Not long ago a friend introduced me to a religious formula. He’d discovered some kind of method for interacting with God that had greatly helped him and he wanted me to try it. To be honest, I don’t fully remember what the formula was. I didn’t try it.
*Photo Credit: simpleinsomnia, Creative Commons
I confess I might be a cynic, but I’m convinced there aren’t any religious formulas that work.
I mean if you pray more you’re certain to see results, and if you sacrifice more it will certainly make you a more caring and humble person, but those aren’t the kind of “formulas” I’m talking about.
I’m talking about the formulas that give you a feeling you can control God.
I once heard a Christian speaker say that if we do “such and such” God “has no choice but to respond by doing such and such.” Really? God has no choice? He’s just a remote control Deity we manipulate with our actions?
Having grown up hearing these formulas about once each week, I feel as though I’ve tried them all. But it wasn’t until I walked away from them completely that I started experiencing the presence of God. I’m not sure how to describe it except to say the presence of God feels very normal, and really cool things seem to happen every so often that can’t be explained. There’s no sentimentality involved, no worship services that resemble a seance summoning spirits, just normal life like the one I have with my wife and my friends, only God is invisible and more vague.
I’m starting to think the more fearful a person is, the more controlling he or she is.
And the more controlling he or she is, the more he or she is drawn to religious formulas.
And I don’t blame people. The thought of not being okay with God is frightening, for sure. I’d want to control Him too. That is, if I could. But I’m convinced I can’t. God is going to do what God wants regardless of whether I read the Bible, pray, take communion, attend church, or anything else. I can’t control Him or change Him. All I can do is submit to Him. And that’s frightening. Because by blindly submitting to Him, I admit He gets to do what He wants with Himself and with me.
So what does my faith look like?
It looks like just the other night, lying in bed with my wife asleep, reflecting in a somewhat rare way on what a selfish person I am, feeling a supernatural guilt about it, and raising my hands to Jesus and whispering I’m yours. Do with me as you please. I’ve got no hope outside you. God have mercy.
For some reason, that single prayer gives me more hope than all the formulaic actions we can loosely pull from scripture and act out as a way of manipulating God. God have mercy indeed.