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Sade’s “By Your Side” is my ideal love song.
Even while writing God and the Silent Treatment, I remembered its lyrics are one answer to the forlorn, abandoned questions posed in Jars of Clay’s “Silence.” Often when romance is exaggerated in a love songs, it becomes something men and women are incapable of giving. However, the faithful love described in “By Your Side” is very godlike. It doesn’t take a great leap to relate it to scripture.
“You think I’d leave your side, baby? You know me better than that.”
Doubting God may be engrained in my analytical nature. I almost always need God to mock my unbelief and cite our history. “Do you really think I’d abandon you? C’mon. You may be unsure about many things, but you know that you at least know that.”
I’m like one of those kids who goes into histrionics whenever a parent leaves their sight. Mom or dad has to come back and calm the kid down: “Have I ever left you? Don’t I always come back? Don’t you know how much I love you?”
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Lately whenever I hear “you said,” I pocket it away, like a child does a shiny object found. At the emotional climax of Karate Kid, Jaden Smith pleads earnestly, “You said when life knocks you down we can choose to get back up. Well I’m trying to get back up! Why won’t you help me?” Something pinged in me.
It called to mind Jaden’s mom in A Low Down Dirty Shame who, caught by an angry and villainous Charles S. Dutton, reminds him innocently, “now, you said that you wouldn’t hurt me!” Ping again.
Jessica Reedy’s “Marching On” opens with the lyric, “Thought my mistakes would change the way you love me, but I remember you said you’d never leave, you’d never go.” Resounding ping.
I caught the pattern. Hearing others’ pleas for fairness and promises kept was echoing the silence of my own. As things in life periodically turn bleak, I wonder, “God are you still going to keep your promises?” Continue reading
Posted in Faith
Tagged authority, belief, Christianity, control, doubt, faith, fatalism, Jada Pinkett Smith, Jaden Smith, Jessica Reedy, Karate Kid, Marching On, sovereignty
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In order to set up some background, I need permission to be narcissistic for a moment. Okay, here it goes. I am smart. It’s one of few things I know, and rarely doubt. I haven’t received a Mensa invitation, but I know I have an uncanny ability to comprehend complex concepts that don’t come so easily to most. While other children might have been hearing “you’re so special,” “you’re so pretty,” or “you’re so cool,” I was hearing, “oh, he’s so smart, so advanced!”
Intelligence is part of my identity. I’m known for it and, to an extent, it defines me. I’m thankful for it, but it seems to have a downside. I’ve long held that I had the ability to reason my way out of my faith. I think the two may be mutually exclusive.
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I dated the sweetest girl in my 20s. Perhaps if I was sweeter to her, we might have stayed together. But I was working at home one day when she decided to surprise me and stop by. As per usual, my dual living-and-working space was a mess. I was caught off guard by her presence, but glad to see her. She walks in visibly excited to see me at my desk, despite my work-disheveled state. I am no knight-in-shining armor today. What is she so happy about?
If you asked me, I’d say the girl’s in love. She would have to be. Only someone with that kind of madness would do what she was about to. I was in the middle of a number of thought processes at the time. And although multitasking beyond a certain point for me is like being drawn and quartered, I had to pull my focus in, snap into action, and protect her.
She walked in and sat down in the middle of my bed, rested her soft purse by her left thigh, and began to lean slowly to her right like a sexy, caramel-skinned Tower of Pisa. As it dawned on me what her intention was, a miniature explosion of panic detonated in my head. Continue reading
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We’re still together. But sitting at opposite ends of the couch though. Not saying much to each other as we go in, out, and about the house. Sharing the same bed, but not touching. Going to church together, but not making eye contact. The honeymoon phase is over. Being together doesn’t give us the tingles anymore.
It’s been some time since we were on the same page. We’ve each made independent decisions that met with disagreement from the other. Some days I wonder exactly who I married. I’m not as attracted as I was at the start. I roll my eyes a lot now. I sigh hard and breathe out troubled subtext until our living space smells of it. One might say our relationship is strained.
When the dissonance between us gets so loud that I can’t stand to be in the same room, I wonder where we went wrong. People said we would always be together. We started off so strong. Couples have said they wanted to be like us. Yet now there’ve been several months though—I don’t know how far back to start counting—when I have not been the happiest in this relationship. It’s not looking so great right now.
But I remember our song:
“In the middle of the madness
When the time is running out and you’re left alone
All I want is you to know that
It’s strong still
Can’t pull us apart
Nothing can come
Nothing can pull us apart… can come between us.”
I don’t know when it officially became our song, but whenever I hear Sade’s “Nothing Can Come Between Us,” I think of Jesus and I. I envision us as a newlywed couple having a first dance in front of so many witnesses. They have sworn to hold us to our vows. He’s the groom; I’m his bride. The contract says “until death do us part,” but even then… Continue reading
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I’ve thought about it often. The scenario loops in mind. It starts a few moments before my heart got broken, but plays out differently this time. Originally, I didn’t know what hit me, but this time I’m ready. My senses are keen. I discern when I’m being patronized, snowed. I know the true words from the constructed pictures. I know the sincere smiles from those stiffly pasted on top to keep me dawdling unawares. This time I’m nimble for the moment when I should parry. This time I’m just out of their weapon’s reach. Prescient of my opponent’s next move, I counterstrike and draw both blood and surprise. I pause and turn up a corner of my mouth taking in the surveyed victory.
