god shows an angry one, while the image of jesus shows someone who is emotionless and staring off in space. apathetic. these are not qualities i admire. shouldn't our creator be more commonly displayed as loving, caring, empathetic, relational, etc? these images show distance. not to mention both are portrayed as white dudes. that's likely not accurate.

one of the bigger things i took from "the shack" was on the topic of ritual. i know for most of my life, christianity has been displayed as mainly that. following ritual. read your bible, pray (on your own and before & after meals), go to church weekly, etc. you probably know the drill. while, at points, this was driven home as a way to develop a relationship with god, jesus & the holy spirit, it never worked for me. as a result, i was constantly stuck in this rut of never feeling like i had a relationship with "the trinity" (a term i struggle with since it never appears in the bible), so i always thought i was a bad christian.

there's a point in the book where mack, the main character, is sitting & eating dinner with god, jesus & the holy spirit (try wrapping your brain around that one). instead of doing the normal devotions at the end of the meal, they go off and do some gardening as a way of developing relationship. i found that incredible. that reality that we find god in everything. not only creation, but our relationships with others, the blessings we have (both tangible and intangible), those moments of peace in the midst of a crazy day.

on a deeper level, this pointed to the grace god gives. that relationship with god does not have to be done in any specific way. what works for me and my personality type may not work for you and yours. that's the amazing thing. god relates to all personality types, no matter how you function.


GadflyGimp said...

I really really enjoyed this, Brian!! Thank you!

You know, man, it's funny to me that in a weird way that I sometimes long for ritual. I grew up being very cynical of the Catholic church... mainly because several of the Catholics that I knew from high school were pretty hypocritical when it came to their "life walk" versus their "church walk."

The older that I get, I began to understand the importance of those rituals to those who were devout. Sadly, it wasn't until my grandfather passed that my mom and I had deep discussions of my grandpa's daily praying of the rosary and other prayers. Almost more impressive was his "acts" of Faith in helping others... including while he was in frail health the act of delivering "meals on wheels" to those in worse health than he was and including folks in some of the worst neighborhoods in downtown Detroit.

Perhaps it's how we related to God in those rituals... and where our heart lies upon that compass ("Am I saying this prayer because I'm supposed to... or am I saying it daily for the affirmation?)... that strengthens their importance.