It’s amazing to me how one can get so wrapped up in online environments and conversations. I’ve become aware how fleeting and useless a lot of these conversations really are. I’m not talking about the genuine friends one finds around the blogosphere. I’ve had amazing support from people who don’t even know me personally, only by what they read on my blogs! I’m grateful and humbled by the response of some people during my surgery. I appreciate their prayers and their thoughts and energies aimed my way. I am convinced that everything went as well as it did because of those thoughts and prayers. I cannot prove it, but I can FEEL it. At one point my sister brought her pastor into the Pre-op where a nurse had been digging around in both of my arms, in the most unusual places, trying to find a vein from which to draw blood. It was very painful and I started getting cold, clammy, and nauseous. This man decided it was time to pray and he puts his hand on my arm and holds my hand. My sister lays hands on my shoulder and my husband was holding my other hand. I thought, sheesh, it can’t hurt. I was NOT feeling well. Then, call it the power of positive thinking, call it whatever, the pastor began to pray and I instantly felt better. My nausea went away. I felt a tingling all over. Fascinating! The clinical detached thought process started to analyze why and then my suspension of disbelief kicked in and I thought, “Who gives a shit why? It worked!” I was calm and I went shortly into surgery without the gnawing anxiety. Coincidence? I don’t think so. There is power in human touch and relationships!
In fact, those of my own church, the one I left recently but where I am still a member, have stepped up to the plate in an amazing fashion. My problem is that frequently I am selfish as well as cynical. The world revolves around me of course and when my needs are not met I get very pissy and believe that the world is not there for me. I realized how selfish this was when I received a phone call in my hospital room from the pastor of the church I had left, then I received two cards from members telling me they had prayed for my surgery, then two days after I got home, another member called. That day I had wondered what to fix for dinner. We had a frozen pork roast, so I thought, easy enough: crockpot! I did not know what else we would have. My husband and daughter don’t like to cook, but they would if they had to. We were also light on groceries because no one had gone grocery shopping. That’s usually my job. There was just too much going on during this week and grocery shopping wasn’t one of the necessary things! The church member called yesterday and asked, “So I’ve got some food for dinner, can I bring it over?” What a Godsend! I said YES! She brought over fresh garden vegetables and a small bag of lettuce to make a salad. She brought fresh garden green beans, cooked with potatoes and ham, and she brought over fresh watermelon slices for dessert! God bless her! I was overwhelmed. Is God watching over me? Perhaps. But there is power in relationships!
This issue of relationship over information hit home when I got back into the “swing” of the online community and back into watching news for the “latest” story. It’s amazing to me how depressing and useless the news is on the internet and on television. Most of the news is about extreme cases of abuse, neglect, or crime and the attitude of the reporting news engine is now that that YOU know what’s going on out there, it’s YOUR responsibility to DO something about it! How absurd to report generally and then pass the baton to all you viewers out there. It’s sensationalist and voyeuristic in the extreme. We are feeding off another’s misfortune only to feed our appetite for tabloid style news. Take this absolutely useless story on Fox News this morning about surgery patients who were awake during surgery. It’s very rare, but it happens. The patients are forever scarred mentally and what they had to endure was horrible, but what was the point of telling us about it? To “feel” their pain? ut it? There are a thousand stories like this a day, but no solutions are ever offered. No wonder people feel numb to world in general. So what is the solution? I believe it is in the power of divine relationships. What do I mean by divine relationships? I mean relationships powered by the common denominator of God, Divine Spirit, Gaia, whatever you call the all-encompassing World Spirit that holds us all together.
Some Christians see hope in Jesus as the direct expression of World Spirit. For them, Jesus is the epitome of God’s presence in he world. He is the fulcrum of existence at which point the world swings from its axis:
Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
This is the “gospel” in a nutshell. Jesus Christ reveals God in His fullness. Peace with God is made through the cross. Despite all the theological questions invited by such a statement, the point is the Jesus cannot be dispensed with in the Christian religion. Yet, how is one to grasp this Jesus and how does that affect relationships? This Jesus, when grasped properly, is the Ground of relationships, not the jumping off point for useless theological discussions.
There is no end to spiritual teachers. There are so many that I believe the body of Christ is so confused as to be left ineffectual. In particular are those who’ve adopted a decidedly pietistic and doctrinally vigilant view of Christianity. They claim to know what we are supposed to do to be Christian and never fail to tell us ad nauseum how we continually fail to live up to that view. Some of these Christians are like the Jewish Essenes or the Christian Gnostics and practice exclusive community only. Only the enlightened and holy ones may participate. Only the “pure” may consider being part of the community. All others are excluded. These Christians are like Fox News and CNN that tell you continually what it is we should fear, feeding us stories about how horrible human beings can be to one another, but who never give you valid solutions nor encouragement. Fear this, fear that, they say, but they are merely voyeurs of the Christian life. They are the Chicken Littles of the Christian world. They are gleeful at our failing, but never tell us what we’ve done right. They are quick to point out how selfish we are, but never tell us who is doing the hard work of maintaining relationships, even at the expense of “proper doctrine.” If I’ve learned anything in my 25 years of being a Christian, it’s doctrine be damned, if love is absent.
So, where am I going with all this? I’m going the way of redemptive relationships, powered by the Divine Spirit, fueled by our solid relationships in Jesus as the Body; a spiritual community, meant to uphold each other in joy and in sorrow. As a member of this community, I’ve failed in being supportive, but have found hope in being upheld especially during this tough year of heart problems and major surgery. I cannot live without this supportive community. I don’t want to even try any more. Whether we believe it to be true doctrinally or not, all people are part of this community. All people are in Christ Jesus. All believers and unbelievers alike. Jemila Monroe, one of the wisest women I’ve yet to read on the internet community says it best:
If God is everywhere, then s/he must be Everywhere, including within the vibrating cells of unbelievers, nonbelievers, partial believers and even gay haters, gluttons and grass. Even me. Even before I was becoming a Christian, opening to an increasing awareness of God’s truth, grace — really just God’s love in all its many faces, like justice and joy and the cross and being alive.
God is willing that none should perish; Jesus asked his Father to forgive those who know not what they do, and our Divine Creator sent his only begotton Son — which could just as easily have been a her only begotton daughter — not to condemn the world, but to save it. Grace is free, and it’s already here. Grace is alive, waiting, present for everyone, anytime. All we have to do is wake up and open the Present of Christmas morning: God with us.
Holy Spirit can’t not indwell a person, whatever they do or believe, because God indwells Everything. But if we are blind, our hearts are cold and our ears can’t hear, we are cut off from being alive to this gift that’s wrapped with longing affection and waiting within our heart. God is knocking on the door from the inside. “Open me,” says Holy Spirit. “And I will open you.”