I have a friend who calls herself a “spiritual healer”. She believes in the power of rainbows, positive thinking, crystals, chakras, meditation, spirit guides and star power. I’ll confess – most of the time I have no idea what she’s talking about – she spends a lot of time focusing on “soul talk” and “rainbow blessings” – but hidden behind the funny way she talks and her hippie ways is a very genuine compassionate heart.
The other day, she told me about a little girl who she counseled recently, who’s parents are divorced and who was struggling with fear and depression. The healer told me plainly and sincerely that all she could do was tell the child that she wasn’t alone – she looked at me with pain etched deeply into her face: “that’s all I could say,” she said, “I didn’t have any answers and I didn’t know what to tell her, other than I am so, so sorry.”
I couldn’t remember the last time one of my fellow Christians reacted to a tragedy that way – with so much love and compassion, carrying the pain for another.
While I was fresh off of my visit with my friend the spiritual healer (I’m teaching her how to blog about her life, so I get to hear a lot of her stories) my hubs and I went to a wedding. Like us, they are Christians, and we expected the wedding to be packed with meaning, speaking about this life-changing faith that we hold and the crazy things it makes us do, like marry someone for life or act in a selfless way.
To my surprise, the ceremony was full of cutesy stories about their love and very little about their faith – despite church being referenced frequently, it was billed more as a social club than a life-altering belief system. The best man’s speech was all about the proverbial ball and chain, and it was met with hoots and guffaws instead of the stony silence I would expect from a religious crowd’s beliefs being so insulted. We ate cake and danced and it was all very sweet, but it didn’t mean anything, or so it felt. It didn’t have the sort of depth one would expect from a ceremony founded on a serious belief system – rather it smacked of thoughtless tradition – of hanging stockings by the fire because that’s what one does this time of year and for no more noble purpose.
So, this makes me pause. What, exactly is our faith? Is my life forever altered because I joined a church instead of a racquetball club? Am I simply an ardent lover of “community” and pretending to know all the answers, or has my life really been overtaken by a force that is much larger than anything I can dream up? Why is it that I serve – is it like the Lion’s Club – I like feeling good, doing good, being good – or is it because I believe in a God who restores and a love that saves?
I’m a passionate believer, and I often wonder why others aren’t. I wonder why Christianity doesn’t sweep the world, why it isn’t easier to invite friends to church – and I’m realizing to my chagrin that the collective billing is often the problem. I am content with my social club version of Christianity, where we talk about living “missionally” and “outreach” and don’t do much more than talk to each other. We like our friends and insider language – and we’re not even radical enough to make our outsider friends notice the difference – we switch our faith on and off depending on who we’re with. The minute someone starts to make a difference in the world – as a mechanic, barista, salesman or lawyer of faith – he or she is co-opted into the church staff, sucked into an all-too-safe environment and shielded from the very people we are called to live amongst.
In thinking about this, I’m conflicted. I don’t think I need to start sandwich-boarding it up on the street corner, but I do need to be a bit more honest. I love my spiritual healer friend because she’s willing to admit she doesn’t have answers and she loves others passionately, and the wedding fell flat because even though the couple had a life-transforming savior, they weren’t willing to share Him.
What I tell people I believe is this: that I serve the God of the universe and the savior of the world. It’s a terrifying thing to think that I’ve reduced him to a social club, a do-gooder society or a weekend activity.