Friday, November 19, 2010

Dedicate.

I read recently that atheists and agnostics are more likely to understand Christianity than Christians. The article described the typical path of a white American: you grow up understanding, to some extent, the gospel. You say you believe in God. You later come to view it as myth or as too exclusive to tie your name to. You embrace the idea of goodness as God and shun formalized religion, especially the idea that sincere people can be wrong. Those who go on to call themselves atheists or agnostics are the ones, typically, who didn't slide from belief to pluralism as seamlessly; they struggled with the concept of faith and Christ and ultimately rejected it.
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Non-white Americans tend to have an entirely different walk. Protestant blacks and Catholic latinos both tend to hold on to the belief of Jesus as God, but they are, statistically, the most uniformed of their faith, showing little knowledge of the Bible and of the teachings of the man they call God.
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I was frustrated by this. Perplexed. Sad. Then my friend got back from Saudi Arabia and showed me pictures from her trip. Mixed in were images from her sister's hard drive. This girl, a devout Muslim, has pictures of Lil Wayne. Loves Miley Cyrus. Sings along to Taylor Swift. Wears provocative clothing under her burqa.
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And I realized that we are so similar, middle-easterners and Americans, white and dark alike. Our faith is guided by our culture. We do what those around us do. We go to church if they do; we leave it if they leave. We mock it if they mock; we light candles if they light candles, cover our heads if they cover our heads. Each faction is a collective following itself. Who follows their religion in truth? Who thirsts endlessly to actually know God?
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My son was prayed over by Matthew's grandfather, a pastor. His relatives who lived near gathered together for the dedication. (I wish so much that my family could have been there as well.) We sang songs and listened to this sections of scripture read. I was surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses; people who see God like I see him. People whose hearts have been jarred by the knowledge of him. People who read and study and pray because they want to be confronted by truth; they want to bend to it, break because of it, fall on their knees and acknowledge him. It is not culture. It's suddenly learning the world is in color when you thought it was black and white.
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My heart skips wildly when I think of my kids, when I think of how badly I want for them to know God. How can you explain that an apple is red when the other person only sees it as dark gray? You cannot. But you can raise them speaking of color as a fact; you can remember it even when the light is dim and you can hardly see it yourself.
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The metaphor is so incomplete, so lacking. But I praise God -I praise the holy name of Jesus- for giving Matthew and I people in our lives who see it too. Like an echo when you call out that sounds itself back again, we hear our same praises in their lips. Like a paper in a flame that collapses and curls beneath the heat, our hearts respond. Does that even make sense? I feel it. The weight of the knowledge of him; the enormity of what we hold; our incapacity to grasp it, and that itself being enough. For my sons and for my daughter, Jesus, I cry out.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jenny L. Goodman... I have reached the last page of my lexicon. I have no new ways to express my respect and apprecation of you. Thank for that profound insight. I want to be the kind of person of whom you write. JWG

missy said...

jenny, i love that i get to run this race with you. =)

nikoniko said...

It touches my heart when you write about God. And I feel so thankful to you and God both because you both exist in my life in a very personal way.

The Goodfellas said...

jwg-- what you said was lovely. thank you.

The Goodfellas said...

m-- i love that you thought of the second half of hebrews 12:1. :)

jwg (again)-- you and betsy have blessed me more than you could ever imagine. foremost, through the way you raised your son. he had the example of parents whose hearts bowed to Christ; i see that in him every day. thank you.

nikoniko-- are you in tx or wa?

Anonymous said...

SeƱor mio,
Estoy aqui leyendo estas palabras que mi hija ha dedicado a ti, y me pongo de rodillas con lagrimas dandote gracias por lo que has hecho por mi familia. Tu sabes mejor que todos como un padre quiere a un hijo, y tengo ese amor dentro de mi ser que mis dos hijas te llaman Padre. Gracias por los cuatro nietos que tengo, y para sus padres que son tus hijos. Que bendito que soy! Mi alma puede descansar en silencio sabiendo que tu vas a guiarlos por todo sus vidas.
Gracias, y gracias.

Amy said...

Jenny what you wrote was so beutiful...your commints about not knowing how to explain the weight of God and knowing he is there..and reaching out and that is enough...for that is what I say to Tyler...for sometimes he struggles wiht believing in "something"...I simply explain..you have to ask God and tell him to open up your heart to him/her it is by his grace that he will reveal himself to you

...if you turn away you will never know him...For the lord knows that I am far from perfect...but I am constintly asking him for clarity and guidence in my life and thanking him for his blessings.


another comment: I once listend to a prominant Mayo Oncolgist speek at a confrence in Rochester...he said in his many years of practice he has yet to meet a cancer patient that is seriosly ill that is an agnostistic or athesist or if they once were they turned to believing in a God...But that does not top the other story he told whicn was truely quite amazing and gave the audience goose bumps to long to tell here.

Amy:)

nikoniko said...

I'm in WA.