Faith Alone

I struggle with the idea of ‘faith alone,’ because it’s hard to believe I don’t have to do anything to earn my salvation but have faith. It seems as if there are an awful lot of rules that can be broken that would eliminate me as a candidate for righteousness.

The book of James in particular has troubled me. For example:

James 1:22: ‘But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.’

So, we have to be doers? What about Ephesians 2:7-8?

‘For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—’

I think I found something that makes sense to me in Jeremiah:

‘This is what the LORD says: Look, I am presenting to you the way of life and the way of death. 9 Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine, and plague, but whoever goes out and surrenders to the Chaldeans who are besieging you will live and will retain his life like the spoils of war’

First, God here presents to this people the way of death and life. He is exceedingly fair. He shows them their choices: death or life.

How do you know the believers? They are the ones out of the city. I think it’s like like having fruit. Jesus says, “16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Matthew 7:16. Good fruit grows when the tree is well tended by the farmer. The idea of faith alone is one that giants in the faith wrestle with, and I know I do, but sometimes a simple illustration helps me to understand it a little better.

The Holy Bible: Holman Christian standard version. (2009). (Je 21:8–9). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.

The Holy Bible: Holman Christian standard version. (2009). (Eph 2:7–8). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Jas 1:22). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Faith Alone

Words Are Important

I could read at a young age and I have always loved reading. I think reading benefited me in a few ways, and perhaps cursed me as well.

For me, words can be quite precise. I often search for a word with the nuance that will commute the meaning to others exactly the way I intend them to be interpreted.

When I want to say something positive, I try to convey my thoughts in the exact, effusive way I intend them. I want my erudition to mean something.

When I want to say something negative, I try to dispatch said information in several ways. First, if correcting someone’s sciolism, I try to be propitious. I don’t want to pain someone who is sincere. I evaluate their audacity to the best of my potentiality.

And finally, malevolent comments, I handle them one of four ways. First, I can respond in kind. Second, I can respond in a remonstrance fashion. Third, I can use euphemism to diffuse the situation. Finally, I can be passive aggressive.

I have to identify my motives and do the right thing.

Words Are Important

Shyness

I was watching a program today and a woman said ‘shyness is not one of her problems.’ That made me think. It is very true that people do not want to be shy. I think it’s harder to get a job when you are shy.  I think it’s harder to get a mate. I think it’s harder to make friends. So yes, there are a lot of problems with being shy.

There hasn’t been a time when I felt I wasn’t shy, but there are times when I didn’t feel it was a liability. When I first got sober, within a year I had a lot of friends, I was comfortable in groups, and I was able to not just speak in AA meetings, but actually share.

I was able to find jobs, but there was always a mention of my shyness. It was worse than normal, as evidenced by my boss introducing himself and me at the same time we were going around the  rooms with introductions. I was glad he did it.

Right now I embrace my shyness. I have even spoken up and said to people right up front that I’m socially awkward. I don’t like being shy, but I don’t have to be ashamed of it. It actually feels kind of good that I don’t have to fight to be someone I’m not.

Lots of alcoholics have social anxiety. You know, the type to drink to be comfortable in social situations. There is a percentage of time in AA spent talking about how to manage social situations where there is drinking.

I’m  not alone!

Shyness

Laws and Rules

For most of my life, I tried to keep God’s law. I think everybody wants to avoid doing bad things. Most everybody.

I have known for a long time that as a human, I sin. I also knew that I cannot save myself. So I did trust in the work of Christ to save me, but I lived sin to sin.

In the past 2 years, I have come to a deeper understanding, that Christ already paid for my sins. I don’t have to live sin to sin. Every day I can walk deeper and deeper into Christ’s love.

I have everything I need to live a righteous life. There was a whole world of information God gave us in the life of Christ. I have always focused on the Cross, and that is important, but also important is the life of Christ which is a testament to how to live a good life.

I want to tap into this life now more than ever.

In Psalm 119:19 it says:

I am a stranger on earth;
do not hide Your commands from me.

This psalmist recognizes that God’s laws are good things and beneficial in living a meaningful life.

I do want to live a meaningful life.

Laws and Rules

Seeking (2)

So, at this point, a person understands that it’s important to incorporate a Higher Power into their spirit and mind. But they do not believe and they don’t see how it is possible to believe.

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous has a whole chapter related to this. ‘We Agnostics‘ is the fifth chapter. The link here is for the .pdf version of text.

Essentially, one must recognize that perhaps half of our membership had difficulty with the spiritual part of the program. I believe the problem is that a) the person doesn’t want to change, b) they have an authority issue. Either way, a person has to get to the point where they will do anything to stay sober.

