So, here's the thing. I'm a Christian. I believe in all that crazy stuff Jesus said. But I don't like to broadcast that I'm a Christian because I don't want to be associated with those Christians. The ones who make everything political, who read the Bible literally, who seem to enjoy fighting the culture wars more than loving their neighbor.
I'm not one of those Christians, but I struggle to define what kind of Christian I am. A broken one, for starters. A give-me-all-the-grace-you-can kind, because Lord knows how much I need it. I'm embarrassed by my selfishness, my pride, how easily I climb onto that high-horse and how quickly I get tossed off onto my ass.
The college I went to had it's fair share of what my roommate and I called "bible boys". They liked to argue about theology and hermeneutics while they ate cereal, while they walked to class, while they waited for their girlfriends in the dorm lounge. Some of them didn't have girlfriends, because that would be a distraction. There weren't any bible girls. Only girls who might marry the bible boys. I'm not sure how I escaped it all, but I happened to marry one of the biology boys instead. He liked to ask questions and wasn't afraid of not knowing the answer. He liked to eat his cereal in peace. Thank God, thank God, I didn't marry a bible boy.
These days, when I pray, it's usually just to say "thanks" or to say "help". I don't think God actively intervenes when my son has pneumonia and we need to decide whether to hospitalize or keep him home. I don't think prayer changes whether his fever lingers at 104.4 or dips to 101. Tylenol does. But prayer? Not so much. I don't get it when Christians say, "pray that God gives the doctors wisdom." You know what gives the doctors wisdom? Med school.
I pray because I need to connect with the God that I've grown to love, because he first loved me. But I don't expect him to heal my son or my friends' marriage or change my other friend's employment situation or make sure my move goes smoothly. I expect him to draw near to me (even though sometimes he doesn't and I feel totally ignored and forgotten). I expect him to help me endure whatever loss and grief this world allows. And I expect Him to make everything new and better and perfect in the end....kingdom come.
I grew up in a bit of a bubble, a Christian one. And though I've been out for almost 20 years, I still look at that bubble, that place where I had more answers than questions, and I think it sounds like a nice way to spend my spring break. This tension of living in this fallen world with less than perfect answers and overwhelming (at times) cynicism and doubt, it stretches me thin, lets me go and snaps me like a rubber band. I fly through the air and fall to the floor, and I ache.
I ache when I pay even the slightest attention to the world. Sure, I see the ocean and I feel that calm and glory and peace. But all the other times, like when I read the news or talk to a grieving, hopeless-feeling friend, all the other times, it makes me ache. And when I get the chills and the shakes, when the ugliness is too high, God is my Tylenol. I believe in that ever after where everything is new and beautiful and the way it is supposed to be. The thought of this rescue, this loving God, it brings my temperature down.
And maybe the disease isn't totally gone, but it's enough that I can sit up straight, take a sip of water.
And I can pray for healing, the eternal kind. Because that's the kind of healing I believe in.
*This is the scariest thing I've ever published, even scarier than my melodramatic poetry, because guess what, it's not just a happy clappy story about my kids. People might actually disagree and judge and think I'm an idiot or an infidel. But I want to be brave, and today seemed like a decent time to give it a try.