Had my reality played this way, I wouldn’t have lost my power. So much might not have fallen out of balance. I would not have become a victim and someone’s casualty. As I step away from my imagination, I notice in running this scenario that my muscles have tensed, shoulders tight having not yet left the fantasy. My brows have furrowed and jaws clenched without prompting. The conflict has become so real during this mental exercise, that if the assailant were to appear before me physically, I could easily burst into a commotion of bared teeth and hurled furniture, expletives zipping through the air like throwing knives. It ain’t all good.
There’s just a moment to break myself out before the scene replays again from the beginning, folding another layer over on an already rugged anger. My conjured emotions have produced an ire that is very present and sizzling hot to the touch. The way I’ve rehearsed this vindication so well for so long, I become more and more confident in my ability to perform it. That scares me. That’s not the performance I wanted to perfect. I was supposed to forgive.
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DISCLAIMER: After nearly 9 months, I decided to uncensor this post on February 16, 2013. You’ll see indelicate language sitting right beside scripture. If this offends you, then my half-hearted grawlix probably weren’t going to appease you either way.
Amen, brothers and sisters. This morning, the text is coming from the book of Marvin Gaye in the 1,978th year of our Lord Jesus Christ. Turn your gatefold double LP to the first disc of Here, My Dear. Now, if one saint would volunteer to read “Anger”:
“Up and down my back
In my spine, in my brain
It injures me
Anger can make you old (yes, it can)
I said anger can make you sick, children
Anger will destroy your soul
There’s no room for rage in here
There’s no room for rage in here
Where is the place to go to be mad?”
May God add a blessing to the reading of Marvin’s lyrics. I know what that kind of anger feels like. It’s like the entirety of your being is on fire, a walking state of emergency. Your emotions, your coping mechanisms, the steadiness of your perception, all covered in heat from tip to toe. Malfunctioning. You can’t think about anything but finding the quickest way to put out the flames. So can anyone tell me what is the proper Christian way to be angry? Continue reading
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“Here’s my plea
I want to see your face, feel your warm embrace,
And lay here like a child
In your loving arms, where I’m safe from harm,
And the sorrow fades away.”
—Crystal Lewis, “Like a Child”
Just woke up from a bad dream where I had to relive when my Papa told me he was dying. A friend suggested I re-read the blog I wrote about it. In that story I remember how, from a place of ignorance, God swept in and rescued me before calamity could crash in on top of me. That all took place when I was still 19.
I turn 33 on Tuesday. A lot changes in 13 years. I’m more skeptical than I was as a young adult, a little world weary in places. I believe less readily than I once did. My once-shiny faith is a little dog-eared and yellowish now. It’s like a sun-beaten rubber band, dried and showing cracks. I fear if I stretch it to believe, it may snap.
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Skeptics, go on high alert. For 24 hours, tricksters will hunt the gullible. Stay in your house all day. Don’t do anything or go anywhere. Trust no text message, tweet, telephone call, e-mail, instant message, news report, police bullhorn, or crowd of hysterical people running toward the nearest mall exit. Don’t believe anything. It’s all a conspiracy to take you down.
That’s me. I am that anxious, ever-suspecting dude for whom every day feels like April Fools’ Day. I have seen my general level of distrust rise like the water level in a Poseidon adventure. It’s hard to take anything at face value now. This is not okay. Have you ever:
- Asked someone to tell their story and then called their credibility into question to dismiss the validity of their experience?
- Had someone plead their case although you had already pronounced them guilty in your mind?
- Gotten a compliment you wanted to hear, but decided the compliment giver wasn’t sincere enough?
- Been treated nicely by someone, but decided they had an ulterior motive based on their association with someone you perceive as a threat?
If you have, you are as much your own problem as I am. Your inability to trust can block you from receiving wisdom, truth, encouragement, kindness, affection, or all of the above. How broken is your faith if you decide you can never trust anything anyone says? What kind of two-faced unscrupulous people have you known that make you believe this is the way you have to be to survive?
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God prompted me to write out my testimony of why I believe in him recently. That was probably so I could have a more sure footing from which to talk about why I doubt him. I usually avoid disclaimers, but for this entry, it’s been as difficult to write out as it has been to live out. So please pray about what you don’t understand or agree with, and also be considerate in your judgments. If I deliver it correctly, you will do some judging.
For all we know
“And help us to be wise in times when we don’t know…”
—from “The Prayer”
For those outside Christendom who are unaware, apostasy, also known as “falling away,” is the act of abandoning the teachings of Christ to become an atheist or agnostic. It is essentially the opposite of conversion to belief in Jesus. This is one of the most feared things that can happen to a Christian. It can get you ostracized from your community of believers, and though some believe in “once saved, always saved,” most believe this loss or rejection of faith results in eternal damnation.
For those inside Christendom who are unaware, where Christians believe Jesus Christ is Lord, and atheists do not believe God exists at all, agnostics say “we don’t know.” Agnosticism is the view that human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify the belief that deities either do or do not exist. It does not reject that God exists, but it does not prove him either. It’s like the spiritual embodiment of “I can neither confirm nor deny.”
As un-Christian as this viewpoint is, I can honestly say, I have leaned toward this philosophy for years while professing belief in Christ. It’s not foreign to me. I’ve just never really allowed myself to examine it until now.