The Big Book puts it like this: We found that as soon as we were able to lay aside prejudice and express even a willingness to believe in a Power greater than ourselves, we commenced to get results, even though it was impossible for any of us to fully define or comprehend that Power, which is God.

Some refer it as ‘becoming willing to be willing.’

So you have willingness. At this point, say a prayer. It can go like this: ‘God, I do not know if you exist. I want to stop drinking (or using), and I am unable. I need a power to help me. Please reveal yourself to me.’ Pray this every day. Go to meetings and share. Don’t drink and go to a meeting every day.

It might be difficult, and you might struggle with your belief. Make a decision to believe regardless of how you feel. Many times in my Christian walk, I have prayed ‘God I don’t have any feeling that you are there, I’m hopeless and I am choosing to believe you are there and you want good things for me.’

People claim they have no faith. According to the Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life, think about the ways in which you exercise faith every day. You have faith the sun will rise. You have faith that there will be water in your home. You have faith that your tires will work, that your bank will be open, and that the mail will come. Sometimes these things don’t happen, but they happen often enough that you do not say ‘The mail didn’t come! I don’t believe it will ever come again!’ Think of that when  you have a spiritual crisis and don’t ‘feel’ God’s presence.

Imagine if you went to bed and you didn’t believe the bed frame would hold you even though it always had and nothing had occurred to make you think it wouldn’t. So you get in bed and you worry that it will fall. You lay there bracing yourself against it falling. You don’t get a good night’s sleep.

Now imagine your relationship with God. You start to worry he doesn’t exist. You start to collect data to maintain your lack of belief. You stop seeking Him because it’s pointless. What can He do?

So, it’s the willingness to seek him. In the New Testament of the Bible, Mark 9:17-24, There is a brilliant story of a man grappling with belief.

17 Out of the crowd, one man answered Him, “Teacher, x I brought my son to You. He has a spirit y that makes him unable to speak. z 18 Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I asked Your disciples to drive it out, but they couldn’t.”
19 He replied to them, “You unbelieving a generation! How long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to Me.” 20 So they brought him to Him. When the spirit saw Him, it immediately convulsed the boy. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. 21 “How long has this been happening to him?” Jesus asked his father.
“From childhood,” he said. 22 “And many times it has thrown him into fire or water to destroy b him.
But if You can do anything, have compassion c on us and help us.”
23 Then Jesus said to him, “ ‘If You can’? d e Everything is possible f to the one who believes.” g
24 Immediately the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe! Help my unbelief.”

That is ME! It is probably every believer. There is the willingness, the acknowledgment that we need God, and the request for God’s help in believing.

The willingness is key.

Seeking (2)

Looking for God

‘God could and would if he were sought.’

The words that conclude every reading of ‘How it Works’ at the beginning of AA meetings around the world. The assertion that we need a god, that he alone can heal our alcoholism. And that God could and would if he were sought.

The Higher Power gig is difficult for many people. What I have found is that the refusal or inability to rely on a power greater than oneself is the greatest stumbling block to sobriety.

As a Christian, I know to the core that God will help relieve my alcoholism if I seek Him. I haven’t always believed that He wanted to.

The thing is, while people do stumble on the higher power aspect of sobriety, it doesn’t say that you have to believe or that you have to find the right one. It doesn’t say you need to be perfect or good. What it says is that God can and will if we seek Him.

The journey is all about seeking him. People who aren’t willing to do the seeking, they won’t find God and God can’t help them. It is just the seeking. The honest effort.

Bottom line. People who don’t want to give an honest effort don’t want to be sober.

My next post will be about seeking.

Looking for God

Furlough

I created a nice post today on Agnosticism, and I accidentally deleted it. I have work to do, so I will have to work on it tomorrow. It’s a really cool post, you won’t want to miss it.

In the meantime, my friends in Brazil and the United States who loyally follow me, thank you for reading my posts.

Furlough

Energy

I mentioned the AA promises in a previous post. I have been experiencing one of the promises in a different way and want to share what it is.

For a long time, I have noticed that I share more information than I ask. I am self-centered to be sure. I think everybody wants to know what’s going on with me all the time. That is why I have this blog you see. So everybody can see what is going on with me all the time.

Social media kind of feeds this self-centeredness. You can follow a whole person’s life online if you want to. We share things online that we couldn’t say face to face. We video tape and take photos of ourselves in ways we don’t want anybody to see, and then cry foul when it is displayed for the world to see.

The AA promise I’m seeing come true is: We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.

I’m finding myself increasingly interested in what my friends and family are doing and going through. I want to know what their children are doing. I want to hear about their dogs and cats.

