Sunday, March 30, 2008

I am not a religious fraud, but I'm surely being tested right up to my breaking point.

So, a few weeks ago I mentioned briefly that I wondered if I was a fraud, when it came to my religion, but didn't speak further to the issue.

Basically, I was sitting in church singing the songs, but I wasn't feeling it. I was just sitting there bummed, thinking about how in 20 years we'd move and I'd get to go to a new church. And thinking about how sometimes I think that I'm just looking at religion as insurance. The whole "If I'm wrong, I've still led a life I can be proud of. If you're wrong, well, hell is sure going to be hot." That might be an ok place to start, with the right audience. But it's no way to live a life.

And as I pondered that, a week went by. And then it was Easter. And the church was alive. I could not help but greet people. It was so not me. And it felt so good. I wished that every Sunday could be Easter. I had some of my normal thoughts about another great church sin: The bait-and-switch. Do it up big on Christmas and Easter, knowing there will be C&E Christians in attendance. You're hoping to entice them and get them to come back. The sad reality is that the following week you're back to the same ol', same ol'. The magic is gone, the specialness of Easter is a faded memory and too many churches don't capture the excitement of Jesus' gift on a week-to-week basis, and that's just sad. Anyhow, beyond that, I realized that I could do my part. If I felt that good greeting people, why shouldn't I do it each week? So I decided I would.

I also listen to the Saddleback podcasts each morning during my drive in. I highly recommend them. 10-15 minutes, usually a single chapter or part of a chapter from the Bible. Very plain English, very insightful. Even if you're just approaching it from a scientific perspective, this is really good at helping to understand what was intended by what was written, putting it into historical perspective and showing the parallels from other parts of the Bible and how it all works together. Search for "Saddleback" under podcasts on iTunes.

Well, he was talking about a chapter in John and says that at some point in your faith, you no longer need proof, you just know in your being that Jesus was God. And he was right, I do know that. I've seen enough in my own life to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this world is bigger than the 30-odd years I've lived here and that I'm not just a meatbag here for a few decades and then gone, that there is a purpose bigger than me, that I am part of a grander plan and that life doesn't end when my time on earth does.

I also had spoken to Lori about my feelings and she suggested that maybe I was just going through a low point, a valley. And she was right, too. Two and a half years ago when we committed to the move, we felt like we were running right alongside God. On an almost day, if not weekly basis, things were falling into place. Everything affirmed and confirmed on decision. It was awesome, exhilarating, a real good high.

And then we moved, things were great, but money was getting tight and the mother-in-law had taken up a permanent position on our couch preventing it from floating away should gravity ever be removed from our living room, and work was challenging. To be sure, after an early miscarriage almost a year ago, we were now trucking along to the final trimester of a really healthy pregnancy. But the excitement, the spark, the absolute confirmation that I was doing the right thing was gone.

And so I felt that maybe I wasn't really having a crisis of faith, my faith was fine and intact. But it was more like "What's going on, Jesus? I feel I've been hung out to dry." I/we had been praying regularly that God's will for the current point and time in our life would be revealed, and that we would have the courage to move without hesitation on whatever was asked of us. That used to be a scary thing to even consider praying, but it have become a regular staple of our prayers. We were open to whatever. The last time we had prayed it, committed to it, it was so illuminating, that we/I wanted that back. I wanted to be running alongside God. I know if I go back and look at some of the blog posts from that time, to some degree I have selective memory, but to chart it out, a lot of amazing things fell into place and even the setbacks were overcome just about as quickly as they presented themselves. We really didn't break stride, took a huge leap of faith and landed so amazingly well that we were ready for the next leap.

So today we were singing a song that seems to be a favorite at this church:
Jesus, Jesus, How I trust you
How I've proved you o'er and o'er,
Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus
O' for grace to trust You more
And it hit me again... do I trust Jesus?

On the whole of it, yes. But honestly, it all comes down to the fact that my mother-in-law is still in our house and it is casting a pall over everything. Lori is not happy, I'm certainly not happy and I think that Rachel is picking up on that and it's leading to more disciplinary problems, on top of that caused by having a permissive grandma to allow her to do what we would not. Her very presence is also costing us money we don't have, on top of robbing us of the last opportunity we have to be a family of three before Ben's arrival, not to mention the inability to get Ben's room ready. Or all of the "quirks" which on an almost daily basis make me want to scream at her "GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT."

At one time, we believed that maybe her presence was designed to teach us patience. But it has gone beyond that. At this point, it's actually deteriorating our ability to express patience, and it's starting to creep into how we treat her, how to react to Rachel and it might even, ever so subtlety be affecting how we treat each other.

But we're stuck. She has no job, no money, no other place to live. She's working a temp job, but she doesn't seem to be all that compelled to give up the free ride, the free cable and the room (and bathroom) I've given up ever having a chance to use. And I'm absolutely scared that if we try to even do anything to move the process along that she's going to conveniently fall (she's constantly hurting herself or in pain, broke her foot the last two times she's been to visit Lori's brother's family and has been complaining about our front steps, trying to make us let her have one of our spots in the garage again.)

This is about God answering our prayers, nay our desperate pleas for release with a "no" or a "not yet." I don't think He's ignoring us, but it's getting so utterly frustrating. At this point, I wouldn't mind it if she won the lottery, or if she got the house and we moved to an apartment. Anything to get some space between us.

I know that in some ways, this feels callous. I know in some cultures the families, for generations, all live together in a single room hut and here we are unable to have three adults and a 3-year-old (and some cats) coexisting in 1,800 square feet. But I'm really not out of line. She's been here for 9 months reading library books, eating our food (from the pantry, while turning her nose up at Lori's cooking), eating junk food (and leaving the half-eaten boxes in the fridge until we throw them out, all the while we cannot afford to eat out), leaving lights on, complaining about everything, not looking for work, watching COPS, America's Most Wanted and Mama's Family with the volume turned up loud and undermining our authority for nine months. I am not being callous.

This is killing me.
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