This weekend, on November 30th, I will mark four years of blogging. And just today, I’ve discovered that I’ve been nominated for “Best Religion/Philosophy Blog” in Canada. Wow. And voting closes tomorrow, so what can I say? Vote now? I’m kinda late getting my “campaign” started, but I only just found out I was even in the race at all. Shows how oblivious I can be — but thanks, whoever nominated me. I even get a fancy badge of honour to display. Now, in the unlikely event that I actually make the cut into the final round of voting, I’ll need y’all to go and vote again next week, okay?
I don’t obsess over my stats and check them regularly (honest!), but I will take a peek now and then, especially at notable dates like this one. In the past year, it appears I’ve had over 100,000 vists from more than 90,000 unique visitors, with about ten and a half thousand regulars. Which leaves me with a lingering question… where the H-E-double-hockeysticks do you people come from, and is there nothing better on television? At any rate, my most popular post in that time frame was my Blog Interview: William P. (Paul) Young, Author of The Shack, which obviously contains someone else’s wisdom. I enjoyed doing that interview though, and I think I’ll look to do more of them in the coming year.
To celebrate the culmination of these past four years since I dropped out of programmed church and began blogging here, I think I’m prepared to make the controversial statement that I’ve got a new God. I suppose I’d better explain that… I guess I’ve been reflecting a little on some of the changes in my theological outlook over the past four years (though the shift began some time earlier, of course), and I awoke one morning last week with an image on my mind, from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. No, it’s not the “leap of faith” illustration, but it is related, I suppose, and it does occur at the “Temple of the Holy Grail.” One of the three major “tests” or traps that Indy must pass in order to reach the chamber where the Grail is located is to cross a section of tiled floor with various letters carved into the tiles. To pass the test, he must step only on the tiles which spell “Jehovah” in Latin, and in order. If he does this correctly, he will reach the other side safely. If he does not, the tiles fall away into oblivion, as does he. There isn’t much room for error, and in the movie he almost fails by forgetting to spell “Jehovah” with an “I” instead of a “J”.
The thing is, I used to follow God like that. Back in my charismatic days, mostly, there was an ongoing attention to the will of God in every little thing. It was felt that one needed to keep within God’s will in order to enjoy the full benefits of his blessing and protection. Stepping out of God’s will or his plan could subject one to the imminent danger of attacks from the enemy, curses of various kinds, and all manner of calamities. To keep step with his will, however, rendered one safe and blessed. Now, I have to say on this matter that charismatics don’t seem to understand the book of Job very well. Perhaps they’ve never read it, or perhaps they’ve allegorized it in such a way that it doesn’t actually mean what it means. Whatever.
It was very hard, nay, exhausting, to follow such a God. While one might think that the outpouring of God’s love and blessing for keeping in line would be a huge incentive and occupy one’s every waking thought and desire, the opposite is actually true — it’s the threat of punishment, or the removal of God’s protection due to his displeasure that occupied much more waking thoughts than the benefits. It was religion based in fear — fear of stepping on the wrong tile and having them all come crashing down as you are swept away into oblivion as the Evil One attacks you with every “right” to do so while you are out from under the Lord’s “covering.” Often this latter phrase refers to doing what your church leaders want and expect of you, as if their will were equated with God’s, so that one could easily fall prey to all sorts of evil if you didn’t keep in line with the church leaders. What’s more, with instructions in Latin, most of the clues for staying on course were cryptic, and many people found it easier just to ask their church leaders for the “answer” instead, as if God took delight in hiding his will from everyone. Except the church leaders, of course, who always seemed to have a direct line. Following God this way was not an easy yoke, and it was not a light burden. It was painful, stressful, and ridden with fear. And it was just plain wrong. Fortunately for me, I was never quite so immersed in this thinking that I blindly followed the leaders — my personality was always to challenge them and to assume I could hear from God and discern his will for myself. But there were still some pretty serious consequences for getting it wrong, as we all thought.
Now I follow a different God. Okay, it’s the same God, actually, but stripped of some very wrong conceptions about how he operates. He still expects me to step across a floor engraved with tiles that spell words in Latin, but he knows I’m not much of a Latin-speaker. And I have this image of God, but not watching me step across the tiles and waitng for me to make a mistake so that the tiles fall away beneath me. In this updated image, as I cross the tile floor, God is beneath it, placing a hand under each tile I step on — whether it’s the “right” one or not (and I’m doing the best I can), and he holds it up as I cross safely to the other side.
So I’ve got a new God, one who understands my shortcomings and is there to support me safely to the other side without consideration for my performance along the route. I’ve gained a gracious and compassionate God. And if I look back at the spiritual portion of my journey these past four years, I can easily say I’d do it all over again. Except I’d start sooner.