I’ve been attending the same church now since 2005. After 31 year of Catholicism, something deep within me continued to nag and give me this uneasy, unsettled itch. Not to totally renounce my roots (I’m incapable of that anyway) – I had a burning desire to learn more, because I wanted to feel more.
Sure, I felt my knees crack every time we genuflected or knelt throughout Mass, but I also felt like a poser, like someone who was there simply walking through the motions. I knew when to sit, when to stand, when to shake hands and say “Peace Be With You.” I knew when the notoriously late family of eight would walk in and make a beeline to the front pew, all dressed to the nines holding hands like drunk teenagers do as they stumble through overcrowded Haunted Houses in the Fall. But did I feel anything towards God? Did I feel “religious?” What was I supposed to be feeling anyway? ‘Cuz whatever it was, I was pretty sure the crappy thoughts running through my head weren’t it…
So what do we do when we don’t feel like we want, like we have unnecessarily expected, or like we have convinced ourselves we are entitled to feeling? We leave. We bolt to another church faster than you can say ‘Coffee and Donuts. Free with fake fellowship after the service.’
Now, am I being hypocritical and saying that my switch to another church was a bad decision? Not at all. Here’s why: it is a teaching church. And for someone who is only “all in” after incessant question-asking, testing, and embarrassing amounts of over-analysis, that was important. Furthermore, I need to know what I am supposed to do. How in the world can I decide if I’ve succeeded unless I know what the rules are, what the goals are, and whether or not I have achieved the aforementioned benchmarks?
(Side note: A lot of exorbitant fees, a lot of wine, and a lot of true-always-there-for-me-friends-and-family have patiently and kindly reminded me of this personality flaw. To those lifesavers I say not only THANK YOU, but I have my list of things to do in order to rectify this, and I’m working on it.)
We went to church last night. It was the second sermon in a series on literally, my favorite verse in the entire Bible. The series is entitled ‘Swallowing Camels’ based on Matt. 23:24: You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
No, that verse in Matthew is not my favorite; however, it is intrinsically linked. Swallowing a camel and straining out a gnat simply means that sometimes, it is all too easy for us to “major on the minors.” We humanly tend to focus a HUGE amount of time, effort, energy, and worry over the small things, at the expense of focusing on the things which are important to God.
(And yes, you true-always-there-for-me-friends-and-family, I AM in fact thinly veiling this message right now…hang with me.)
What are the important things to God? My favorite verse explains:
And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. –Micah 6:8
When I first read the Bible – really read it and FINALLY understood that it is this beautiful story...an active story which we are all a part of, right now, right this very minute, as the story continues to unfold…this verse stopped me in my tracks. I had no idea why. I just underlined it and kept reading.
Today I am a little closer to understanding why. I’m sure it has a great deal to do with the fact that it says we are required to do something. Super. I got this. I can make a list and check stuff off as its accomplished.
Wrong. The Hebrew translation and those pesky verb tenses, I swear. “Require” is actually interpreted as “requiring” as in now, every day, all the time. Ok, fine. Maybe. Maybe I’m still in. First though, maybe I should understand what it is that He is requiring and then I’ll decide because it would be silly of me to decide without knowing. Psh, please. Who does that?
Last night’s sermon dissected the second requirement, the love mercy part. It’s easy to gloss over and think it means “hate when people get treated unfairly.” Which it does and which we should. But alas, absolutely, and amen brother!, it means SO much more than that. Hebrew, you’re killin’ me.
In Micah 6:8, the word for love is “ahavah” and the word for mercy is “che’sed.” Interestingly (or, what I like to refer to as of course it does, how ironic), we are not told to do or show mercy, but to love it.
Yikes, that’s a tall order for a short girl who is all about doing and scared shitless of loving. (Go ahead, find the verse where it says not to swear. Christians get a bad rap of being hypocrites; we’re actually just normal, sinful people who know unequivocally that Jesus is our Savior.)
So what kind of mercy are we required to love if we can’t “do or show” it? This kind, as it’s defined by the Hebrew that is going to make me less scared one day: a loyal, steadfast love that comes from deep within the heart and just won’t quit.
When that definition popped up on the screen last night I started – out of both habit and the ‘ol inherent defense mechanism – to roll my eyes.
And then they started rocking Amazing Grace super loudly and the rolling was simultaneously interrupted by tears and asylum-like laughter over how long it has taken me to begin to understand this stuff.
It was at least 8 years ago when I first read Micah 6:8, blindly. Today when I read it, I finally see.