(This blog is a reaction to a letter written by Shane Claiborne. You can read the letter here.)
Apologies are nice. Actions to match lip-service is better. That being said, I like this letter. I like the idea of taking a new look at this mystery called God and thinking perhaps we put the wrong clothes on him. That we painted the wrong picture. I don’t buy much in the way of religion, but I believe in a God that moves people. I read about this man named Jesus and I believe that he came to heal, not to condemn. That his purpose wasn’t to create a new religion, but to spur people to move their feet and get dirty and love people and lend a hand. To love your neighbor as yourself and to know a God whose name we speak with every life-giving breath we take. (An interesting concept I picked up from this video: “Breathe” by Rob Bell)
If you ask a Christian why they go out of their way to do all these things for God, there’s a good chance some will say “to get to heaven”. To be honest, I’ve always been confused over this concept. If the story goes that Jesus showed up with this message of mercy and forgiveness; that he died to make up for our sins… then why are we still trying to earn ourselves a spot?
It doesn’t make sense.
When I first began seriously seeking The Great Mystery, I asked myself why? What’s the point? I will never understand it fully. None of us will. Yet I think that’s why so many religions exist. Because throughout human existence, we’ve sought to make sense of something far greater than we can fathom. We can feel it, sense it, experience it. Whatever he, she or it is, it’s a part of us. Yet its essence is entirely spiritual. Intangible, but present and moving within every living thing. We try to make sense of it. We create laws and formulas in attempt to gain its attention and/or its favor. Or, sadly, we try to fit it in a box and sell it.
But the more I seek, the more my eyes begin to perceive a purpose far simpler than we’ve made it. I’m not saying I’m right, or that everybody who disagrees is wrong. Only what I’ve come to feel and believe. Jesus became my role model when I looked at his life and realized simple worked. He loved, gave, healed, listened, forgave… everywhere he went, he hung out with the uglies of society and inspired them to live in ways that “bore good fruit”. How? With compassion. He made the lame to walk and the blind to see. Constantly, he renewed the hope of the hopeless. The guy was everybody’s best friend that wanted him to be.
And he did it not because anyone earned it or deserved it. He did it out of love.
I spent most of my childhood trying to earn “love”. I battled with the demon of never feeling good enough. No matter how hard I worked, I always fell short. This translated into my spiritual life. With God I found myself in the same rut, and constantly tried “starting over”. To become “better”. I was afraid of never being good enough in God’s eyes.
It wasn’t until a year ago this May that I truly began to understand this concept of Unconditional Love. Before then, it didn’t make sense. In fact, Love itself didn’t make sense because by the definition I was given, love is unconditional.
It wasn’t until I fell in love that I understood. It occurred during a conversation. I remember it was late at night, and my heart ached as I listened to the voice on the other end of the phone. He talked about being afraid. He was afraid that eventually he would make a mistake and I would turn away.
I remember responding something like this. “I don’t love you because of what you do or done. I love you because of who you are. That’s it. I don’t expect you to be perfect. You’ll mess up, I’ll mess up, it’s going to happen. But that’s okay. Because I see you, I know you’re imperfect and I love you anyway. No matter what happens between us, that’s not going to change.”
Suddenly it all made sense. All the strange “coincidences” in my life. The ways that this Being we call God intervened in ways I eventually couldn’t deny. Before I didn’t understand. I found it impossible to perceive that I could be loved by man, much less a deity, due to the things I had done. Yet when the words came from my own mouth and heart, I began to perceive. No wonder God never left, I thought to myself. As I lay there that night speaking into a line stretching past state lines, I understood why.
The answer was, “Just because”.
I no longer live with a motive. As strange as it sounds, I no longer dwell on what happens or where I will go after I die. I no longer care. I used to believe in living a certain way so that I can “earn” a glorious life in heaven. What was once the ultimate goal no longer matters. My fate is in the hands of God, and as much as I don’t understand, I love Him just as I love the boy on the end of the line. So I live my life in love, and leave the fate of my soul to be discovered when I pass from this life to the next.
Today I care more about those around me than I ever did. I ask “how are you” and I mean it. I stumble often, but I try. I try to help the people around me, and I wake up every morning giving a crap. I go out of my way to help people who, in the eyes of men, don’t “deserve” it. But I try to help them anyway. Love is a verb for me. It’s something I do.
And I do it just because.