Jeff’s theme for this lent season has been drifting. To quote his first e-mail;
“There is a need for seasons of renewal, because it is human nature to drift. Without ever making a decisive choice to move away from God or our best ideals and values – invariably over time we do drift away from our spiritual center. And since we are simply drifting, without any ever actually getting shipwrecked, it is easy to overlook the fact that we have drifted far from our home shore.”
I think we all do tend to drift from time to time. When things like illness, death, arguments, or bad days at work can make us feel like we may have done something wrong. Is God mad at me? What did I do?
A friend of mine asked me if I go to church for spiritual reasons, or social ones, and told me that he grew up in a ghetto and went to church for social reasons and it served as an outlet for him. As visions of coffee hour and church dinners flew passed my head I answered and said…it’s both, and kind of gave a generic answer that worship was to learn more about God, and the social part was to see how God worked though people. I believe that, but I’ve been reflecting on that trying to find deeper meaning to it. It keeps sticking around, so I thought I should make it into a faith witness of some kind.
I listen to a lot of music on my long commute to work and that is how I sort through things, and find inspiration when I am amidst a personal struggle. Jamie O’Neill has a song called “Devil on the left and an Angel on the right” The words of the song go “There’s a Devil on the Left, and Angel on the right, I’m already in the middle of the fight. A part of me is in heaven, a part of me in hell, a part of me is struggling just to find my way through life with a Devil on the left and an Angel on the right.” What I’m about to say may sound like I need therapy, but here it goes: When I feel I’m drifting, I can hear that Devil on the left saying things like, “You did something bad, you’re a sinner, God is mad at you,” and I can hear the Angel on the right saying, “It’s ok, everyone makes mistakes, God Loves you, you’re forgiven,” so sometimes it can go back and forth you’re bad, you’re good, you’re a sinner, you’re loved.”
I look at our bond with God as being like two magnets. When they are touching each other, the bond is very strong; almost inseparable. Once the magnets get pulled a part a little, it becomes easier to separate them. When I drift I feel like this magnetic bond has been pulled away and that room is left for the devil on the left to enter in with negativity. I think our bond gets easily pulled apart through gossip, negative friends, bad advice etc. From my friends in Church I realize that we all struggle with sickness, death, and experience various forms of drifting, but I also see that God is working miracles in your lives and that renews my faith that he is working in my life as well.
This past year I’ve done some drifting in response to some tough experiences: my biological mother’s husband passed away at age 53 from lung cancer and our seven year old dog Max was diagnosed with lympho-sarcoma. I made a trip to Virginia in order to be supportive of my biological mother and my half brother. But there was something else that happened which I hadn’t anticipated. During my visit I met her brother in law and his wife. They had had their children taken away from them because they were not the best parents. The wife has been battling depression and anxiety disorder ever since she found out her kids had been adopted and that she would not be able to see them. My birth mother made it a point to show her how my brother Dan had lived a better life than the one she could have given us. She also made a point to show her that we did not have any bad feelings toward her and that everything worked out for the best. This gave her new hope that her kids would not be angry or resentful towards her for having to give them up. I’m planning to send a copy of the worship adoption service we held on the theme of adoption when Jeff was on sabbatical in which myself and several others from our church family shared our personal experience of adoption. I feel that God used the people around her to pull her back to shore and help get her through her depression and anxiety. You never know how or when God is going to use you.
I know that we all struggle and drift during the hard times. I truly believe that our involvement in Church are twofold — both spiritual and social. The worship part of my faith show me the course I am intended to take. In the social part I find examples of how to live, receive helpful advice, support and comfort when I’m struggling, and am kept from drifting too far off course, and occasionally throws out the life vest when I’m in need of being pulled back to safety. God will always take us back after we have drifted.