Sunday, January 15, 2012

Seeking Sunday

Many of you, my dear readers, do not find Sunday to be a day that far out of the ordinary. I know this. I can't say I really do, either, except that on this day I nearly always spend the morning at church. I've had a long struggle with the world on this, not because I would love to "Tebow" on the sidelines and don't get the chance, but because I am uncomfortable with this level of show. My personal journey with the spirit is unlike everyone else's, and it is not furthered when I posture for cameras. I am not a leader of faith, and I do not believe anyone's life would truly benefit if I orated about God from a pulpit, including me.

This is why I have truly enjoyed reading a book recently:

I Am a Follower: The Way, Truth, and Life of Following Jesus

I requested the book from Thomas Nelson directly, and I received it free, but this book is one reason why I continue to seek, to pray, and to see my spiritual development in this world as necessary to my overall personal development. So many texts dealing with Christianity emphasize appalling things: standing up to sinners so they know they are sinners, condemning groups that don't fit the Christian "ideal," attacking other religions (including other Christian sects/denominations), amassing wealth, or otherwise suggesting activities and thought processes that I find decidedly unspiritual.

This book is so different from that standard. Leonard Sweet, through gentle metaphor and perceptive use of the bible, is urging us to stop all that nonsense. Rather than attacking the world with religion, filled with our own superiority or purity, Sweet does all he can to pull us back to the spirit. We are no better than others. If we feel the need to "lead others to redemption," it is because we seek our own satisfaction, not God's. Instead of leading, instead of feeling as if we know all the answers and are obligated to show these answers to everyone, we need to set ourselves among the world, not as leaders, but as members of a whole wonderful group of followers, all trying to live life as beautifully as we can. 

I would love to criticize the book for not giving us specific things we could do to ensure we are following as we should, for the book's metaphors get the ideas across in a more theoretical way, and might not really reach the general public without more kinesthetic examples. Then again, I'm not sure this book is for just anyone. In a way, it seems to be intended for the very "leaders" who are not doing what it suggests. However, I think followers of all ages could learn from this. I know I have. Besides, as Sweet says, following a specific set of precepts he proscribes would be no different than going through the motions at church, as we do now. What he urges instead is that we back off, listen, and act as the spirit moves us, always seeking reconciliation, showing love and mercy, not judging or excluding (just as the bible says Jesus did in his own life). 

This book has reminded me that I am a seeker--that I will always be a seeker--for my entire journey through life is a process of becoming more understanding of others, more thoughtful, more receptive to the movements of the Way in my life. I just finished the book, but I will likely return to it again, often, as my journey continues. 

All this rethinking reminds me of recent events, with the news frenzy surrounding Tim Tebow. I cast no doubt about his character or his devotion to his faith. I commend him for that. But I don't think bending down and praying to God after a football victory is "following." His visits to hospitals, yes. His humanitarian activities, yes. Sweet put it this way (though he was not speaking of Tebow in particular, I am sure): 

Followers of Jesus are not [sic] supposed to be identified by ritual practice even while we continue Jesus' mission of caressing the world. We are not to showboat our religious identity or grandstand the gospel or parade our praying. In fact, Jesus exposed puffballs of piety and punctured the vanities of the upright and the uptight. "When you fast," he cautioned, "wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting." And "when you pray, do not ... pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others." 

Can I blame Tebow? Nope. How do I know that this blog entry isn't my own form of posturing for the masses? Tebow is on his journey, and I am on mine. All I know for certain is that his methods are not mine, and they cannot be if I am to follow my own path truly. 


  1. I am not a follower, I don't think. I listen to everyone and my own conscience and use what advice fits in my own path, but the path is my own, based on my own reasoning and my own sense of what is right and wrong.

    I'm not a leader either, though. I need no followers and expect no one to follow my lead. I can walk it alone without regret or share with someone else whose heart has led them to wander down the same path, happy to see them, unperturbed if their path diverges.

    I have control of me. I will live my life in a way I can best be proud of, doing what I can to make the world better not worse, taking responsibility for my own decisions.

    I don't know what that makes me. Myself, perhaps.

  2. If most of the "christian" books you are reading are full of pride, you are reading the wrong books. Try the classics instead of the best sellers. Books by Thomas A Kempis, Francis de Salea, or Brother Lawrence are a few to start with.

    The book you cite is nice, but the criticisms A about "rituals" are a common "straw man" logical fallacy that is used by ignorant anti Catholics to prove they are superior to the evil papists.

    However, I agree with you about those who throw their superiority in your face and try to convert you. I've had people confront me that as a catholic I need to get to know "jesus" and be "saved". I usually tell them: Know Jesus? I almost got my ass shot off for him. (which is another story too long to relate here), That usually shuts them up long enough to let me get away.

  3. bless you, Stephanie.

    But as a doctor, could I point out that it is not true "I have control of me" is not true.

    nor are the easy answers by those who think they know it all, or think their belief lets them manipulate god to be rich happy and healthy.

    But the real test of belief is how we react to life's terrible problems of sickness, evil and death.

    "If there is a God, whence proceed so many evils? If there is no God, whence cometh any good?" Boethius

  4. boinky,

    I have control of my decisions and hence my morality. I have somewhat limited control over other aspects of my life. Sorry if I implied otherwise.

    I don't claim to know all answers or to control God; neither will I worship one who is childish, intolerant and petty. I don't believe he/she/they is/are, but I'm comfortable with the idea of going to hell (though I don't believe in hell either) rather than worship such a creature however powerful. I'm comfortable enough in my own beliefs not to think it I'll have to. And I have no intention of telling you or anyone else they have to see things as I do.

    I have never feared death. I don't now. I fear the effects of evil (frequently guised at morality and "good deeds," though certainly not always) and apathy, but I don't think we need to look further than people for the sources of those. I cannot eradicate evil and apathy, but I can be proactive against them, noisy and refuse to participate in stances and actions I consider evil. I can choose to be kind and tolerant and generous, courteous to all and as helpful as possible without trying to manipulate others.

    I have yet to be tested by sickness.

  5. Boinky, the book had nothing bad to say about Catholicism. What the author urged is for us to act with the spirit, not just go to church, participate, and act through habit, or because society expects us to. And most of us would admit it's far harder to do something that others might think is wacky than just conform.

    This book just came out... and it isn't on bestseller lists yet. I'm not sure it will be. It isn't a feel good book that tells us what we want to hear. It will likely make many people uncomfortable. But I found it thought-provoking.

    And perhaps the question isn't whether there is a God or not, but how well we can perceive God in our limited human scope. When it is so easy for two people online to misunderstand each other, how can we assume we will easily understand a force outside of our earthly experience?

    THAT assumption is the one most "full of pride," as you say. The author urges people to act according to their own hearts and consciences... not because everyone else acts a certain way.

  6. And Stephanie, I think you are more follower than leader. You are not a follower of MAN, though. But the definition of follower that the author uses would mean you follow your conscience, not tradition, not peer pressure, not human judgment.

    Which is precisely what the author is asking for.