The Armor of Pretentious Spirituality & the Shield of Piousness
I do think people are dishonest in general about their ‘spirituality.’
I have to agree with him. And I can’t help wonder why that is.
This statement forced me to look at my own spirituality. I like to think that I’m rather “real” when it comes to my Christian life. Too often I’m frustrated by people who try to act like they have it all together just because they have Jesus in their lives and I’m always comparing myself mercilessly to people who seem particularly pious and pray and read their Bibles all the time.
On the contrary, I also look at the people who practice yoga religiously or listen to the teachings of Eckhart Tolle and wonder if they’ve discovered some inner peace that I still find myself seeking.
So I’ve come to the conclusion that we all put on a front to some extent. There are days (perhaps sometimes weeks!) when I’ve got this spiritual connection going, some amazing mountaintop relationship with God and I really am a prayer warrior and in touch with a power greater than myself.
Then there are days (and weeks!) that go by when I don’t pray, get angry with God, feel lost as though I’m stumbling through life just trying to life in the physical, and going through the motion of attending church because it’s what I do and not necessarily because I want to. (Is that right to do? No.)
So it’s time for me to strip off the armor of pretentious spirituality and put down the shield of piousness:
- I do not go to church every Sunday. Catholic guilt plagues me afterward but it’s true. I like my sleep more than I like fellowshipping or worshipping with the saints.
- I do not formally pray every day. If I pray at all, it might be a quick “Lord, please make this migraine go away” but I don’t get down on my knees every night regularly and pray for my family, your family, everyone’s needs, and world peace. I sometimes formally pray but more often than not, I don’t. And more often than not, I forget. And even more often than that, I just don’t want to.
- I take the Lord’s name in vain occasionally. (Sorry for the following, God.) I’ve caught myself saying a “Lord have mercy” or “Oh my, God” when it’s not necessary or directed to God. It doesn’t happen often and I try to get around it by saying “Heaven, have mercy” but that just sounds silly afterward.
- I do not like to fellowship with other believers on most days. Some Christians love nothing more than good Christian fellowship all the time. Great for them. I prefer to be alone or around unbelievers. For some reason, I feel the need to pretend like everything’s fine around other Christians. Going to Bible study this summer was heart-wrenching for me as I spent month after month discovering I was not pregnant and not feeling like I could really share that with a group of women who were pregnant or already had kids (for the most part). I always left Bible study feeling worse off than when I arrived so I stopped going or helped with childcare.
- Reading tons of theological books does not make me a theological maven. I’m reading three books on theology, God’s love, and the Bible and I feel more filled with head knowledge and no closer to any heart knowledge. I wonder if a return to the basics of Jesus Christ and the removal of deep reformed theology from my brain would help but I don’t know how to go back.
- I wonder if non-Christians have it better than I do. Hate on Deepak Chopra all you want but the man doesn’t complain about unhappiness. And Oprah seems to be doing all right…
- I question my own beliefs:
- Jesus ascended into heaven bodily? Um, wouldn’t he explode once he reached a certain altitude?
- Jesus is returning and after that, no more sin and world peace? When? Will it ever happen? Is that just a fairy tale?
- It’s wrong to romantically love someone who is of the same gender?
- God created Ryan Seacrest? (Just kidding.)
- I question God’s purpose for me. Constantly. Why am I here? I mean, me specifically. You have a different purpose than I do. What am I supposed to accomplish before I die? Is the afterlife really peaceful?
- And the most basic question of all: Am I a person who really, truly loves Jesus and would sacrifice ALL to follow him?
The answer to that last question is no. And if you’re reading this, you’re probably answering similarly if you’re honest with yourself. By the way, if you still think you’d sacrifice all to follow Jesus then let me challenge you do to this right now:
Sell your house,
Sell your SUV,
Sell your stock,
Sell your security,
And give it to the poor.¹
Won’t do/haven’t done that? Yeah, your answer’s the same as mine.
Perhaps the way back to genuinely following Christ is to strip off the facades we wear. Maybe if I showed up at church and asked someone how he was doing and he responded honestly, “A tough week but I’m hanging in there” rather than the standard “Just fine,” perhaps we’d exhibit a bit more Christ-likeness.
I love Mark Driscoll’s ministry and I think he’s done a lot to reach others for Christ in the 21st century, but the machismo thing bothers me. Sorry, I can’t quite picture Jesus going to Monday Night RAW or cheering on guys beating each other senseless in the UFC. On the contrary (which is probably Driscoll’s real point), I don’t think Jesus would’ve been a pansy flower child flashing the peace sign and getting high in the middle of a muddy field.
Jesus is the sovereign Lord of the universe. During his time on earth, he exhibited emotion and didn’t pretend to be something he was not. When Lazarus died, the Lamb of God felt the real sting of death and wept for his friend (before resurrecting him!). When money changers were desecrating the temple of God, Jesus displayed righteous anger in preserving a sanctuary that was supposed to be kept holy. And right before Jesus faced the cruelest death anyone could face, fear flowed through his body as he pleaded three times with his heavenly Father to take the task at hand away from him (before submitting himself to God’s will).
Wow. Sadness, anger, and fear. All from the one whom Christians call their Savior. Jesus didn’t pretend to be okay. Jesus wasn’t all macho like, “Yo, dudes, I got this. No sweat.” Not even with the apostles, his closest friends, who he asked to stay up with him before Judas betrayed him. Jesus was real.
And if Jesus was real, why do believers in him keep acting so damn fake?
¹Quoted from Derek Webb’s “Rich Young Ruler”