my light grows dim

Advent is a time of waiting…and a time for hope. I’m off to a rough start in the hope department.

Every day we pull down a day from our Advent calendar. Every day I read a short story from the Bible and a very short devotional. It’s very much like the Jesse Tree devotionals for kids. It follows each of the Bible stories about why we need a savior in the first place.

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Tonight we read the creation story at dinner. About how it was all perfect in the beginning.

At bedtime, Charlie randomly chose a story out of his Story Bible–the story of God telling the prophet Isaiah about a Savior that would come. About “Operation No More Tears.”

I want to believe these stories so much.

The simplicity of the story in Isaiah for this children’s Bible. They put it in the form of a letter from God to Isaiah that he needed to share with people. It spoke of a baby being born to a girl with no husband. Of a man who would be a king, but not look like a king; in fact he would be very poor. He would fight evil, but he would have no swords or armies…or guns. He would be a Prince of PEACE. He would be the answer to all this awful in the world.

As Christians, we believe that was Jesus.

He came; he lived in poverty; he spread the message of love; he was an early adopter of non-violent protest and civil disobedience. Then he died.

We are told he went to hell for all of us, then came back from the dead to let his posse know he was the real deal. He told them to tell the world about him. Then he went to heaven.

We are told he will come back to fix this mess.

I’m going to be honest here. I am having a hard time believing in the midst of all this shit that keeps happening in our country and in the world. I’m having a really difficult time believing that I can pray, have it be heard, and have it mean anything or have any effect.

I love the message of Advent. I do.  And I so badly want to believe that this is how it works: we wait and hold on to hope and then Jesus makes it better.

But you guys? Do you ever have those dreams where you are trying to tell someone something because it’s incredibly important. So you shout, but nothing comes out. Or you try to get to them, but obstacles get in your way or you get lost or your legs won’t move. And it’s not just frustrating, it’s the worst feeling ever. You are on the verge of a full-on panic attack and may even wake up shaking or crying, most definitely sweating.

That is how I feel when I see this crap unfold, and then like a fool, I look on Facebook or the comment sections and see crap like this:

Problem: Here is this thing that people keep using to kill people.
Solution: GIVE EVERYONE THAT THING.

WHAT???

I just feel like we are throwing prayers into the wind. We pray for the victims, shoot we even pray for the shooters, and what happens? More acts of terror.

I feel like a damn hypocrite almost every Sunday. I show up to teach my 2nd and 3rd graders in Children in Worship all the while second-guessing, questioning the very stories and lessons I am trying to impart to them.

A couple weeks ago I told them about Joseph and how his brothers sold him into slavery. The theme of the lesson was that God turns bad choices into something beautiful. If life is a woven fabric, we humans make stupid choices in threads, but God can take those bad threads and weave them into something utterly wonderful.

But I am having a hard time right now with seeing how more violence is going to turn into something beautiful.

I know, I know…”but Katie, it’s not for you to know!”

Well, right now, my eyes need to see…something. Because the light of my hope is running out of oxygen and growing very dim.

Being a Sheep

There is a song that our children sing in church. It goes:

I just wanna be a sheep, baa baa baa baa
I just wanna be a sheep baa baa baa baa
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
I just wanna be a sheep baa baa baa baa*

It’s a cute song and my boys love to sing it, especially because the other verses talk about what we don’t “wanna be”: a hypocrite (they’re just not hip with it), a Pharisee  (‘cuz their not fair, you see), or a Sadducee (because they’re so sad, ya see).

I certainly don’t want to be a hypocrite (although I know I am sometimes) or the other things either, but I don’t know if I can stand up and shout I JUST WANNA BE A SHEEP! either.

Every time the image of Jesus as the Shepard and his followers as the sheep comes up, I cringe a little. I know. That sounds awful, and I feel a little awful writing it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the pastoral imagery, the connotations that He keeps us safe with love and guidance, and I am even ok with the whole “follow” him thing. I want to follow Jesus and his teachings. I do. I am a big believer in love and kindness.

But I don’t think I want to be a sheep.

sheep

Sheep follow blindly. They don’t question. Sheep are dumb. Sheep are thoughtless.

When I think of people as sheep, I think of that popular insult on the internet: Sheeple. You know, those people who seem to believe (and follow) every “expert” they read on the internet. The ones who blindly follow “data” without following up on it themselves. Those who don’t vaccinate, or do vaccinate, or use baby wraps, or co-sleep, or don’t co-sleep or vote Democrat or Republican, or repost articles without ever doing their own fact-checking. People who jump on bandwagons simply by trusting that what people (and the internet) tell them is true.

I know, I know. Jesus is different.

He’s a different kind of shepard. He cares about us and won’t lead us down the wrong path.

I get that. I do. And there probably isn’t other imagery that the writers of the scriptures could have used to adequately describe the idea that Jesus will take care of us if we follow him.

But honestly, that is where my faith gets weak. I have no problem getting behind the teachings of Christ. Love your neighbor? You betcha (even though I fail often, I still believe in this)! Love is the greatest? Yes, sir! Don’t throw a rock unless you are free from sin? Standing ovation.

I even get the whole, “Katie? You have to trust me. I know what I’m doing.” I get that. I don’t always act like it, but I do believe it.

But “act like a sheep and just follow with no questions just blind faith?”  I don’t think I can.

You see, I have lots of questions. If I was to be a sheep, I would be the bad sheep. I would be the one in the back saying, “where are we going? Will there be a snack because I’m hungry. What about a rest? Are we going to get a rest soon? My legs hurt. Hey, that tree is nice. Did you pick this way because of the nice view?  Do you think this wool makes my butt look big? I think I need a shear.”

I would be relentless.

I know there are Christians out there who would tell me, “just be quiet. He will take care of it.”  And I know in the Bible Jesus tells us not to worry. Birds don’t have to worry. Flowers don’t have to worry. And neither do we.

But I have questions. I have doubts. I mean, there have been some pretty terrible leaders who have told people just to trust them because they know what Jesus is all about and then those people drank some Kool-aid and well, let’s just say they didn’t end up in a green pasture.

I’m not comparing Jesus to those leaders. I’m saying those leaders thought they knew what Jesus wanted and they talked a bunch of sheep-like people into believing it too because sheep do as they are told. They think what they are told to think.

I can’t do that. I ask all the questions and have all the opinions.

“Listen, Shepard. Where do we go when we die? Why does it scare me so much? Is there a sheep heaven? Is it really like the book of Revelation says because honestly? That sounds weird. Why do good sheep fall down? Why do good sheep get made into stew and chops? Why are goats bad? Is it Ok if that goat is my friend? Because he plays a wicked guitar solo and I dig his sense of humor.”

Ok, so my questions and doubts are a little heavier that that, but you get the idea.

I can’t shut it off. I can’t stop being me with all my thinking and whatnot.

Sometimes I wish I could. I wish church would give us a little handbook that says, “Here are your opinions on all the things. Go forth and believe them no matter how anyone challenges them. DO NOT THINK ABOUT IT; JUST DO IT.”

But I know I would fail at faith if that was how it worked.

In fact, as a young adult, I thought that was how it worked and I thought I failed.  I’m coming to find out now, that maybe I’m ok the way I am: full of questions, doubts, and opinions.

But is it Ok to not wanna be a sheep?

*************

*lyrics and music for I Just Wanna Be a Sheep

**googling free images of sheep will make you happy because sheep are rather cute, if not totally stupid.

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