Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Love God

Okay, so I must admit first off that I'm not cool with blogging. I like to read blogs, but I am more reserved when it comes to putting myself out there. But here I go...

I read Kathy's blog today about Love, Mercy, and Compassion:

The one sentence that keeps weighing on me is this: "what i am saying, though, is that without a true heart connection to God’s redemption, grace, and mercy in a practical & real sense, it is hard to pass it on to others."

And I'm starting to wonder if I really do love God. I thought I did back when it was about rules. I was really good at following rules. But when I really think about it, my faith story mostly has to do with me making choices to do certain things and not do other things, and that was how I loved God I thought. And now the rules are very fuzzy for me and I think are starting to disappear, and I'm not sure that I can honestly say that I love God. I'm more of a thinker than a feeler in most areas of life, including my faith, and I can't say that I feel much emotion about God at all. I've wondered about this in the past and thought I could fix this by getting to know God I would read my Bible more or pray more...just be more disciplined. But I don't really want to read the Bible right now or pray and I don't know what that means. Do I even know God?

I'm trying to process this, and I try to think of things I love: my husband, my kids, the ocean, good food, sunny days and clear skies, art and music. But things like grace and mercy and God are so abstract right now for me that I don't know how to apply the word "love" to them. The only sense or emotion that I'm getting related to God is that somehow I think He still wants me even though I'm really messed up. But I don't know where it can go from here. It always comes back to the same question, "How do I do this? How do I love God?" I want to...for reals. A little help here?


Matt said...

I've been struggling with this and I think my first comment is that it is a process. I don't think we can decide to really love God one day and the next day everything is better. I think what your feelings are valid and I believe that's the Spirit trying to help you figure this out.
I think we get caught up in trying to put things into boxes. I like this, love that, feel this way about such and so on. Randy once said something to me that I've heard a million times but when he said it I finally heard it. He stated he was trying not to seperate the secular and the sacred. We DO this all the time. God is everywhere! The things you love and enjoy are apart of God. Our family, nature, music or whatever it is for each of us that touchs us so deeply is showing us God in a very real way.
Some things that have helped me with this are 1) So You Don't Want To Go To Church Anymore by Jake Colsen and 2) one of the authors of this book, Wayne Jacobsen, has a podcast called The God Journey. These have helped me tremendously.
God LOVES you regardless of what you do. I don't believe he really cares if you read the Bible every day or not. I think we get caught in the performance game where we believe God loves us based on how we perform. I disagree with this! Anyone who has kids understands that there is nothing your children can do to make you love them less. Now imagine a God that IS love and how can we think that he doesn't love us in our mess. I would start by asking God to show you how much He loves you.

maventheavenger aka jamie said...

Carrie, great thoughts. I, too, am a thinker. One thing that really helps me is built right into being a follower of Jesus. He tells us to help the downtrodden. So, I go feed the homeless every Sunday. And I can't help but be moved. I try to love God that way. And God uses the homeless to love me back.
I suspect that your way to experience that love is by working with the clinic. Any stories on that front?

Jimbo said...

Carrie, I truly do understand what your saying. I also appreciate what Matt and Jamie had to say.
One thought that comes to my mind is how difficult it is to feel love for someone we don't see or don't know. And when I say know, I don't mean a head knowledge of knowing them, like I Barak Obama, but a connection sort of know, like I know my kids, my wife, friends and others I have a connection to. How do we have that kind of connecton with God?
I know people from my past would have said, "well, you read your bible so you can know him more" or "pray and speak to him". Problem is, I don't feel like either of them help me to know him more.
I feel like Matt and Jamie are on the right track tho. Maybe it isn't so much about trying to figure out who God is so we can love him more. Maybe it is more about seeing those around us and trying to love them. Maybe the only way we can have "a true heart connection to God's redemption, grace, and mercy in a practical and real sense" is by trying to love those around us. Particularly those that are hard to love.

Thorn-67 said...

At the risk of sounding like the church lady...I want to share a 'scripture' (gasp) that popped into my head almost immediately after reading Carrie's post and the responses so far.
Beloved...let us love one another for love is of GOD and everyone that loves is born of GOD and knows GOD. He who does not love does not know GOD for GOD is love.
Maybe this is the beginning?
I cannot identify with the concept of loving God in the same context I love and am loved by my family and friends.
The only way I can conceive of even remotely expressing authentic love towards God is thru loving others...and more specifically as Jamie mentioned, serving...pouring out to bless and know another. In this way I believe I am loving God.
The only other identifiable way I have ever felt love towards God is in the way Matt referenced-
"The things you love and enjoy are a part of God. Our family, nature, music or whatever it is for each of us that touchs us so deeply is showing us God in a very real way."
Moments where I experience deep and overwhelming, connection, laughter and love are moments I feel God.

Matt said...

Great scripture reference Joy. I actually printed out 1 John 4:7-21 and have carried it with for the past several weeks and tried to read it daily or when it seems appropriate. Another great piece of sripture is 1 Corinthians 4-8: "Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!" This has helped me to love those around me which has helped me feel the love of God.

carrie said...

I really appreciate all your responses and knowing I'm not the only one who has struggled with this. I have wondered whether the love I feel toward my family and friends and creation and other stuff can only be there because God is love to begin with. As far as stories from the clinic, I can only say that I always felt a sense of peace and belonging when I volunteered I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Maybe that's feeling God's pleasure? I don't know.
My tendency is to want a checklist to make sure I'm on the right track with things. It used to be: go to church, tithe, serve in a ministry, daily devotions, etc. My fear is that I will just replace those things with: give money to the poor, recycle, volunteer, etc. But it will still be a checklist. Does that make sense?
I so badly want a quick fix to this, but I have a feeling that none is on the horizon for me. Thanks for working it out with me for however long it takes.

maventheavenger aka jamie said...

