I had a wonderful conversation with one of my brother-in-laws, this morning.
(Just to delineate, because being that Mark has 3 brothers and a sister, and they are all married, when I say "brother-in-law" or "sister-in-law," of course, I could mean one of Mark's actual brothers or sister, but I could mean their spouses. In this case, it's one of Mark's actual brothers lol. )
You see, despite my husband's family being raised Catholic, this particular brother-in-law has chosen to become an evangelical.
He really is a wonderful, kind, loving man and father, very kind-hearted, and probably the most philosophical out of Mark's brothers, so we have good convos, because that's just one of my personal interests, philosophy and spirituality, exploring ideas :)
The discussion actually began because I texted my hummingbird pictures (below post) in a family thread.
He responded that "We should praise God for his creation."
Of course I "Amen-ed" it - but then I recognized that in doing so, I perhaps put my stamp of approval on something religious that I suspected the entire family wasn't comfortable discussing, not to mention, he and I sometimes vastly differ in how we view God and Christ, but that's cool, I'm okay with different beliefs - who says I'm right? :)
Thus, I added ...
Me: "Even if that's all God did for us, intelligently design creation for us to find comfort in, that's enough for me. I'm hoping for more tho lol."
B-I-L said there was, "He does. He sent his son to die for us ..."
Me: "Well, yeah, there's THAT lol. I just meant as far as personal intervention in our daily lives."
B-I-L: "Prayer. Wishes CAN come true, when we surrender all."
Me: "I wish I still believed like that sometimes, brother. I guess I've learned if I change my expectations of who God is and what he actually does and doesn't do for us, versus my wishes, I'll never be disappointed. I find I'm less frustrated that way lol..."
"Sorry ... didn't mean to help steer this convo towards faith, I meant to just share a picture of a hummingbird as spirit-lifter during tough times lol."
B-I-L: Actually, that was me (that had made it about actual faith). Ha!"
Yeah, well, I clearly helped - LOL!
Then my B-I-L then confirmed privately that his family didn't dig philosophical or faith discussion, so we turned the convo private.
I think I initially gave him the wrong impression that I was struggling in my faith or something, which isn't what I meant.
Here's what I meant ....
You see, I was raised evangelical, but later became an atheist, and am now a "revised" Christian as an Episcopalian in worship, with adjunctive Buddhism for everyday life philosophy.
I remember at first, when my Mom first took us to an evangelical church, I was very excited about the possibility of having a more "personal relationship" with Jesus.
It's exactly like the infatuative phase of falling in love - everything is wonderful, Jesus personally cares for you and your insignificant life. God's gonna answer all your prayers and heal everything, if you just do what he says and have enough faith.
It's also during this infatuative phase that you think you're right, everybody else is wrong about God, you know the true him and if other people would just see him like you do, we'd all be better off.
It's only later that the infatuation starts to wane and you're forced to face reality lol.
First, you start to notice people subjectively interpreting things differently and how that doesn't go over well with the church.
And you're talking about a wing of Christianity who believes God speaks directly to them.
So when they contradict each other in what God "said," it's confusing - because they can't all be having God actually directly speaking to them, but saying different things - somebody's off somewhere, right?
Then, when you don't accept their version of "God speaking" or even their interpretation of scripture; suddenly, you aren't a good enough Christian, you don't have enough faith, and you haven't "fully surrendered" yourself to God - and of course, they used as "proof" of this as being "blessed" by God financially and otherwise, when using financial prosperity/political power as "proof" of blessing by God is actually not supported in scripture at all - in fact, Jesus says nearly the opposite!
Thus, whosoever hath the most money and power has "proof" that God has "blessed them the most," and therefore, they are almost always the proclaimed winner of these intrachurch debates lol ;)
Now, in my case, I was proclaimed as "having a Jezebel spirit," a witch, a heretic, demonic, or whatever other label they needed to vilify me with, simply because I asked questions/challenged their interpretation of what God told them personally, or sometimes even politely disagreed (with sugar on top) with their interpretation of scripture itself.
Well, might I advise if you're going to be evangelical NOT doing this - ESPECIALLY if you're a poor female from a troubled family ( but maybe that's just me and my experience with the whole evangelical thing lol).
Thus, why I said two posts below that I actually laugh and love it when they call me a "Jezebel spirit" for questioning their interpretation, because I know they'd never say that about a man who questioned them ;)
And I take it as a compliment in disguise - because I asked a question they didn't have an answer to and made them self-examine, and more fragile egos and belief systems then have to demonize me for holding up a mirror to them.
It used to scare and hurt me, as a young girl, but now I find that it's a compliment and the false accusations pretty hilarious ;)
Regardless, the first time you disagree with evangelical church "edict" and doctrine, you will find that all of that love, grace, and acceptance the church initially displayed for you to convert you will suddenly revoked. Denied. That's it, you're done. You might even be "prayer blasted" to remove whatever "evil spirit" is plaguing you lol.
It is precisely then that it becomes very difficult to separate out the loving parent that is God versus human church authority, as well as the love of Christ versus the conditional love human Christian leaders give you, claiming to be Christians, that is quickly revoked if you don't agree with them entirely.
