another post, when the world seemed so friendly; everyone smiled at me; but I realized it was because I was first smiling at them.
But when we ride solely on emotion, eventually our steed tires, and we dismount for a rest. Over the years, I've seen many enthusiastic Christians, especially those whose worship is emotional display, plummet into disillusionment and even resentment. One friend of mine, who taught various classes in our church, held Bible study meetings in their home, and with his wife would even call out my Dad on what they considered error, years later ran into me at college. He had gotten a divorce. And when I began mentioning Christian faith to him, he interrupted, saying, "Don't talk to me about the Bible."
An army buddy of mine, Mark, had been raised Catholic, but had converted to Jesus-freak-style Pentecostalism after the army. He came to visit me while he was still gung-ho and I had dismounted for a rest. One day when he was out painting a local church, I came upon his journal on the bedroom dresser, and couldn't help glancing into it. It was filled with all sorts of inner conflict, most all of it struggle and very little joy. I was thankful that I didn't fight with myself like that. (The next visit I had from Mark was a surprise, years later and after I was married with children. He had changed drastically, and was even creepy. It was hard to communicate at all with him, he seemed terribly depressed, and while wandering around town with him, he finally intimated with me, in few words, that he had become involved for a time in a satanic cult, and it was obvious he had had a nervous breakdown. About his experience all he could say was, "It was terrible...terrible.")
Although I had dismounted my emotional ride, I found I still at least maintained some morals. My landlord discovered I had a Yashika 35mm camera kit, with lenses and tripod, and offered to buy it. Not only that, he offered me a job. It turned out that he and his wife had a pornography studio in their home, two blocks away. They had me over, told me about the deal, and showed me some photos, including one of one of the girls I'd be "posing" with. I turned him down, but did trade my camera kit for their old station wagon.
So what happened? What happens to the zest we pump into our faith? I, too, fell, and afterwards even tried other religions, forsaking Christ. I'm thinking that form of expression is the culprit, along with false theology to begin with. There are Christian denominations that push our using emotional displays of worship. They criticize more staid forms of worship as being void of the Spirit, distinguishing them as "religious" rather than "Christian." And certainly no one (who is sane) can stay emotionally enthusiastic all the time, and when they get tired as their church insists they shouldn't, they feel as though they're not fulfilling their calling. They can't keep up, so they drop out. Simple physics.
And some denominations preach that the spirit is really us, while the body is a fleshly temptation we lug around. Hence the constant internal conflict. And when ("when," not "if") we fail to overcome temptation, we give in. We can't help it, we're losers, so we shrug our spiritual shoulders and accept sin as our way of life, whether we like it or not. Simple physics.
Man is the first creature to have both body and soul. We are unique among animals and spirits. We are both. This is not a curse. This is a blessing. The "flesh is weak," but our Creator did not hang it on us to hurt us. It is a part of us. Body and soul, we are whole, and we can't succeed at life unless we grasp onto both. Worship based on emotional spiritual worship is groping to the heavens without standing on a foundation. We finally find ourselves floating and helpless, and wind up gripping onto anything for some sort of security. In contrast, worship based on rote and physical foundation is to lie down and not rise at all. We feel secure, but secure only.
Of course, as with most things, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Let's ride on our emotions if we want. But when we dismount, let there be a firm foothold in the faith. Let us not lose heart if we must walk for a time, leading our mount, but remain forever steady, with a firm grip on the reins. God made it all. He is supporting us as He draws us up. We can enjoy the light He fills our spirits with, even while we feel the earth and the water and taste the bread and the wine. We are human beings, body and soul, wonderful creation. And when we see that picture of Jesus smiling, we can smile back.
It wasn't until about fifteen years later that my wife's encouragement helped lead me finally to accept the wholeness of Christianity. Since then I've not only led my steed but have been chased and trampled by it. And I've fallen and scraped myself on the foundation countless times. But now I can always roll over and gaze at the sky, and shake my head, laughing at my clumsiness. As you read in these posts, I have no fear in telling you about my failures, nor about sharing with you my faith. That's because we are both body and soul, one in the Spirit, direct blood descendants of Adam and Eve. I have no secrets from you.
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When Backsliding, Turn Around to Go Forward
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