Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pick Up Stix

Yesterday, we had a chapel service for our students; our much-loved speaker chose the topic of "Belief in God's Love for You" is the most important thing to know in the walk of faith. I sat in the back and thought of how the message was being received by the students. I saw one student who I know struggles with acceptance of this idea; one student who could easily exchange this sentiment for what the world offers; one student who believes this with all her heart; one student who will wait for the evidence; many students who willingly accept this message because they have been lovingly taught it all their lives. Whether they will believe later is the big question.

I thought about my class a couple hours later and how we would be looking at Lord Byron's poetry. The students then are eager to talk about other ideas, how the poetry reflects their love lives (or lack thereof), and I willingly stretch their minds wide to encompass new perspectives.

I remember when I was in college at Evangel University. I was so confused and frustrated by the world in chapel and the world in the classroom. The first was typlified by devotional response, by winnowing of misbeliefs, bad values, wrong perceptions. The second, which I preferred more, was  about "All truth is God's truth no matter where it is found." They clashed terribly for me, and I had a bit of a breakdown in my second year there. One week found me crying in my room for about three days straight. I had just read Letters from the Earth by Mark Twain. I confided in no one; no counsel was given or sought. I was just simply miserable in my inability to reconcile, approach, or disavow.

The message at my high school's chapel was good, like a breath of fresh air really. But, I sat in the back and wondered about the divide, between devotional belief and cognitive acceptance. I think it's like the old game of Pick-up Stix. You try to hold onto one belief (one stick) and take care of it, without moving anything else. When you can pick up a stick successfully, you get to progress until a stick gets moved in the process and you have to sit out. I think at times, we are like that with faith; we believe we must cognitively accept at least one thing without stirring up other questions / doubts. And, yes, while we can do that for a bit,  the pile of sticks will eventually move. There is no shame in it. No reason to sit out. It's just the reality of the difficult cognitive acceptance of the devotional aspects of faith.

To that end, I simply pray that my students can 1) accept that sticks of faith do indeed move; 2) choose to know that God is love and choose to experience it.  Amen.

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