Her eyes clouded ash gray as she told her story. A deep sadness would invade her spirit; a melancholy could command her for days. She was a mother and a wife of a successful doctor. All her needs were met, but some days the darkness descended upon her. Her church, one of the Spokane’s prominent warehouse church known for their great music and topical sermons, offered little help. Lost in midst of numbers, she did share her struggles with her small group only to find questions about what part of her life was not right with God. How was she the cause of her own suffering? For them, lacking in theological reflection or a developed awareness of Job or New Testament, her suffering must come from her failure to follow God completely.
Of course her pastor, a good and respected man of the Gospel, would have told her differently, but he was buried in building new and larger churches. She quickly found that what was demanded of her was smiling all the time, spirituality as pretense. She stop speaking of the darkness that showered upon her as she knew few could walk with her. I met her at a birthday party of mutual friend, and as my wife and I heard her story, we wanted to tell her that Jesus was with her even in her darkest hour for that is the Gospel. Jesus does not leave us alone in our darkness.
Follow the rules; get the goodies. And if ones does have the goodies, they must be defective. Such is many of the seductive promises of society. St Paul knew this was not the Gospel and through most of his letter to the Romans, he argued that the Gospel was accepting that nothing--not sadness, not other’s indifference, not anything in all of creation could separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. We, Christians, say in principle that is correct. Yet, while few openly embrace works earning love, the subtext of many ministries is practically: follow the rules get the love.
Many Christians find that they can’t be open within their church for fear of what others might say, creating a double face, one for the mirror and a sunday best face we put on church. Neither face the full face of humanity that Jesus promises. I have another friend who love Jesus, but accept some of modern science. He has been told that they no longer belong. While it would be easy to blame the church, I started to look at it from a wider lens. Low and behold this idea of following the rules to get the goodies goes beyond the church. Secular business, academia, law, this is the legalism that humans build their world on. Follow the rules and get the goodies.
If you don't have the goodies, the problem is you.
If my new friend suffering from depression admitted this to her secular friends about her struggles with depression, she would get similar responses: What was she doing to cause the depression. Go to the doctor and get a pill to fix it.
Again, she would find it hard to find someone to walk with her and say to her she was not alone. She would go the same route of two faces, one for home and one for going out in public. Neither the fully humanity she needs. Follow the rules, get the goodies leas to life as pretense.
Nothing I say here is particularly new.
It does show how radical the Gospel truly is. Rather than trusting the rules, God first trusts love. God will walk with us, being with us through all of our lives. This love being so powerful as to shape us. Following Jesus is not about getting the right answers, but simply about being loved and letting that love teach us how to love.. Jesus, God incarnate, shapes us into real living beyond follow the rules and get the goodies.