Clear the Stage

I do this thing where I go between being super super enthusiastic about my faith, to being completely sceptical of everything. There is very rarely any middle ground. There are times when I feel like shouting it from the rooftops – I’m engaged in church, I want to take part in worship and cell groups, I write blog posts about it, i’m enthused by the lyrics to songs about how great God is, and I get frustrated when other people don’t seem interested. I sing along to songs with real passion – I want to believe it all and feel it and connect with God. But then I hit this brick wall, where I realise I don’t understand what i’m singing about or reading about. I listen to a podcast, but I raise my eyebrows at every second sentence because it just all seems too far fetched. The passion turns to doubt, and I just end up confused and frustrated.

This turnaround happened at youth councils at the weekend, and actually went back and forward about 3 times within a 2 hour meeting.  My mind kept going between being really challenged by what was being preached or by the words the worship band were singing, to thinking ‘how does anyone in here know any of this is real?’

Across the weekend it was reiterated that we are all created by and loved by God. We were given a bit of paper that read “You are loved more than you will ever know by someone who died to know you”. But how does that even make sense? I heard someone much older and wiser and further along their faith journey say the other day that they think some of the old testament should be discarded, partly because of how ridiculous and unrealistic stories like Jonah and the Whale, for just one example, sound. I had to physically bite my tongue to stop myself from replying that surely Jesus rising from the dead is just as, if not more, unrealistic? I just don’t know how to comprehend it all. Can you believe some stuff but not others? Is that allowed? (Answers would be appreciated!!!)

I am someone who wants to believe and trust and understand and really ‘enter in’ and have a relationship with God. But how it can be remotely possible to have a relationship with someone you can’t see, or really talk to, or even prove is real? How can someone so powerful, who’s supposed to have created the world and everything in it, know every person on the planet…know them and know how their life will turn out and hear their prayers? I just don’t get it. I really want to get it – I want to believe that there is something out there to fill the gap. I’m not finding things very easy at the minute, and people always say that ‘His strength is perfect’ and that your help will come from the Lord and about 30 other similar cliches, and I want to believe that if I trust and rely on Him that everything will be okay (well, maybe not okay, but that whatever happens, I’ll be following God’s plan/in his arms blah blah blah)… but how do you even do that, and how does it work?

A song called “Clear the stage” was played on Sunday and I find the lyrics quite powerful. (And I don’t think I was the only person on Sunday who felt that way, I’ve seen it shared on Facebook a couple of times since!) I don’t necessarily agree with all of the lyrics, but there is a section near the end of the song which reads:

“We must not worship something that’s not even worth it
Clear the stage, make some space for the one who deserves it…
Anything I put before my God is an idol
Anything I want with all my heart is an idol
Anything I can’t stop thinking of is an idol
Anything that I give all my love is an idol”

At the time I was challenged by those lines – there are so many things that we let, either purposely or subconsciously, get in the way of our faith and our relationship with God. I couldn’t even start to list them. A conversation with someone on Sunday afternoon subsequently made me realise that actually, not only do the things I do/want/love/think of become ‘idols’ and get in the way, but actually, so does the way I think. My incessant analysing and questioning and dissecting of everything i’m told, particularly when it comes to things about God, often pushes me further away, instead of giving me a better understanding. And i’m not sure where that leaves me. I don’t want to blindly accept things because that’s not me. But I don’t want to push myself further away from God either. I’ve been told before that as mere humans, we’re not meant to understand Him, and I’ve posted before that I thought i’d become okay with that, but maybe I’m not after all.

Another song that was played at least twice on Sunday was called ‘Simplicity’. At the time, I really didn’t engage with it, but upon listening to it again and reading through the lyrics, I can really connect to it.

“I come in simplicity
Longing for purity
To worship You
In spirit and truth
Only You”

The lines that get me the most though are these:

Give me a childlike heart
Lead me to where You are

To some extent, I would love to have a childlike type faith, where I didn’t question every little detail, and just accepted readily who God is and that He loves Me, rather than raising my eyebrows to the ceiling and asking 20 questions when someone says that. This is a very messy post, but I guess that’s my ultimate prayer at the minute. I need his help, I just need to figure out how to comprehend trusting in him and all that He is.

More than a song

In my last post I wrote about how I love listening to ‘worship’ music. I’ve only recently discovered the band called Rend Collective, and I think they’re brilliant. They remind me of Mumford and Sons, only the lyrics are all about God/Faith and everything that comes with that. I downloaded one of their albums this morning on Apple Music, called ‘Campfire’. I had it on shuffle in the car and a track came on which was actually a video, containing clips of different songs, and one of the band members describing why they had chosen to record an album around a campfire. Some of the things he said struck me straight away – either because I completely agreed, or was totally challenged. So I thought i’d type out some of what he said and share it:

 

“That openness and vulnerability is exactly what we should see in the greatest community on earth: the church. There are no walls out here and there should be no walls of defence towards God or each other, even if we have been hurt. 

