Thursday, November 11, 2010

the bs report

I think that I get more out of our bible/book study that the other folks that attend. We are reading The Good Book, by Peter Gomes, as a means toward understanding what the bible is (and isn't) as we read it and allow it to form and inform our lives of faith.

In the chapter on interpretation that we discussed yesterday I got sidetracked by this statement: "[the bible] is the record of holy encounters between people and God, encounters that have been reckoned to be decisive and compelling, and that have been preserved from generation to generation because they remind each generation of the presence of God in their lives and the search for God when the divine absence is felt." (p. 34)  The latter portion about divine absence is what catalyzed a stream of consciousness that I fear left my companions in a cloud of confusion while I attempted to ponder the connection between the experience of divine absence and the development of faith.

The question I posed, more or less, was this: if we don't experience the absence of God, is it possible for faith to develop? I used the analogy of separation anxiety felt by children when they first experience being "left" by parents. The experience of the parent's return builds trust that when parents leave, the child has faith that the parent will return. It's not a perfect analogy, by any means, but it was the first thing that occurred to me.

I have had my own struggles with this. My faith became established through the powerful experience of God's presence. Desert times ensued, and I emerged from those. Based on the former experience of God's power/presence, I hung on, trusting that God was at work on my behalf because I believed that to be true, even though I could not point to evidence of it being true. Over time, however, my faith has become more a matter of mind than heart. It has been a while since I have felt the deep, resonating presence of earlier and sustaining days. More often I feel disappointed in both God and myself, and I wonder how to repair the damaged connection that was once such a vital lifeline.

I watch in awe as others revel in a holy joy that eludes me, and yearn for that experience again. And I wonder how others remind themselves of the presence of God when absence--or distance--is the experience.  It is gut-work, and wearying, to hold on to the promise, even when belief is at hand. The fabric of faithfulness feels threadbare. I pray--yes, I pray--that it doesn't become fragile.


The Bug said...

I have my own struggles in this area - & I think one of the reasons that I continue to connect to churches is so that I don't lose the thread entirely.

Carolina Linthead said...

New International Version

Psalm 137

1By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.

2There on the poplars we hung our harps,

3for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

4How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?

A lifetime ago, The Bug and I had the same Old Testament professor. He wrote his dissertation on the hiding of the face of God. He may have been the most learned person I have ever encountered, and he was obsessed with this struggle. How, indeed, can we sing the songs of the Lord when we do not feel the divine presence with us? I have no answers, only the consolation that we walk the same path. Peace to you...and to us all.

Jan said...

Being with others helps me remember that connection. Sitting in silence does not often give me the feeling of "holiness," but I keep seeing benefits in my life, and so I believe. Evidence of the fruits of the spirit show that God is working in one's life, whether we feel it or not. Or so I believe. I appreciate your honest sharing. Love and prayers.

Mompriest said...

you and i are on parallel much here resonates with the reality of my life.

Jayne said...

I'm with you. Sometimes I feel my faith strongly, and other times... well, as you said, it's a desert. The Bible has never "spoken" to me as it does to others, and I've often wondered if I've just not given it much chance. Someone close to me once said, "Those who have faith read it and feel the words come alive and speak to them." Uh, so those of us who don't? My faith is still such a mystery to me at times.

Robin said...

Great post - from another who has become obsessed with issues of God's absence and silence.


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