Thursday, January 29, 2015

When the Mountains Don't Move.

When people talk religion online, I tend to stay out of it.  I have good friends on both sides of the pew, people I wouldn't hurt or humiliate for the world. A few people know where I stand on my own faith, and I have not always been one of them.  Suffice it to say that I don't believe anybody has it right, and if a person has never questioned their own moral judgement then they're probably doing it wrong.

My faith is like a sore tooth, I frequently find myself testing it, poking at it with my mental tongue trying to find out what feels right and what stings.  At times this has led to doubt and consternation, but through internal Socratic method, I find my way back into a spiritual comfort zone.

I have been thinking lately of my journey of faith during my adolescent years.  Social media has allowed me to reconnect with a handful of the people who shared that path with me, and as a result I find myself considering the various spiritual homes in which we now reside considering we walked the same road for awhile.

The church youth group that I attended during and just after my confirmation years was, in a word, intense.  I witnessed impassioned prayer, protracted worship, laying of hands, speaking in tongues, and visions of God calling some of us to a life of prophecy. I was told by the youth minister that I would lead a ministry.  Several of the people that I was involved with during that time have gone on to become spiritual leaders in their communities, but I wouldn't define myself as such.

I remember one intense session of worship when I was about fifteen years old.  One of the other teens in our group, a young man about a year older than me, was legally blind.  He wore those chunky glasses that people still sometimes call Coke-bottle-bottoms, but even with these his vision was profoundly damaged.  During the meeting, another member felt that the Holy Spirit had called our group to heal this young man's blindness.  We went about our task with a verve only achievable by hormonal teens in a frenzy of religious faith.  We prayed, we sang, we performed a laying of hands, we reenacted the events of John 9:6 and made mud to put on his eyes.

When it was finished, his vision remained unchanged.  We were still hopeful that he would be cured in God's time, but as the days passed our attention shifted to other religious experiences.  Shortly after that evening, I went through the biggest crisis of my young life and ended up moving to a different city.  I kept up a little contact with my friends from the old youth group, but I never knew what became of our own Bartimaeus.

Today, I find my thoughts returning to that evening like the sore tooth I referenced earlier.  Why didn't God immediately heal that boy?  If it wasn't in His plan to heal him, why were the others in our group so certain that it was?  Doesn't this disprove the very idea of God speaking to us during prayer?

I don't believe so.

I believe that on that night twenty years ago, God did speak to our group, but our understanding of that message was skewed by our human desire to see first-hand an unambiguous miracle.  Unfortunately for us, miracles are never so concrete.  Rather, life has shown me that the miracles we experience are performed by a more artful hand, and require an open mindset for observation.

God did not call us to cure his blindness.  God called us to BE the cure for his blindness.

God called a small group of His faithful to support and carry him through the darkness.  He called us to be as dependable and trustworthy as a healthy pair of eyes.  In our zeal, we attempted to perform an overt miracle, without considering the deftness of His hand.

It took me over twenty years to figure out what happened that night, and why.  I hope that along the way somebody heard God's call to service for what it was, and that young man finally found his cure.

God doesn't want me to do stuff.
God wants me to be something.

P.S.  I found my ministry. I shepherd a flock of three little sheep, but I believe they will change the world for the better.

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