Operation Project Openness: Day Six
A lot has happened. :D
First... something very discernible to me... I'm continually being nicer to people. I've started to put random other people's needs before my own, and I actually went to a party of someone I can't hardly stand. I talk to people I normally don't talk to... I'm generally a much nicer person all-around. It's kind of interesting... I continue to marvel at the fact that while my relationship with God doesn't feel like it's making leaps and bounds, my attitude towards other people... is.
Speaking of relationship with God... I hardly remember to pray, or do any of the spiritual stuff that I was supposed to in this month. However, every time I do, I instantly get this peace, as if I'd been doing it regularly all along... it's no longer awkward or weird, just a warm welcoming feeling every time I actually do talk to God.
Thursday night, I read this book that I loved a few months ago (still love it, just haven't read it in a while) called Your God is Too Small by J. B. Phillips... great book. It led me to a verse in John (John 7:17) : "If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself." Jesus was talking about this in context with the Pharisees who were of course trying to make him out to be the bad guy, and he was giving cryptic messages that just pissed them off with confusion, but which Bible scholars know the answers to. It makes the Pharisees look like morons... but come on, you wouldn't've known what half of that stuff meant either if it weren't for lots of footnotes. Anyway. In the book he was making the point that you can't understand God, the Bible, or his teachings, unless you are living the life God laid out to live. Basically, God teaches by EXPERIENCE. You don't learn to swim by reading about it, you learn about it by jumping in the water and flailing. But to me... I wonder... can you take that further? That ANYONE who is doing the will of God, will understand his message? Meaning... if you are living selflessly and are helping others and serving God, even if you aren't "saved" or a Christian... can't you know God, and be having a relationship with him anyway? Another thought to ponder in my constant efforts to prove that Christianity can be achieved without the "Christianity." That you can have a relationship with God without "getting saved." That you can know Jesus as GOD without even knowing there ever was a Jesus as man. If that makes sense. I think it's my snide attempt at side-stepping the one element of God and his will for the world that I hate.
On Friday, I pinpointed yet another reason why I hate chapel. I always seem to "discover" why I hate it... but the explanation is never quite enough. Last time I found out why I hated it, the reason was because I wasn't raised in church and didn't hold the ceremony to be sacred in itself... the ceremony was just a conduit to connect you to God, and since I was not raised believing that the ceremony was THE way to connect to God (which I get the feeling a lot of people at this school DO believe), I had no interested in it whatsoever, and my hatred of it stemmed from a slight guilt, I guess, an insecurity, wondering if there was something wrong with me because I wasn't like THOSE people who did worship the ceremony. I think that might still be true, but more about why I hate certain aspects of it, and why I get unhappy feelings everytime I see people seem to worship more enthusiastically when the music swells. I think "oh my gosh they're manipulating our emotions" and I assume those people are thinking "Wow, God is really moving." I don't doubt their honest participation... maybe some of them are dishonest, but I bet a lot of them really do truly, honestly, mean it.
-Obligatory chapel rant below... feel free to skip-
However... what I realized I hate about chapel is the show of it all. The PERFORMANCE. Not of the actual worshippers (who I was talking about above) but the people on stage. The musicians which are taken out of the music department and are doing this for class/major credit instead of because they believe in it (that actually is true, by the way, I found that out and it pissed me off). The speaker who goes up there and has them sing the chorus one more time, slower, or who gives a stirring last story to the tune of the tinkling piano. Ugh! It almost makes me HATE those people who are honestly touched by the stupid manipulative CRAP going on onstage. Stab stab stab. Can they BE that gullible? It's sad, though, because sometimes I do honestly feel tuggings at my heart or whatever and really do feel compelled to make some connection to God, but one look at the stage and the performers and the stupid ritual and I DESPISE even my own honest experiences, simply because I'm afraid I'm becoming one of those gullible saps who buy in to that crap. I mean, every chapel is the same... there are 3 worship songs (no more, no less, unless it's a special ocassion). The first is quick and upbeat, with the singer announcing chapel has begun with a "Clap your hands, everybody!" or "Are you ready to worship GOD this morning!" and those aforementioned gullible saps cheer or dance about (my mom does this, by the way... ugh). After the fast song, there's a medium-paced song... and then the last one is either slow, or about a serious topic - our unworthiness, Jesus' death, blah blah... then they play a bit of slow, quiet background music as the speaker prays or gives a "spontaneous" word from God (yeah right, like he made that up just then. Pfft). Then we sit down (at a church, this is where everyone shakes hands and pretends like they don't just want to get this over with... or maybe they really are happy to meet you, I dunno). We are bored by some "humor" or announcements or a long, drawn-out PRAISE (a more sincere form of worship than the one that preceded it) of the speaker: "He was recently crowned king of the Assemblies of God and has served on this board of old men for longer than you've been alive. He's been married to a woman with, ahem, no achievements worth mentioning (unless they're in the school system or church) for a thousand years, and