S/he Who Struggles

“I don’t like to be told what I should do.”

That’s what Pastor Phil told us on Tuesday night, and it rang true in my ears. In fact, the more I thought on it, the more I realized – not only do I not like being told what I should do, but I really dislike being told what I shouldn’t do, what I must not do, and especially, oooh, I especially dislike being told what I cannot do.

The church has a long history of telling us what we should do – it’s easy, after all, to read the prescription for a holy life straight out of the Bible. (Well, maybe not easy – have you tried to make sense of all the rules in Leviticus, or sort through all the names in the books of Chronicles? – but I digress.) It’s easier, I should say, to read the Bible as a rule book, than to experience it as God’s love letter.

The problem the church is finding, though, is that more and more, people are not responding to what they should do.

The American Christian Persecution Complex [ACPC] (as I like to call it, with credit to Rachel Evans) has an answer to why: Movies like God’s Not Dead pin the problem on atheist teachers and professors brainwashing young people into disbelief.

Yes, brainwashing us with their scientific facts and sound logical arguments. >.>

I can’t speak for my whole generation, but I can certainly tell you why I spent my entire childhood and young adult life as a confused agnostic (at best) and staunch atheist (at worst): It’s because, despite what the ACPC would have us believe, professors and atheists and scientists don’t brainwash – and they also have never told me what I should do or believe.

I admired (and continue to admire) atheists because they aren’t afraid to roll for disbelief (a lil’ D&D analogy there). They aren’t afraid to ask tough questions, to ask – to demand – the answer to the question that eats at the deepest regions of my heart: Why?

I admire scientists because they don’t presume to know or dictate how the world or humanity or even I, as an individual, should be – instead, they look at the way we are, and ask: How? How did this come to be? How does it stay like this? How can it be changed, and what happens if we do change it?

I admire my teachers and professors because they have never made the answers easy by simply giving them to me. They have challenged and encouraged me to question, seek, and above all, decide for myself what I should do and believe.

So you shouldn’t be surprised to discover that the first Bible story to really move me, to really connect to the deepest part of my heart, is the tale of Jacob, who wrestled all night (and truly, all his life) with God, and was blessed because of it. Jacob, who was renamed Israel (“he who struggles with God”) and became the father & namesake of God’s chosen people because of his willingness to truly engage with God.

Jacob didn’t simply ask what he should do. If he had, he would have remained the second son, and his family’s entire inheritance would’ve passed on to his brother. But instead, he questioned, he sought, he struggled, and he demanded the truth & his inheritance from God.

There’s a song that I love, that suddenly springs to mind: “Oh God let us be a generation that seeks, seeks your face, oh God of Jacob”

I believe that we truly are a generation in search of the God of Jacob. The God who challenges us to question, to seek, to struggle, and to find his truth within and for ourselves.

I don’t believe that most churches afford us that credit or opportunity though. And that’s where they lose us.

So give us clean hands
Give us pure hearts
Let us not lift our souls to another
And God let us be
A generation that seeks
Seeks your face
Oh God of Jacob
(Give Us Clean Hands)

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