I find myself talking about my life dispassionately. No motive, no agenda. I don’t want them to feel sorry for me or console me or give me attention. What has happened, has happened. I don’t think I feel so sorry for myself now. I’m in a good place. I am glad for things being the way they are.

Feeling the way I do means I don’t have to use a lot of words to describe things to people. I don’t need a thousand examples because I’m not trying to prove anything.

I’m interested in how other people live. How they cope. How they have designed their lives. What they are interested in and why.

People have a lot to offer if you give them a chance.

Energy

Leftover People

When I was in high school I read a book in which the mother pushed the daughter to be social. Popular. She said, ‘Geri, you don’t want to be friends with a lot of leftover people.’

I didn’t ever really think I was a leftover person, but I did harbor prejudice toward people who seemed odd in any way. That’s what kids do in middle school. Everybody is concerned with looking ok and traumatized if they don’t. They are picked on. It really is a horrible rite of passage. It knocked the wind out of me, and I don’t think I’ve caught up with it.

What I have figured out is that I do want to be friends with the leftover people. Leftover people are tougher than other kids. They are more resilient, and they have compassion for others. They value friendship more.

I am not saying that the cheerleaders are vapid necessarily. It is dangerous to stereotype people. But it is true that Jesus is a God for misfit people. We are quite hard on the tax collectors and prostitutes, but the fact that they committed the sins for which they were held responsible doesn’t mean they thought it was ok. Jesus said:

Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you!

The Holy Bible: Holman Christian standard version. (2009). (Mt 21:31). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.

We shun people because we don’t understand. Yet, they have a bigger blessing from the Lord because he forgives them more. That is, they have more to forgive.

They aren’t as lovely as the beautiful people. The beautiful people are more attractive. They look good, they are shiny and appear to have wonderful lives that others want to have. Historically, I have wanted to be friends with people like this.

Nowadays, though, I want to be friends with the fat, graying, stuttering, alcoholic. Someone who knows how to suffer and survive. How to stay sober. How to have endurance. Someone humble.

It’s not lowering my standards, it is just a deepening appreciation for those who aren’t as shiny as the rest.

Leftover People

Good men doing nothing.

Over the years, as I did things that fell under scrutiny, I started to withdraw.

I don’t know when exactly it was, but for sure, it was among neighbors. You see, my oldest son was a pistol. He was very difficult, if impossible to control. For a long time, actually, I wasn’t able to establish my authority over him. So, when he began acting out, it annoyed the neighbors that I did nothing about it.

They didn’t tell me until it all blew up in a most unfortunate way. So, hurt and upset, I withdrew. I avoided them, I avoided situations where I would be compelled to have a public disagreement with my son in which I was unlikely to win.

I helped out with my daughter’s Girl Scouts. I was tentative. I wasn’t sure what my role was, I didn’t know what I should be doing, and the troop leader became frustrated with me. Our relationship ended.

The last couple of years of my marriage, I withdrew from anything in which I was criticized, I felt incompetant, I had to be in public, or in which I had to engage with other people

For years and years my former husband expressed frustration with me. There were many ways in which that was valid, but I did the best I could…I don’t take criticism well, and the more I received, the more frozen I became. It was a horrible, endless cycle….it felt like I was in a whirlpool going down a drain. It was inevitable.

I will always have challenges, and it feels to me as if I have to work harder than regular people, but I have faith that it will become easier if I really lean on God and prayer to get me past the things that have kept me stuck.

So I am reading ‘Discipleship’ by Bonhoeffer. This whole post came together as I read the forward. What I hope you get as you read this is that Bonhoeffer got angry at the church for doing nothing. God calls us to do something. I think most would agree that the Christian Church in Germany during the reign of Hitler did the wrong thing by not doing anything. Not doing anything is the same as allowing the wrong thing to happen when you could do something about it.

‘Discipleship, more so than any of his other writings, reveals a Bonhoeffer who, with uncommonly vehement language, gave vent to his anger and frustrations at the failure of Christians and their churches to react with prophetic force against the entrenched injustices of the Nazi government. Bonhoeffer’s ire shaped the harsh rhetoric with which he described what he sensed was a lethal combat between the forces of Christ and those of Satan, between the kingdom of God and the world now become Satan’s realm, between the Spirit who frees the human will for faith and the bondage of one’s flesh to the appeal of a malevolent dictator.’

Bonhoeffer, D. (2003). Discipleship. (B. Green & R. Krauss, Trans., M. Kuske, I. Tödt, G. B. Kelly, & J. D. Godsey, Eds.) (Vol. 4, pp. 19–20). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press./

Good men doing nothing.