Worship isn’t just confined to the four walls of a church building. And it’s certainly not exclusive, but it’s for every human being on this planet. In the kingdom of God there are no outsiders. 

We need to be careful not to allow hurt or cynicism to drive us from church. Otherwise we end up like a branch taken from the fire – lifeless and cold. I know the painful experience in life can be overwhelming, but we aren’t meant to go through it alone

All of us have the divine spark within us, and we so desperately need the breath of god to bring us to life and light. Jesus wants to set the church on fire, so the world can warm themselves around us and find light and safety. We are here on earth to be a home and a refuge for the lost and broken, but first we must learn the art of togetherness and celebration. To welcome people into the party of true freedom found in Jesus, we first must be students of that very way of life. We need to learn to celebrate, we need to choose his joy. 

We are the Church, we are the hope on earth. 

To be on a journey as God’s family, going through the highs and lows of life, suffering and laughing together, thats what i want. Not some holy huddle where we all pretend everything is okay, but a real community who believes in the God of miracles, but also in the God of the trials. That’s what the world needs too, so lets give out the invites, put aside our selfish ways, and celebrate Jesus round the campfire. It’s time for you to start your fire. “

Is it just me that finds a lot of that hugely challenging, but also so, so true? I thought i’d talk about the bits that stand out to me the most.

  • Worship isn’t just confined to the four walls of the church building. I really agree with this one. I personally find that I worship God with far more enthusiasm, often when i’m not stood in my normal church building. I think that belting out songs about God’s love by the likes of these guys, whilst driving in my car, is just as authentic, if not actually more so, a form or worship than sometimes when i’m stood in church out of duty or habit. I’m not always necessarily connecting to what i’m singing/playing/listening to/being preached about in a church building, but if I’m singing at the top of my lungs in the car (happens a lot!) and really thinking about and meaning the words i’m singing about how great God is or whatever, then that’s just as important and worthy for him. No?
  • We need to be careful not to allow hurt or cynicism to drive us from church. This one I definitely agree with and can relate to, from a variety of angles. Firstly,  Churches essentially, whether they should be or not, are like any other organisation. And they’re full of us flawed humans who all have strong opinions about how things should and shouldn’t operate, who should and shouldn’t be in charge of things, and what should or shouldn’t be done. And all too often that causes arguments, animosity, and issues that distract us from focusing on God, or stop us from worshipping at church altogether. Secondly, anything in life that hurts us can easily make us blame God. and thirdly, I am all too aware that cynicism for God – whether that’s in believing he’s there at all, or trusting him, can drive a huge wedge between yourself and him, and yourself and your church.
  • We aren’t meant to go through this alone. Right?!! Again, i agree with this on two levels. We aren’t meant to go through life alone in the sense that God is always with us..if I ignore my scepticism long enough to believe what i’m told, there is absolutely nothing we can do to escape God or his love. But also, ‘it takes a village’. We don’t need to go through the confusion of figuring things out – life or God wise – on our own. I was told in a text last night that “you’re so very definitely not on your own my friend – please don’t ever think that”, after admitting I often felt like I was alone either in navigating my way through the mess that is my head just now/through life/through figuring out my faith. It was a simple thing to be told and something I really shouldn’t have needed reminding of, but I re-read the bit of the text about a dozen times, and was very close to crying because of how comforted I was by it. Humans aren’t supposed to be alone, we need people. And we need God (and we have him!)
  • We need to learn to learn to celebrate, we need to choose his joy. I had a conversation yesterday about people who, when told about God and his love etc., are indifferent. To me, there are two reactions that could come from being told that, and indifference isn’t one of them. Either you would be overjoyed and elated and shouting it from the rooftops, because if it is all real and authentic, then it truly is awesome and amazing. The other reaction would be scepticism/cynicism/disbelief/doubt about whether it is true or not. I personally struggle to comprehend how you just wouldn’t care either way. So yeah, if it’s all true, then joy is indeed what we need to choose. No one else is going to listen if we don’t learn to choose his joy.

This became quite a huge blog post, and actually there could be a few more in the not so distant future because my head is pretty full right now! But i’m going to end it with the last bit I highlighted above, because I couldn’t say it any better myself.

To be on a journey as God’s family, going through the highs and lows of life, suffering and laughing together, thats what i want. Not some holy huddle where we all pretend everything is okay, but a real community who believes in the God of miracles, but also in the God of the trials.