Thursday, February 5, 2009

Tween the Pit and the Pendulum; Finding Balance

I woke up the other night in a cold sweat. Maybe it was the fog filtering in through our bedroom window from nearby Puget Sound. But I had a strong feeling that it was from an internal source. I was feeling guilty about something. Those detached guilt feelings can sometimes be of substance (where your subconscious is trying to tell you something based in reality) and sometimes it a manifestation of our messed up psyche in this fallen world. I mean I can be depressed for no reason, why not feel guilty for no reason.

But if my guilt, this time, has a source it is that I think I’ve ridden my cynicism too far on the pendulum . . . or at least the perception of my cynicism. It is a tempting pit, to be cynical. The reason is, when you feel that you are all alone (if you discount the few friends that you’ve found in cyberspace who see things from your perspective) the tendency is to constantly see things that bug you and things you want to speak out about (like my posting about my old Campus Crusade fiend getting arrested for child porn, or Ted Haggard).

Now at this point I will say that my cynicism it is truly a misperception. The reason that I say that is because I am far more of an optimist than my Evangelical counterparts. I do lean in the Post-mil direction, theologically. I honestly think that the world is better today than it was 100 years ago. I think it is much better today than 500 years ago and it is tremendously better today than 2000 years ago. On top of that, I think things are going to get better and better. I do believe that the gates of Hell will not stand up against the advance of the Church and I have great hope about that.

When I mentioned this perspective in our Church Sunday school class a couple of years ago, our head elder (who usually thinks I’m a flake) responded, “No one in their right mind would think that things are better now.” He is like most in the American Evangelical world that believes that Christians are being heavily persecuted today and it’s only going to get worse until Jesus returns (pre-mil) then it will be Hell on earth.

Sorry. I actually do believe that we can obtain peace in the Middle East and when I say that in a Church setting, most people roll their eyes. Maybe I’m a Jimmy Carter Christian. Evangelicals think I haven’t read the End-Times script. So that is one problem of my perceptions.

I am also seen as a Christian Materialist, if there were such a thing. I never throw the term “miracle” loosely, like I hear among my Christian friends. I had two close calls on the highway this week, but I don’t believe that an angel literally came down and stopped me form crashing into the stopped car in front of me. I don’t believe that God literally changed the laws of Newtonian physics just for me so I would not crash. I think you can explain it entirely from a cause and effect scenario.

However, while I think the vast majority of “miracles” that I hear about in church or as I sit on the board of a local youth ministry, are just wishful thinking or embellishments, I am more of a miracle believer than most. I’ve shared this quote from Einstein before, “There are two ways to live your life - one is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle.” I honestly believe everything is a miracle. I mean if you use the term “natural” like most people mean it (outside of God’s working) then the only natural thing is absolutely NOTHING. Before God did his creative act (miracle) there was NOTHING. Everything this side of absolute NOTHING, is a miracle. So the existence of the planet is a miracle. The existence of Newton’s laws of physics is a miracle. So if my car stopped due to the coefficient of friction between my brake pad and the wheel disk and between the rubber of my tire and the asphalt of the road is within God’s domain not outside of it. I don’t have to make up something about angels to be speaking in miraculous terms.

So part of my guilt is what I feel as my perceived negative attitude. I do want to clean up my act and try, without falling into the game-playing act, to put a positive spin on my hesitations.

I also am feeling some guilt about my lack of time reading scripture. I’ve been reading books more than ever by not scripture. There was twenty years of my life where I spent hours each week in Bible study. But I’m not sure if I was better off then. I mean, when I was with the Navigators, we memorized scripture all the time, had 30 minute devotions every morning plus hours in Bible study . . . but we used the Bible like a Ouija Board. I mean, one word could catch your attention, a word that had nothing to do with the original intent of the writer, but we believed (in a Gnostic way) that it has special meaning for us.

During my years of really searching, after my Navigator days, was my best time in scripture. But I’ve lost all enthusiasm about it. I think it is the remaining bad taste in my mouth from the Nav – Ouijabible days. But in that way, the Pendulum may have traveled too far and it is time to find a balance. So I hope to spend some time reading scripture again.


craig v. said...

Should we agree, then, that we can't determine how far we've gone down the elevator simply be the bleakness of our views? There's great potential for self deception in both optimism and pessimism.

MJ said...

The question I have, am I an eternal pessimist or optimist?

steve martin said...

I wouldn't worry about it.

The Christian life is not like some sort of 'spiritual escalator' as many believe.

But rather a roller coaster ride of great ups and downs.

Hang in there, this too shall pass ( the good and the bad)

craig v. said...

I ask the same question of myself. I'm very analytical, so I know I sound like a pessimist. Yet I do enjoy our Lord and the life he has given me. Perhaps Steve is right. We go up and down no matter which side we find ourselves on.

Anonymous said...

be anything but a cynic. there is no ability to love or grow from a basis of cynicism.