is here to talk to you today about something that has no relevance to your lives! Please welcome doctor/reverend/saint So-and-so!" Thus begins a long, booooring sermon.. OR a long, ANNOYING sermon filled with attempts at humor... that nonoffensive preacher humor that makes me want to gag... stupid puns about how old they are or how they can't work technology or some story about something funny that has a serious message, or they ask for volunteers and show-offs get to humiliate themselves for pizza coupons or $5 or a candy bar (guys seem to be the only ones who go up there, or the girlfriends of guys who force them to go up there). Anyway... that is followed by an altar call, complete with tinkling background piano, and a passionate prayer/sermon where the guy is "praying" but is actually talking to the audience... "God, if there's anyone here today who needs to hear from you, who has wandered away from you and needs to know that you care, show them that you love them.. that you have arms open wide, ready to receive them even though they did those drugs at that party, they sexed that girl at that party, they did whatever"... drugs and sex seem to be the sins of choice, when honestly the people I've seen at this school are suffering from FAR worse afflictions that you hardly see talked about (self-absorption, judgmentalism [is this a word?], unforgiveness for the stupidest things [omg she totally said that, no way, now I won't speak to her for like ever])... blehhhhhh. Then we leave... everyone mass-exits and you hear them all on the sidewalk critiquing the guy who spoke... "His voice sounded like he was on helium. I wanted to shoot myself." ... "I can't believe he said that! He OBVIOUSLY hasn't read the Bible." ... "Yeah, that one joke he made like 5 minutes in? He's definitely racist." Etc.
-End obligatory chapel rant... sorry.-
And THAT was the result of my attempting to go to chapel with an open mind on Friday. I think I zoned out during the sermon, but I honestly tried to worship during the worship, despite them butchering my favorite worship song. I realized how annoying it is when people come in late while you're trying to worship... I always got pissed at the people who told me that I shouldn't come in late because I'm "disturbing the people trying to worship." I assumed no one worshiped anyway so who cares. But... they probably DON'T worship because it's so embarrassing to finally get your hands in the air and hear "excuse me, can I get through... soooorrry" yeah they're not sorry. Haha. Plus, with all the traffic going on right over where my STUFF is kept, I found myself checking the ground every 5 minutes to make sure my cell phone and all other breakable things were safe from stiletto heels and winter boots. I shall attempt to not be late to any more chapels, just in case someone is trying to worship. I never realized how rude I was being. :(
The weekend was spent doing.... weekend things. Friday night I did go to a birthday party full of several people I can't stand. While the evening only served to prove to me WHY I dislike them (there were at least 30 poop jokes during the evening. Some of which were REPEATED. And found funnier upon repetition. Oh dear ghandi what did I ever do to deserve this...), I was actually NICE. My boyfriend, who was no less than a foot away from me the entire evening, told me he actually thought I was enjoying the party until we got in the car and I unleashed a torrent of "OOOOMMMMGGGG WHYYYYYY." If I can manage to be nice enough to fool the one person who knows me better than anyone.... I'm doing an awesome job. :P
Tonight (er, this morning... yeah I stayed up all night. My sleep schedule is still effed up from Christmas break) I was trying to read a textbook (siiiiigh it has BEGUN) and couldn't concentrate... My mind just WANDERS. I can't get focused for any longer than like 5 seconds on stuff I don't want to do. Bleh. I'm still not unpacked from Christmas break. -.-' Anyway. I randomly started praying and begging God to not let this semester end up like my last two, where I did almost nothing and barely skated through my classes. I was guided along a thought pattern that resulted in a lot of interesting ... thoughts. Sigh, I tried so hard not to use that word twice in a row XD Anyway.
I'm always terrified to surrender to God's will because, I mean, I have no clue what it's going to be. You hear stories about people told to go to music school without ever touching an instrument (lead singer of Casting Crowns) or to sell everything they own and go preach to natives in a mosquito-infest land.... (random story: Only about a year ago [sadly enough] I promsied God that, if ABSOLUTELY necessary, I would go become a missionary in some other country, as long as he could assure me the country would not involve bugs larger than an inch and a half in diameter. That rules out most of Africa and South America. Communist countries that would kill me for owning a Bible scare me less than the idea of living in a place where there are mosquitoes bigger than my face) Last year some time, too, I was terrified by the idea that God might tell me to break up with my boyfriend and live only for him (that verse about hating your father and mother and all that comes to mind)... I was very strongly opposed to this, and was terrified of honestly telling God I'd do whatever he wanted because there existed the POSSIBILITY that he tell me to leave him. I am aware that this means I loved Chris more than God, but... yeah I did. I think I still do, seeing as though when I'm having a bad day, a hug from Chris does infinitely more than praying to God, and quite honestly, my relationship with Chris is reliable... my relationship with God? not so much. He takes off for no reason to "test me" and other such crap. You don't see Chris doing that, now do you? King of the universe or not, I can put off dealing with God until I die, but the pressures of real life need a real-life person to help me, and be DEPENDABLE, and not just some ethereal floaty warm feeling I SOMETIMES get if I'm praying with "the right motives." Bleh. I'm feeling bitter tonight... hahaha.
