Thursday, July 26, 2012
Toward Freedom VIII
I often wonder about Saul. A zealot's zealot in putting down the new Christian blasphemy until the moment Jesus stood in front of him. Other zealots had run into Jesus in the years before and not allowed themselves to be affected, but for Saul... something changed.
I started drifting away from Christianity in the late 1970s, when I began to see there was little difference between what was being taught by Christian leaders and what my parents had tried to teach. It was the same devotion to mindless duty, the same putting down of any hint of humanity, the same intellectual browbeating, and I decided that because I still had to do everything for myself, why add the complexity of an assumed God?
If one goes looking for yellow wombats in a place where only purple wombats live, the fact that one never finds a yellow one isn't the fault of the wombats. The Pharisees in Jesus' time were expecting the Messiah to fit a certain description. I was expecting God to look much like the God of church and intellect. It's not too surprising I didn't find such. I gave up the search then and went on my way, alone.
I still wonder why God didn't give up. For upward of 20 years I ignored him, and at times ridiculed his name while I worked my way through the list of self-generated answers to the question "Why bother living?" God hadn't given up, though, and he shaped events so that when I ran out of answers I could see him again.
The Prodigal Son ran off into the world, looking for freedom. He learned that the world didn't care. His father's slaves had a better life so he turned around.
I ran off into the world, looking for truth. What does one hang onto when everyone around him tells lies or half-truths? God was more of the same and yet I was out of answers.
With very little to lose I asked God to show me the truth. "Let's start at the beginning and build as we go."
How does one recognize God's teaching? There are many people out there saying different things, all of whom claim their doctrine comes straight from God. They can even back up what they say with quotes from the Bible. How was I to keep from getting lost? It took a few years for me to gain some confidence in perceiving God's touch, his voice. Part of the reason so much time was required was that God's guidance led in an unexpected direction.
My life being over, I expected God to issue explicit orders, with no tolerance of questions. After all, I'd proven the ineffectiveness of my questions. What happened in reality was the Holy Spirit leading me to ask better questions. He would also wait as I looked at various answers, and we'd gradually spiral in on something ever closer to truth. Sometimes the process was quick--an evening--and other times it took days or weeks. Sometimes years.
I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when I began to see that God was working on leading me to freedom. "You shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free." Truth turned Saul into Paul, and he went on to teach freedom to everyone he found. Truth turned me into a seeker of freedom, and I tend to hide. Same feast, different results. God continues to offer, provide and lead.
Last night was another sleepless one. It was kind of like trying to sleep in a theatre where three different operas are being presented at once. I really don't know how to live with freedom. It is dangerous to the status quo, which tends to upset the peace. My approach to peace is to use a hammer on the disrupting voices. God's way is to hold all of me together while the arguments go on, with an eye toward the future. I think his way is better but I still don't get much sleep. And it probably does nothing for the clarity of blog posts.
2012 July 26