It sounds to me like the clinic is the right place for you to spend time right now. I would encourage you to spend more time there.

Arizona Bam said...

Wonderful post, Carrie. I'm really glad you've articulated your current feelings here so that we can all wrestle with this tension together.

You can count me in as one who faces many of the same "hang-ups." To me, it seems that this season that we're in is a necessary transition away from the old perception we had of what it meant to be a Christian. I think I mentioned this at one of our gatherings a few weeks ago, but I've found it somewhat "stabilizing" to very purposefully re-characterize my spirituality: Rather than having an overwhelming drive to be/do what is "RIGHT," I am resolved to have an encompassing hope to be/do what is "LOVE." For me, the distinction here is that to be love is to live with a direction... a dynamic, flowing, journeying, challenging, spontaneous, humbling direction. Conversely, to center a life around being "right" is to live within the checklists that you've mentioned.

I completely agree that the "checklist-lifestyle" is a serious temptation on both sides of the spectrum (I think that was also a great illustration made by Claiborne in his Irresistible Revolution). And I'll also admit that the concept of orienting my life/spirituality as a direction rather than successive checkpoints has been a real challenge. Our information and achievement-based culture has not exactly prepared us to be comfortable with ambiguity... with unknowns... with mystery and wonder. But I think I'm also learning that it is in this place that we find faith. Faith in God not primarily because we understand his systematic theology and his 5 point plan for healthy/prosperous living, but faith in our Maker because we are increasingly seeing His redemption, radical power, and world-changing love. Faith because we need Him and hope in Him instead of faith because we fully understand Him and have our resulting golden-ticket.

Anyway, back to the issue at hand... so how to love this God? I'm still trudging through this as well, but I think there's an element of freedom that is helpful to acknowledge. To piggy-back on the great points raised by Matt, the notion that there really is no such thing as "secular," and thus God is in everything is so simple, yet so HUGE to fathom (or as Rob Bell's speaking tour was titled a few years ago, Everything is Spiritual). We all experience moments of ecstasy, wonder, and truth in our lives... both momentous and fleeting: looking your newborn baby in the eyes for the first time, tasting a phenomenal meal, resting in the comfort of a lover, or seeing compassion completely alter another life for the better. These moments are God. We enjoy these and we are enjoying God. We are loving God. Of course our depth of understanding of this love, I think, matures and evolves as we age, but the reality of this love is built-in to who we are. It's like breathing. Maybe there's some freedom in knowing that it's happening all the time despite our understanding or our efforts, and that we are enabled to use our heart, mind, soul, and strength to explore this love with God...

I dunno... enough rambling from me.

trishasuzanne said...

Carrie, I an completely relate to your post. And I've enjoyed reading everyone's responses. I certainly gain a lot of insight and understanding from your thoughts!

Something that kept popping into my head during Sunday's conversation and that I've continued to go back to since, is the idea of Peter denying Jesus three times. Imagine, the man who was closest to Jesus and witnessed Jesus' teachings and healings first hand, could not be faithful to the Lord when the stakes were high. But what does Jesus do? He continues to love Peter -- so much so that Peter uses this love to go on and help build the church.

Okay, I'm challenging Joy for the church lady position here. But my point is, I am overwhelmed at the way Jesus loves all of his awkard, hard-headed disciples that just don't seem to "get it." And again, these are people who are in the moment with Jesus -- who can hear him, see him, touch him! I am overwhelmed at the way God continues to love me even when I don't "feel it." Or when I don't feel like I love him. Or when I deny him slowly and subtly, like I am sure I do often do.

I guess that only touches on a small part of this discussion, but it certainly gives me hope of God's faithfulness despite our own.

Sarah said...

Carrie, thank you so much for being so open about this. I feel as if I could have written this exact post - but I have been too chicken to even really admit to myself that I'm feeling confused about whether I really LOVE God or I just intellectually appreciate him. No words of wisdom here - but companionship, as I'm in the same boat. Thanks for being brave enough to say it.

Matt said...

Trisha's comment reminded me of a story Rob Bell told about a meeting he went to. Bishop Desmond Tutu was there and relayed the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. After the three of them are thrown into the furnace someone notices four people in flames. Bishop Tutu's point was that God is with us, craves a relationship with us and will follow us to ends of the Earth if need be. Again I want to point out that this is a process. I feel closer to God now than I did two years ago but I know I have a long way to go. One thing I feel God has been reminding me of again and again recently is to have patience. I wake up each morning and try to remember to place my day in God's hands and see where it takes me.

D L said...

Carrie wrote "I so badly want a quick fix to this...."

This would imply Carrie that you are broken or, your relationship with God is broken. Neither are true.

You are a marvelous individual!

Your relationship with God has changed but that doesn't mean it is broken. Quite the opposite.. you and your family, many people in truth, are on a journey. That journey is significantly different from what we were taught as children to expect and, as adults, what we have come to understand & gain comfort from. (Comfort equals check list of things.) Perhaps what is truely broken is the "comfort"... knowing that as I say that, I am pointing a huge finger at my very comfortable self.

What's important here is you are aware of the journey and, based upon your post I sense you truely do seek to love God.

The last chapter in Exiles touches a bit on loving God... what it means, what it looks like etc.

Thanks for posting... this will be a fun thing to pick up on Sunday!