But... tonight I was praying about the fact that God told me over Christmas that the only way I would survive this semester is if I learned to rely on him. Before classes even started, several of the major points that I thought I'd need his help with - were gone. Looking at that now... I kind of can even think of claiming that God made those happen. Two were awful situations that honestly, turned out to be good. It's like REALLY needing a job, and applying for one, and not getting it - you HATE it at first, but then you find out that someone you know got the job, and it's a crappy work environment and they expect too much of you and everyone who works there is miserable. You then realize that not getting the job is a good thing.
I was supposed to be spending this semester working on a massive research project I started last semester... it was going to be a CRAPLOAD of work, and I was looking ahead to tons of stress and cranky days and just bleh. I wasn't sure if I'd have enough time, but was willing to cut out freetime, hobbies, and time with friends, to make room, because I was so excited about this project. The professor who was leading me in this COMPLETELY blew me off in what would consist of another cranky rant, so I will refrain... I dropped the research class entirely and washed my hands of the mess. My advisor has encouraged me to tell her that I was hurt by her blowing me off, but I kind of think that would encourage her to try and incorporate me into the project she's doing now (basically my project run by two other students, with me not even in the picture) which sounds even LESS fun than just letting it go. I was incredibly angry and hurt by this, but... I look at it now, and honestly? My semester is going to be INFINITELY more relaxed now that I'm not trying to do that. It sucked at the time, but... maybe that was God's way of helping me out this semester. Hmmm. I might have to give him credit for that. :P
The second was that... as everyone I talk to knows... I am graduating in May, minus TWO English classes. One class is offered in the summer, the other... is very hard to find. I had planned on taking it at a local state college, where 3 days a week I would ride 2 miles on a bike at 9 am (please note this is in January haha), and be taking 18 credits (I could barely survive 15 last semester), all upper-division. It was, also, going to be super stressful and hard, but I was willing to push through because, GRADUATION?? heck yes. However, the professor of that class refused me entry into her already-full class, despite my pleas that this might be my last chance to graduate in May. She even had the audacity to say "Sorry. Best wishes." Best wishes? I think that's the most heartless phrase ever in response to "OMG YOU HOLD THE KEY TO MY POTENTIAL GRADUATION AND IF YOU SAY NO I AM ROYALLY SCREWED." -.-' But I digress (again haha)... she said no, and there was a frantic scramble the first week of the semester to try and get me into a class so I could graduate... my other advisor-ish (I dunno what to call him exactly) helped me find a class offered online in the summer... so now I can still only take 15 credits (siiiigh of relief ^_^) and just take the last two English classes in the summer. At first, the rejection and the stress of the first week seemed like all was lost, and I was annoyed and stressed and thought I'd be stuck at this school for another semester (O_O I would die), but... everything worked out, and now things are better than before.
While I was, in both situations, not expressly talking to God about those things... I did tell him that the first month of this semester would be his, and that I was going to try and rely on him the entire semester for my very survival. So... perhaps... he was working ahead, paving the way for it to be easier for me to DO those things. I can tell you right now that had he not, I would have no time for blog entries. At all. :P
But anyway, back to God's will. I know that God is the only one who can make me be more responsible, organized, proactive, etc. and thus help me survive this semester, but I'm still terrified to tell him he has control, because what if he makes me do something ridiculous? At that point, I stopped, and either God or other me (Other me, for those of you who don't know, is the part of my brain that speaks common sense, and/or plays devil's advocate, etc. etc. I swear it thinks of things I never would have thought of, and we often have conversations [read: arguments] about various points in my life... I call it other me when I don't feel confident enough to call it God) pointed out: What exactly could God tell me to do right now that would be THAT ridiculous? I'm pretty much 99.9% certain that God's will for me, at this moment, is to be a good student and graduate. This is my place in life, the place he has brought me to, if you want to believe that, and all of the people in my life have invested so much in me and my college education, that at this point... why would he randomly decide for me to do something else? Until I have college done with, I can pretty much rest 100% certain on the fact that he and I have very similar goals... be a good student, do my best, learn life skills, and graduate. After that, I don't know, but right now, today, can't I trust him not to send me off to a mosquito-infested foreign land? I'm safe from that, at least for now. And while I'm not condoning limited surrender... right NOW, he can have my all... at least until graduation, right? After that I can be wary of the seemingly inevitable "SELL YOUR BELONGINGS AND MOVE TO A MUD HUT IN AFRICA."