(Thus, this the initial reason I became an atheist for a while - until I began to accept that we DO have a spiritual part of our brains and all cultures have some spirituality - and began the road back through exploration - only "revised" my Christian outlook :)
Regardless, my "testimony" is that you can have all the faith in the world, follow his commandments, do A, B, and C as our interpretation of the bible says, and surrender all to Christ - and STILL things may not work out.
The rain will still fall on the just and the unjust. The truth may never come out. You can still be falsely accused, even by fellow Christians. Justice may never be served in this lifetime. Christians can still die in plane crashes and other horrible ways, just like everybody else.
In fact, Christ himself didn't receive truth and justice before he died, and he was perfect - so how can we mere flawed mortals expect truth and justice during our own lifetimes?
We can pray for it, sure - but actually expecting God to do certain things for us simply because are a child of God is just, well, a false sense of entitlement lol.
If God didn't save his own true and perfect son from falsehoods and injustice, then what makes us presume he will do otherwise for us, his human-idiot stepchildren? LOL.
In fact, history is full of people - we've actually even made saints of people - who died as martyrs, based on falsehoods - and only much later did we learn the truth, if ever.
And, conversely, by the way, NOT receiving justice or truth should not be used as proof "there's no God," either.
That's a logical fallacy, just as much as saying if your prayer wasn't answered, then YOU are doing something sinful and wrong.
Put both ideas in terms of syllogistic logic, if it helps - which can be done by simply changing the direct object of your argument sentence to another noun.
For example ...
"Mary wants a Persian cat. Mary could not find a Persian cat. Therefore, if Mary cannot find a Persian cat, then either Persian cats do not exist, or Mary is flawed."
Plugging in another noun into syllogistic philosophical argument equation reveals absurd logic.
Though the premises, and the argument itself, would be considered "sound" in syllogistic actual structure, it jumps to an absurd conclusion, without considering other variables that could affect the equation, and therefore is an "invalid" argument.
The fact that Mary wants a Persian cat, but couldn't find one, does NOT mean cats do not exist, nor does it mean that she couldn't find the cat because of personal flaw or undeservedness - it means that at this time, for whatever reason, Mary couldn't find a Persian cat - period.
Not getting X or Y neither proves nor disproves us deserving or undeserving.
Also, not getting X or Y does not mean God himself needs to take action right this minute and make change, especially according to our time frame.
In fact, not getting what we want, maybe even have earned or deserved, might simply mean nothing more than we need to change our fantasy perspective on who/what God is and actually does, especially in our time frame.
Thus, you eventually come to terms with the fact that there's no magical incantation or prayer we can do to exert more control over our lives - we do not have any more power than anybody else, just because we are Christians.
In fact, one of the only real "benefit" to being a Christian is being blessed by personal transformation that can occur by the power of his divine love and mercy on us, in and of itself.
Then, the trick is, still finding a way to love and appreciate God by a new definition after the honeymoon is over :)
A perspective that gives you no personal power at all, just appreciation and gratitude for the transcendent emotion of love and joy, past your circumstances - that is the trick and the test.
Thus, as I explained to him, it's not that I'm "not fully dedicated" or "not fully surrendered" to Christ, not that I have "backslidden" or am struggling in my faith - it's simply that I've moved past the infatuation phase, onto true love :)
I accept the realities about who God and Christ are, what they actually do and won't do, as far as intervention in our daily lives - and still love and appreciate the comforts of nature and the joy of love :)
This actually has nothing to do with how much faith we have or don't have, or whether or not we follow commandments - it has to do with acceptance of the reality of the true nature of God and Christ versus whom we subjectively wish and fantasize God and Christ to be :)
It's just like falling in love with another human.
The honeymoon phase is over, and you see reality.
No, the other person isn't always going to do everything you think they should, and sometimes they'll disappoint you, whether they mean to or not - and yet you still love, them, right?
Same with God - tack on we can't possibly understand the mind mysteries of God, or presume that we know what's best for everyone from our limited perspectives.
Thus, true love is what you have after the "honeymoon" phase is over and you're left with reality, rather than fantasy.
Now, despite seeing clearly characteristics we don't always like, not doing what we think they should do, in our time frame, nor even understanding certain mysteries about someone else - we love them anyway :)
THAT's actually where I am in my faith - true love with the true nature of God versus my fantasy-based infatuation with God :)
In fact, by my interpretation, at least, this is why the father rejoiced more over the prodigal son returning than he did over the consistently faithful.
Because the Prodigal Son became disillusioned with the father, questioned him, but now returned and consciously chose him after careful reflection, rather than blind faith and fear of punishment or hell - he consciously, intelligently chose him after careful examination.
Because in the end, I suspect God actually loves it when his children ask smart questions - just like any loving parent is proud of their children for asking smart questions, and he allows differences of opinion and not understanding why he does what he does, rather than getting defensive and punitive (well, barring the child isn't being unsafe, cruel, or falsely accusing or something, no parent digs THAT lol).
Hope that makes sense :)
My B-I-L understood what I meant, then, and though we don't agree on everything, we DO agree on this - that suffering sanctifies, it makes you a better person, and brings you closer to God.