Friday, February 22, 2013

Losing a friend

It was at the beginning of a comment, the offhanded phrase that left me stunned at its unexpectedness from that quarter: I don't believe in God any more.  I was off balance all day, literally; I kept catching myself on walls and desk corners.  Whenever there was a quiet moment, I was melancholy, more deeply saddened than I would have thought, at this loss.  We will remain casual friends who knew each other better once, but something is different now, like a missing tooth.

I asked what led her to that decision, and the answer was reason.  She found herself with some new premises and realized that if she believed them, logically she couldn't believe in God.  This seemed weird to me because it's not really how I'm set up, but when I thought about it in relation to her, to how she operates, it made sense.  She has always been a person of fact over emotion and logic over experience.  It makes sense that thinking logically led her away from the God of the Old Testament who surely seems a being of emotions (many of them negative).

I am reading Ezekiel right now, and there are definitely times where I feel the cultural gulf and the discomfort of an alien way of thinking.  I read certain passages and think, well, this part probably really offends this group of people.  I wonder, how do I reconcile this?  Then I go to bed and pray for people. 

Perhaps this means I am an intellectual coward, someone too afraid to dig in mentally because I think my faith will be lost on the path of reason.  Perhaps it means something else entirely.  Perhaps it means that I am able to see the Old Testament as story told by man about God in a different way than she does.  Perhaps it means I can divorce what the New Testament God says from what He says in the Old Testament (which took place in very different times).  Perhaps I don't really know what it means but am glad for it anyway.

I find myself wondering what she thinks of the God of the New Testament.  I understand how people read these two collections and think there must be two different beings involved because the one in the Old Testament doesn't seem much like the one in the New Testament at all.  In the New Testament, He is embodied, walking among us, teaching different things about how we are to live our lives, and then there are letters from those who knew Him and/or those who followed his teachings.  And then there's Revelation (equally as mind-blowing as Ezekiel).

Anyway, I found myself thinking about how we refer to people who no longer believe in God.  They have "strayed from the path" or "lost their faith."  At first I thought I didn't like these phrases; they are Christian cliches, almost devoid of meaning.  A former classmate of mine has refused to ditch Christian cliches as worthless and has chosen instead to study them and remake them into meaningful communication again, to find and redeem them.  In the interest of following her example, I decided to do the same, and I realized that even though people usually say these cliches as an end (as if once you are lost or strayed, you are as good as dead), I think they really could be seen and used as hopeful.  If they have been on the path, there is a possibility they could find their ways back; if they are lost, they can be found. 

I pray it may be so.

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