Christianity, General, Religion

More Than Gritting My Teeth.

One of my friends wrote a good blog entry about patience that ended with the question, “How do you keep your patient loving heart when it is being tested?” I didn’t want to answer in her comment section because I think my answer would be too long. However, I have also been having a lot of thoughts about patience lately.

As a follower of Christ, I would obviously look first to the Bible for answers about how to keep a patient and loving heart in the middle of a trying situation. The Bible talks about many different types of patience. There is the kind of patience you need when you are waiting on God to reveal Himself or His will for a certain situation ( James 5:7-8, Psalm 37:7-9). There is the kind of patience you need when you are dealing with people or situations that get on your nerves (James 1:19-20, 1 Thessalonians 5:14, Ephesians 4:1-2). And, there is the type of patience that you need when you feel like you are working hard and honestly with no return (Galatians 6:9, Isaiah 40:31, Psalm 46:10). These are all very good scriptures to contemplate both as stand-alone verses and within the context of which they were written.

These scriptures tell me that I need to be patient and wait on the Lord, but (with the exception of James 1:19-20) they do not tell me how to be patient and wait on the Lord. And that is where I sometimes look for elaboration from other sources of spiritual instruction.

I’ve posted this quote on my blog before, but I think it is worth repeating:

“Patience is a mind that is able to accept, fully and happily, whatever occurs. It is much more than just gritting our teeth and putting up with things. Being patient means to welcome wholeheartedly whatever arises, having given up the idea that things should be other than what they are. It is always possible to be patient, there is no situation so bad that it cannot be accepted patiently, with an open, accommodating, and peaceful heart.”  – Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

Buddhism teaches (and I am speaking generally, because Buddhism is a very large school of thought with many different ideas) that patience is cultivated by learning to accept things as they are. When I feel impatient about the fact that I have still not finished school, for example,  it is because I am expecting that I should have been finished by now. I am expecting that things should have gone differently. But should they have? Instead of focusing on how I – in my limited knowledge of the universe – think things should have been, Buddhism teaches me to humble myself and realize that perhaps things are exactly what they are supposed to be at this moment.  And not only should I accept that things are what they are – but I should do so cheerfully and gratefully!

In response to my friend’s question about keeping a patient, loving heart – my answer would be that I first pray that God will create patience within me. If He doesn’t do that, then there’s nothing I can do on my own to stir up patience within myself. After I pray, I contemplate and employ the principle of fully accepting what is. Eventually, patience will be something that will occur naturally without my having to be so intentional about it.

Patience is about embracing the roller-coaster that is life. Not resentfully tolerating it.

 

Christianity, Religion

Contradiction, Embodied.

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” -Walt Whitman

A couple of weeks ago, as I sat on my bed studying languages, I suddenly felt this pressing urge to pray Isha.

I haven’t been a Muslim in a very long time, and haven’t made salat in years. As a matter of fact, I don’t even remember how to pray Isha, and I didn’t act on the urge to recite it at that time. But the urge pressed me so much that I could no longer concentrate on my language studies – or anything else – and I ended up going to bed early. The following morning, I checked the salat times for my area and was surprised to discover that my urge to pray Isha the night before had come at the exact time that Isha was being prayed by thousands of Muslims in my time-zone. I have similar stories.

Sometimes, I wake up early and feel the need to listen to Sikh chants. Other times, I am desperate to attend a mass or divine liturgy. Sometimes I feel like I need to set up an altar and meditate, or like I need to practice a physio/spiritual discipline like yoga, tai-chi, or the qigong of Falun Dafa. Then again, I often get the need to be outside and just revere nature or practice the corporate, un-programmed worship of the Quakers. And of course, I have those moments where I just want to head off to one of those Friday night worship services like ‘The Burn’ at my local non-denominational church.

I think I am multi-faith.

I am multi-faith, but I am still fiercely committed to Christ. I don’t think that people in my Christian circles  understand this. Conversely, I am fiercely committed to Christ, but I am still multi-faith. I don’t think that people in my  “all-roads-lead-to-Rome” circles understand this. I don’t neatly fit into any one category.

The up-side of this is the ability to appreciate and understand all walks of life, the ability to empathize with others and learn from their beliefs and experiences. I love that I have learned how to let doubt build my faith instead of destroy it. I love that I am not afraid to face hard questions and seeming contradictions about the nature of God, faith, and our world. I love that I can admit that I might be wrong about everything I believe, and still not feel threatened for believing it. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. And although I can never claim to fully understand God, I love that I am able to view and experience Him with a depth of perspective that comes with my eclecticism.

The down-side of this is that there is no spiritual community. And I think that’s something that everyone needs. I feel like my beliefs cause tension and sometimes stir up division – which I don’t want. I hate feeling as though I am going to stir the pot with some of the questions I ask. I also hate it when I feel like people are brushing me off as “seeking,” or “lost,” or “trying to start trouble,” simply because they don’t have the answers for what I’m asking, or because they don’t want to share honestly with me for fear that I’ll argue with them. I don’t mind being an outcast about most things, but when it comes to spirituality – I would really like there to be someone who can relate to me.

Nevertheless, I feel like it is time for me to come out of this ‘spiritual closet’ that I have been in.

I aspire to love and follow Jesus Christ, but I am not your typical Christian. I believe that every faith tradition is valid (validity doesn’t equal truth), that we can learn from one another, and that we should make an effort to do so. But I am not of the belief that we can all follow our own paths and all be right. Jesus said He is the way.

I may be making a mountain out of the mole-hill that is my spiritual duality, but I have felt like it is so hard to be openly both.