Thursday, May 28, 2009

getting it

I've been struggling with the concepts of predestination--which I believe in--and free will--which I also believe in--for a while now. Does God simply pluck a few lucky individuals out of the masses, and bestow on them the ability to sense him? Or do we find him? I have a feeling there is an element of both, but that it's mostly weighted towards God's call and God's power.

However, I still believe that salvation is open to everyone. God is not willing that any should perish; God so loved the world; whoever turns to me I will never cast out; and so on and so forth. And if we are willing to ask, seek, and knock, I believe God has chosen us.

Regardless of my tenative conclusions on this subject, I've noticed something that is perhaps a part of this. Several people I know who have grown up in Christian families, who have perhaps even seen themselves as believers for a period of their lives, have amazed me in their lack of understanding of the beliefs of those of us who still believe. I would have thought that being an eyewitness into the workings of a Christian family would have given them a certain insight into how Christians live/think... but no.

I don't want to be specific with examples in some cases, but it involves things like assuming that unmarried Christian couples would already be sleeping together, or practical things like that, that seem pretty simplistic to figure out if you're aware that someone is a Christian.

Other cases it's been matters of interpretation. Brooke Fraser, a Kiwi singer who is a Christian, has released a couple of albums of music that is not quite overtly Christian - but I would have thought you'd have to be pretty stupid not to pick up on the overtones. However, someone heard these lyrics, from a song which is about asking God to throw you a "lifeline" in the seas of life:

Wake up feeling convicted 
I know something's not right 
Reacquaint my knees with the carpet 
I have to get this out 
'Cos it's obstructing you and I 
Dry up the seas that keep us parted

This someone, who had lost the faith not all that long ago, thought that Brooke, when she sings "reacquaint my knees with the carpet", was talking about how she'd been abused as a child, by someone who would drag her knees over the carpet! Uh... no.

These aren't that hefty as examples, but: Have you ever found this, and been surprised by it, in ex-Christians or people who have been pretty clued up in Christian life? That even though they've had huge experience of Christians and the basics of Christian life and so on, they just don't seem to get it? Is it possible that getting it is a gift of God, and some people just don't have it?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

guess what? I'm happy

I have come to the startling realisation that I am really, really happy. 

For a long time I've thought depressed = interesting. Being happy, especially in the College of Arts at universities, is frowned upon. Happy people go and become engineers or nurses or mathematics teachers or plumbers; the great philosophers, artists and novelists of the world are drawn from a pool of sad, angry people who, paradoxically, form groups based around the mission statement "we are loners whom no one understands", and sit in cafes bemoaning the world with eyes like dead fish. Insight is seeing how horrifying everything is, and being sort of okay with it or resigned to your inability to do anything about it, unless it all becomes too much for you and then you die.

I remember last year someone saying to me that they got depressed quite often but they didn't really want to be happy all the time because that's boring. They actually have a playlist on their iPod, a playlist of music that encourages a depressing state of mind. Of course, who am I to suggest their masochism is needless? In fact, I have behaved very similarly in the past, in the mistaken belief that I should feel more sad. At the same time, I look back now and think that perhaps they are wrong. I definitely believe that I don't have to be embarrassed about being happy.

Joy doesn't mean that I'm never sad. My mum comes into my mind a lot at the moment, and I miss her very much, and wish she was around to give me the advice and support I didn't always take advantage of when she was alive. I see things on the news almost every night that are downright depressing and make me wish that Jesus would just come back RIGHT NOW and sort things out. Nothing about my future is clear, and it's sometimes scary.

But there's something irrepressibly happy within me. I can never milk my sadness to full effect; opportunities to make people feel sorry for me never last long, because someone will say something funny and laughter will bubble up - actually, I'll probably end up laughing at myself. I'm happy - and it's all because of God.

Besides, being a happy person doesn't mean you ignore the troubles of the world. I tentatively believe that people who like drowning in depression over the state of the world do exactly that - drown - and nothing more. Happy people want to spread the joy; they are the active ones who will fight the tide of sorrow and not give up.

What I am not saying: Only Christians can be happy. I know that's not true. But I do think that my happiness depends on something constant, someone I can trust. And I know from experience that hard things will happen and yet somehow I will still be happy. It's something underlying, not a superficial overlay. The only thing that can threaten it is drawing away from God, as I found out over last summer.

It sounds supremely arrogant, and it doesn't sound very sophisticated. I hate it when people say precisely what I am saying, especially when they say it as an instruction - i.e., you're in a church, act happy! even though you've gone through an absolutely hellish time, you should be happy! So I am not saying this as an instruction, but as a self-expression - I have been surprised by joy, in the words of C. S. Lewis, and no one can take it away from me.