Those of you who know me in real life know that I have an aversion to religion and dogma. I can be counted among the people who get disgusted at the way so many people treat others across the world, supposedly in the name of their god(s)/religion(s)/whatever. Many people will draw the conclusion that I am not a person of faith because I find things like The Flying Spaghetti Monster memes hilarious, I read science fiction, and I love the movie Dogma. But in reality, nothing can be further from the truth. I’ve been a Christian – albeit a pretty darn bad one – my whole adult life. And I am intelligent enough to realize that the movie Dogma is not heresy, but instead is actually a love song to the church encouraging people to further their relationship with God.
But, as I said, I am a pretty bad Christian, as Christians go – because I have spent more time being angry with God the past few years than I have trying to work on my relationship with Him. And between some harsh experiences coming from religious people I know personally that I believe often do more harm than good for the church, and jokers like the Westboro Baptist Church lunatics, it’s just been a lot easier to treat God like he’s a disinterested third party just watching us play out our lunacy than an involved and interested party in my world.
That said, I am a seeker by nature. And there are a few people who have been placed in my life in recent years that are nudging me towards working on my spiritual health a little more. After all, I’m working on my body, which is a temple for the soul, but my soul is kind of broken right now too so it only makes sense to pay some attention to it too.
I was fortunate to spend the night before Easter with one of my favorite people, Kelly – my CrossFitting, blogging, Christian friend that I’ve grown to love dearly the last few months. Kelly knows what it is to be in a dark and depressing place due to the tragedies that come up in this crazy old life of ours, but found tremendous faith because of it. I am always interested to hear other people’s stories, so I asked her to tell me about how she came to Jesus and what she focuses on. I cannot do justice to her story, other than to say Kelly is a gorgeous girl that has never looked more ethereally beautiful than she did that night, sitting on my couch and talking to me about her faith.
One topic we discussed was the difference between what she used to think God was about before she became a Christian, and what she thinks now. She said that in the past, she viewed God as being very legalistic, not an entity to have a relationship with – though she certainly tried. But now, she is focused on the two commandments Jesus gave us in the book of Matthew – what is commonly referred to as The Great Command.
1) Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind
2) Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself
Kelly talked a little of her challenge doing it. To me it’s interesting to think about how out of all the hundreds of pages in the bible, most everything boils down to these two things at the end of the day. The Great Command is simple, but it is also very, very hard to keep.
For my part, I haven’t thought in depth about these two commandments in a really long time – but I sure have been since she left my house that night. I’ve come to the conclusion that I failing miserably. Let’s take them out of order…
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself
I am actually orders of magnitude better at this than I used to be. I have several friends that I’ve known for many years and still keep in contact with – some since elementary school, some since high school or college – and a lot of them would say I am a good friend. But the truth is, until a few years ago I was rather judgmental and unforgiving. I sometimes wonder if my husband was put in my path for a few years, and then taken from me specifically to help me develop my ability to empathize and love others. (For obvious reasons, this idea really, really pisses me off.) I think that as I get older, I am becoming a much better friend and much more loving – though I still struggle. In particular there are a few people that I have trouble loving because I feel they are judgmental. Yes, you got that right. I am being judgey about someone else’s judgey-ness. Sue me.
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind
When I think about this, I realize that I haven’t done much to foster loving the Lord lately. I am not an overly demonstrative person who wears my heart on my sleeve. You will probably never catch me proselytizing publicly, and it’s very rare for me to discuss my faith openly because it’s only as big as a mustard seed on a good day, and I haven’t had many good days lately. That’s just not my style – and often, verbal professions of faith turn people off. I’d rather be like my friend Rainy who is one of the most faithful people I have ever encountered – if ever anyone had the light of God shine through her, it’s Rainy – than just flap my jaws in a meaningless way like so many others do. But when I think about it, I realize I don’t have a clue how to keep this commandment, especially not in a way that feels true and real. I’m sure I can’t be the only person with this problem, but this isn’t a challenge that I have heard very many people talk about. So right now, all I can do is seek out people like Rainy and Kelly, who are imperfect but can still set an example for me, and try to learn from them. Hopefully this works, and I can find some help figuring this out along the way.