Monday, October 6, 2008

My Lack Of Faith Is Disturbing

I've been reading (and re-reading) the new book "Acedia" by Kathleen Norris, and I've pretty much decided that it's exactly what ails me. I haven't been particularly religious in a very long time, not since my Sunday School teacher confirmed the worst about Santa. Because it's not a very long leap for an 8-year old to wonder, well, if they're lying about Santa and the Easter Bunny, is all this God and Jesus stuff just a bunch of bunk too?

For quite some time, it has felt like God just stopped listening. Tim, one of my coworkers back in Memphis, often used to say that sometimes, God says no. I'm at the point where I don't even think he's saying no anymore. No matter what decisions I make based on what I believe to be "right" based on my Christian upbringing, whether it be moving into my sister's house out of a sense of family duty, or loving someone (however imperfectly I may communicate it) because of who he is, not because I need him to rescue me; well, it all just blows up in my face.

I wonder what the difference is between hope, faith, and wishing. I feel like there's a difference, however subtle, between the three, and it's too easy for me to confuse them. Sometimes "wishing" feels like faith, until the wish doesn't come true. Is that a test of faith? or is that simply not getting what you want? And what's the difference between not getting what you hope for and God saying no? Either way, I'm schlumping around the house in my pj's wondering how I managed to yet again get everything so completely wrong.

Or, to quote Stephen Schwartz, "Wishing only wounds the heart".**

Oddly, the cure for acedia is faith, which is the very thing that I am lacking. Norris writes (somewhere, I can't find the exact quote at the moment) that wanting something with our whole heart and soul, that desire, can help us out of acedia...but honestly, it seems to me the wanting is the problem. The more I want something, the less available it becomes. The Buddhists of course would argue that's exactly the trouble, and encourage me to practice letting go, to practice detachment. Every time I try to meditate, though, the cat comes along and yowls at me, or tries to use me as a scratching post, or decides that is the exact time of day he needs a good belly rub. Or, I fall asleep.

I wish I could be one of those people who could just leave it all up to God, to trust that it will all sort out in time. Whenever I try to listen for God, though, He seems just as perplexed as I am. I get the impression He doesn't quite know what to do with me either. Meanwhile, I'm left to dive the wreck*, looking for clues as to what I should do, where I should go next. I'm trying to be thankful for all that I have, and all that I am, but it just doesn't seem to be pointing me in a productive direction. I'm looking for some sort of gigantic sign post - TURN LEFT HERE, so to speak. I suppose we are all doing this to some extent, but I keep winding up at dead ends, wondering how the hell I could have thought I was headed in the right direction. It's like I got the wrong map or something, y'know???

And isn't a map essentially what religion is? Isn't it basically directions and guideposts telling you how to get from point A to point B? And theoretically, if you follow the map, you get where you want to go, right? And if it doesn't, is it operator error? or is it that the map got misprinted, or is just plain wrong (as someone who has gotten erroneous directions from MapQuest on more than one occasion, let me just say that maps are indeed fallible)? Or, is God saying nope, sorry, wrong exit. Which, y'know, is perfectly reasonable, but I think that if God is going to redirect traffic, he really ought to provide new directions.

*how I do love a good Adrienne Rich reference
**and a good "Wicked" reference.

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