A Miracle

Gliding along the currents of air,

I’m lifted by the light that shines on me.

Love permeates my being,

Like a spear piercing my side.

The nails are hammered through

My ragged wrists. I cry out,

My God, my God, why?

Have you forsaken me?

The dusk descends and they lower

My cross, loosen my body

And carry me to my tomb.

I stand on a mountaintop.

Throw yourself down!

God’s angels will save you.

Turn these stones into bread.

You are hungry. Go ahead.

Freedom! I am set free by God’s hand.

Risen at last and the tombstone

Is rolled away.

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Nothing Anymore

I came close,

Or at least I thought.

 

I prayed.

I read the Bible.

 

I went to church.

I worshipped “Someone”

 

Whom I believed to be God.

I “fellowshipped” with other believers,

 

Or I tried, anyway.

I read devotional books,

 

Yearning to improve

My spiritual relationships.

 

Over the years, it happened,

Slipping through my fingers,

 

I lost touch, I lost Him,

Then, nothing.

 

 

Carry on Tuesday #109

 

Sometimes I Freak, Part III

Sometimes I freak when I go to church. When you step into a church somehow you feel like you should be on your best behavior. That’s not really a Godly feeling or sentiment, since I believe that God accepts us exactly as we are, wherever we are, but that is how I was raised. In fact, growing up, my mother was ruthless in spurring me and my brother to get ready and stop goofing around on Sunday morning. What was important was looking good by being on time, behaving well, answering questions intelligently and in a spiritual way—basically, putting on a front. Lord knows my family was falling apart at the seams in every way, with my grandmother passing away, my parents’ separation and eventual divorce, and my mother’s undiagnosed mental illness. All was not well in the Bowman household. And those feelings come back to me today as I step through the doors of a church, any church, even one as positive, inclusive and accepting as mine. I wonder what deviant thoughts people suspect me of (well, actually, I am quite the skeptic), what deviant acts I am guilty of that separate me from other Christians and from God, what rebellion I am in that alienates me from the same. Going to church is something I want to do, but at the same time, I do struggle with these things every time, and it compromises my experience on the whole.

Sometimes I freak when I try to pray. Yes, God and I are not on the best of terms—haven’t been for a long time. In fact, except for when I pray with others—my wife at the dinner table and the occasional attempt at a weekly prayer partnership, my male prayer partner, something I initiated this year as an attempt to get closer to God because of my lack of an intimate relationship, and the occasional prayer with my Sunday School class and with the congregation in the sanctuary—I am not on speaking terms with God. I know after that enumeration of instances it doesn’t sound bad, but I guess I am a perfectionist, and I realize how far I am from any kind of daily routine which would bring me into any kind of genuine intimacy with God. Being alone with God is a frightening experience for me. Feelings of emotional and physical abuse from childhood along with visions of an angry Yahweh of the Old Testament conjure a being to be faced that is not the loving, caring Jesus that spoke to the disciples in the upper room that fateful night and told them that when we see him we have seen the Father, because he and the Father are one. When it’s just me and God (and I have to admit it is always the vengeful Father that I envision in my mind, not the gentle Jesus), I just freeze up. Gone are the soothing thoughts of “come to me ye who are weary, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light”. Instead it is a booming God that stares down at me and demands to know every sin I have committed and has come to punish me for them in some crazy sadistic way that makes me cringe and from which I yearn to escape. Not a great relationship, obviously.

Sometimes I freak when I open the Bible. I’ll admit, it’s intimidating. Yes, there is a lot of wisdom there. Yes, I believe it is divinely inspired. Yes, I believe there is potential for healing, instruction, direction, inspiration, grace, forgiveness—all that. But you know what else there is? God. He is there, waiting, behind those words. For what? I don’t know. But the potential scares me. I have read the entire Bible many times over, and if there is one thing I know for sure, there is power behind those words. And the thought of being overpowered, perhaps in a scary way, is what keeps me from those words. I have been overpowered, many times, in absolute terror, and I have run from figures of authority, figures who were supposed to be trustworthy caretakers, symbols of love and support, that have turned on me like a viper lunging for its prey. Is God like that? My intellect tells me no, but my heart, and my body, are not so sure. After all, if humans, blood, family, can be tyrannical, how much more can God? And there is something else—God is all powerful. Do I want to surrender myself to an all powerful tyrant? Do I want his thoughts to be my thoughts? No, not by a long shot.

A Religious Background

Well, let me say first off that I do have a long religious background. I was raised in the United Methodist Church in Miami, Florida. The interesting thing is, being raised in this church did not interfere whatsoever in me keeping an open mind and resisting stereotypes and prejudice, as is possibly the case in some places. After all, Miami is a metropolitan city and a virtual melting pot of ethnicities and an international gateway to people from all parts of the world.

Although I was a child, and like a child, I took part in teasing, cruel jokes, and other immaturity typical of children all the way through adolescence and even young adulthood (and some for the rest of their life), I have learned to think for myself on most subjects, simply by intellectualism, reading a wealth and variety of literature, and by meeting a variety of people from all walks of life, all of whom usually dispel any stereotypes I held onto, even if just a little bit in the back of my mind.

I think we all have prejudices and stereotypes. In some ways, it is a survival instinct. We try to separate the “good” from the “bad” and those who are in “our group” from those who are not in “our group”. It gives us a sense of safety and security, even if this sense is mostly a delusion. I think all minorities and groups who are persecuted by society benefit from “circling the wagons”, so to speak, in order to get support from those who are of like minds, hearts, and bodies, and gaining power from being in a group.

Now, I say all this right off because I really think that, although religious groups can do these things, and maybe some of them do, I don’t think they are really any different than any other group in as far as whether or not they are religious. Now that’s not to say that if they are made up of people who are already very prejudiced and stereotypical, that they won’t reflect those traits in their religious group, but the prejudice and stereotypes do not originate from the religion.

Coming from a religious background as I have, I must say I have learned a lot of very good lessons through the church. I’ve learned to care for the hungry, the homeless, disaster victims, those who suffer from the ravages of war, those who are persecuted because of their race, sex, religion, etc. And yes, discrimination does still exist in our world, and in the church, and this problem is mostly due to one thing: reverence for the canon of scripture.

Scripture contains some pretty harsh things said against homosexuals, and even worse, these things have been blown way out of proportion by our culture in America and across the world. Homophobia is rampant everywhere. That is a challenge for today’s society that still must be overcome.

I want to end with the greatest thing that religion, my religion, has taught me. The man, Jesus of Nazareth, was the greatest man that ever lived. Anyone that has any doubts should read the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These four books will give four different, sometimes overlapping, perspectives on who Jesus was, who he claimed to be, and what he means to Christians. I can tell you in short that Christians believe Jesus to be the Prince of Peace, Holy Lamb of God, Son of God, sitting at the Father’s Right Hand in Power and in Truth. Christians believe that in dying on the Cross in complete innocence, Jesus paid the ultimate price for the sins of the world, thus enabling us all to attain everlasting grace and peace. Salvation is something that is hard to comprehend without faith, but basically it is the attainment of forgiveness for guilt and condemnation that we earn by falling short each and every day of what we could be, what we were born to be, what God created us to be. With salvation and God’s grace and forgiveness, we can come a little closer to becoming his vision for our lives.