Another random story: During the period of time when my greatest fear was for God to tell me to dump Chris, I considered forcing Chris to elope with me so that we would then be all caps: MARRIED!!!! and thus sanctified by God and after that, God would just have to help our relationship, since he doesn't believe in divorce. Muhaha.
Although, had I gone through with that, I do believe I would've been handed an automatic ticket to hell for manipulating God. There has got to be a special level of hell for that. Probably the one I swear exists which consists of an eternity of dental work and being forced to listen to top 40 music and enduring the company of really annoying people.... oh and you have to watch hallmark movies. They staple your lids open and MAKE you watch them. With the annoying people and the music and the dentists.
Where was I going with this? I don't know.
Glancing over my post, I think that something is true which I have felt other me or God HINTING at, but which I never allowed myself to believe... I read in the aforementioned book "Your God is Too Small" by Philips... he goes through half the book, with each 3-4 page chapter dedicated to exposing the flaws in the various ideas people have of God. One of them is about the God that is a disappointment. The people who have been let down by God, or who believed that he was a certain way (which he was not) and was incredibly hurt when their image of him wasn't real, and they forever are stuck worshiping this disappointment because they feel they have to. Kind of like "God sucks, but he's God, so I better love him." I think in a lot of ways I have this mentality (see angry rants above).... There is a lot of bitterness in my view of God. Not for the stupid reasons people usually give... you know, "Why do you let babies die!?!?!" or "Why did you not make my life an endless series of blissful moments!!" and stuff... I've never blamed God for anything bad that happened in my life (and for the few things that I did blame him, I got over it as I got older)... but in this creepy intellectually distant way, I sometimes dissect all the things I know about theology and the Bible, and see it as this giant manipulative web. Example? Prayer. First, God says that whatever you ask shall be given unto you as long as you ask it in my name. Fine. But then you ask him for something, and it doesn't happen. So how does he explain this? OOOOOH... whatever you ask shall NOT be given unto you unless you are praying for something that fulfills God's cause... which he's going to do anyway. So really, you don't get what you want, you get what God wants. But don't worry... there's another verse that says if you were REALLY following God, you'd want what God wants anyway. You begin to be HAPPY that your life sucks, because that is God's holy perfect will. So really, if you don't get what you want, you're not a good Christian, and if you don't like that you don't get what you want, you're not a good Christian. I have one thing to say to this: W. T. F. .... meh. I think myself DIZZY going through all of those little traps in the Bible... the things that explain away all of your complaints but leaving you wondering if there's anything honest going on in this entire religion. God is always with you - he will not leave you or forsake you - but SOMETIMES he does, and that is to test you and strengthen your faith so you will love him more. I don't get it. I've never loved anyone more because they stopped talking to me. The line from Rich Mullins (I HEART him) that seems to be written after the death of a close friend, and is dealing with the aftermath of that... but after a long list of suffering and pain and lost, he concludes with "While you're up there just playing hard to get."
I once attempted to make a list of all of them, to then bring before various pastors in my area (I hoped to write a piece about it for my Christian high school's newspaper... looking back, I doubt they would have published it) but I got through like 6 and then I was so depressed and cranky I didn't want to go on.
I don't even like reading the Bible because all I see are loopholes. The first one I remember was when I was really young, like 11... and I was for some reason thinking of the verse in Proverbs (probably because my mom felt it necessary to bring up all the time) about how if you obey your parents, you'll have a long life. It's listed as one of the first promises in the Bible. Obey your parents, get a long life. It dawned on my tiny 11-year-old mind that this was not a real promise from God, it wasn't like God saying "obey your parents and I will put a magic halo around your life so that it is long." Instead, this verse was saying "Generally, the things your parents have you do are conducive to long life... such as eating your peas, not doing drugs, and etc. So if you obey them, you'll probably live longer." It was saying there was a correlation. It was NOT saying that correlation was a guarantee, NOR was it saying that anything was at work here besides common sense. I shared this, in HORROR, with my mom, whose enlightening response (something along the lines of "Uhm, yeah... you didn't know that?") did not help me at all. :(
I think I want to make Christianity a lot more spiritual than it actually is... to take what the Bible is listing as facts of life and common sense, and somehow make it this great force of GOD. It makes me sad that there is very little real spiritual magic going on in the world. Maybe this is why so many AG people are so hung up on speaking in tongues - OMG! LOOK! GOD IS TOTALLY BEING MAGICAL AND SPIRITUAL AND LOOK LOOK LOOK! Meh.
Sorry tonight has been a cranky night... haha. :P I need to now get ready for classes. O_O Stupid all-nighters.