Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Love/Hate religion

My faith - as anyone who's read any of my posts has probably gathered - is very important to me.

I grew up in a Christian family and have been in various evangelical churches and it's thanks to my family and the churches I grew up in that I was first introduced to Jesus. [pause for intake of breath]. It hasn't all been good though.

Church can be a confusing place sometimes because it's populated by people, and people are neither all bad nor all good. Even the good ones are not always good and can sometimes affect you badly. Also - not everything you learn in church is true or helpful! I think that might be - at least for some people - one of the most important things you can learn about church! Of course, this goes for most things in life, which of course includes this blog - but some people don't seem to realise it applies to church and some churches actively discourage people from thinking like this.

I seem to have spent an awful lot of my life trying to sort out the good stuff from the bad. I'm not sure why this is. I think certain circumstances or character traits can make us more susceptible to absorbing the bad stuff and sometimes our natural defences become weakened or compromised, or perhaps just don't develop as they should. Similarly we can often become defensive against the wrong things - i.e. the things that would otherwise help us or do us good.

Because there is good and bad in every situation, and because of our different make-ups, different people can sometimes go through similar circumstances and fare very differently. I once heard an analogy put something like this:

There were 2 donkeys carrying a load into town. One of them was loaded up with salt, and the other with bales of unprocessed cotton. The donkeys had a river to cross.

It wasn't a swiftly flowing river and the donkeys were sure-footed and could swim, but it was so deep that both of their loads were all but submerged as they crossed.

When they got to the other side, one of the donkeys - the one carrying the salt - found that his load had all but disappeared. As he wasn't a commercially-minded donkey he was delighted to be rid of the weight he'd been carrying!

The other donkey however - the one carrying the cotton - found that his load had become massively heavy, to the point where it was now a huge struggle for him, simply to walk.

Just a small example of how the same situation can have a very different effect on you, depending on what type of baggage you happen to be carrying!

So I've carried some baggage, and absorbed a lot of bad stuff, and sometimes I've found it difficult to sort out. But I've absorbed a lot of good stuff which has done me a lot of good as well. I've known many Christians who have given up on their faith over the years, and at times I've felt tempted to do the same. In the end though, I found something at the heart of it all that is more precious than anything I'd care to trade it in for.

This poem is intended to portray something of my struggle:

Getting to the heart of things

For the longest time...

Too much truth
Too many lies
Too hard to separate
Too well disguised

Innocence with subtle thorns
That dig deep into soul and heart
Brain confused by tainted truths
That pull the mind apart

Word of life
That chains my soul
Come set me free
And make me whole

Promised life - restrictive cage
That keeps safe from doom and dark
Love's veneer but hiding fear
A shadow on the heart

Word of peace
Come settle me
Unbind these chains
And make me free

Food for thought and heart and soul
Wrapped about with poisonous barbs
I take my fill, it tears me still
I eat this or I starve

Word of hope
You speak to me
Your breath brings life
I start to see.

While I look on, the thorns die back
Fresh growth brings hope and life
I feel Your peace, it brings release
And calms my angry strife

Word of truth
I honour you
Re-work in me
As you would do

And in my hands a rarer fruit
Deep purged of wound and pain
But not quite free - still rimmed with thorns...
...until that promised day

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