Tag Archives: Jesus

Saved

I was saved the other day.

I’d been thinking about how much I’d like to begin afresh, to start over with some aspects of my life, to wake up one day and not be the same angry, neurotic basketcase I normally am (on the inside, at least.) I was thinking about how it might feel to be “saved” in the way you always hear about, “reborn” to a life in Christ. What sort of energy would that give a person toward being a better, more useful human? I thought about how much I’d love to have that kind of renewed spirit.

In the 13 months that we’ve lived in our new home, we haven’t once had anyone come to our door spreading the Good Word. Well that very evening, after I had the roundabout wish to be saved, a preacher from a local Baptist church came to my house.

In previous encounters in past residences, I have politely but firmly sent them on their way. But he was a much older man and it was hot outside, so I offered him a glass of ice water. We’d just gotten our new porch furniture, so I was able to offer him a seat outside and sit with him for a moment.

He gave me his schpiel and didn’t say anything that would have made me stop listening, such as talk of the devil or hell. I do not believe in them and I will not allow someone to harangue me on the subject, unless I’m having a philosophical conversation with a trusted friend.

His sales talk led him to ask me if I’d like to pray with him to be saved (I am paraphrasing everything he said, because I’m not familiar enough with the Evangelical lingo to parrot it exactly.) For a second I flashed on the story of the man trapped on the roof of his house in a flood. He prayed to God to be saved. A man rowing a boat came by and told him to hop in, but the man refused, saying God would save him. A helicopter flew by and threw down a rope, but the man refused, saying God would save him. A while later he died in the flood. When he saw God, he sadly asked why God didn’t save him. God said, “I sent a boat and a helicopter, what else did you want?”

I wasn’t going to send away this rescue mission, having just hours ago requested it.

So I said I’d like to say the prayer with him. He asked me to repeat the words after him and to believe them as I say them. I remember answering, “If I believe them, I’ll repeat them.” I wasn’t going to say anything I didn’t actually believe.

The prayer was about accepting and trusting Jesus, following him, stating that he died for our redemption, that sort of thing (again, I’m paraphrasing). I really did believe everything he said.

Then we exchanged some further niceties, he said he’d see me in heaven, and he left.

Afterwards I was very aware of how I was feeling, and what might have been different. He had talked about how now I was saved and forgiven of all my sins, past, present and future. I’ve always rejected this idea, because it seems like a carte blanche to engage in all kinds of less-than-holy behaviors, and it also seems to eliminate accountability for future errors.

But I felt a bit lighter, and it occurred to me how much Catholic guilt I’d been living with my whole life, and that this might be an experiment in letting go of all that. I’d operated my entire existence under the assumption that I was a horrible sinner who had probably committed some awful sin when I wasn’t paying attention and if I got hit by a bus, I’d see that my tally sheet was woefully in the red.

According to this man, I was now saved no matter what. You can’t earn heaven, he’d said, it’s a gift, and all you have to do is accept it.

How would my life look and feel different if, instead of feeling this constant, nagging guilt, I had a sense of lightness and joy? If I had a sure sense that Jesus really did save us all with His selfless life and sacrifice?

In the days since I was saved, I have mostly forgotten to remember that I am saved and to live accordingly. Old habits die hard. I’d love to live in joy, even if I feel pain. I’d love to always come from a place of love, even in the face of challenges. I’d love to trust completely in SOMETHING, anything, even the ground under my feet.

Have you ever been saved? How did it change your life?

Jesus as Healer

I’m reading for the second time Thomas Moore’s book Writing in the Sand: Jesus & the Soul of the Gospels. This morning I started on the chapter about healing and read:

The good news is that we are creating a new world order in which the first task is to heal each other.

The Buddha begins his teaching with the simple observation that there is suffering in the world. Jesus similarly focuses on the sickness of the soul that affects people individually and socially, physically and spiritually. This perception of sickness is central, and healing is his signature activity. Jesus does not teach how to be virtuous, how to be saved, or how to be a good church member. He says nothing about memorizing dogma or following a strict set of moral rules. Instead, he continually demonstrates how to be in this world as a healer.

I find this perspective so inspiring. Moving away from judgment, rules and regulations, to focus on healing and becoming whole.

Also, in my current reading of the Gospel of Mark, I’m realizing for the first time how concerned Jesus was about feeding people. I mean, we’ve all heard the story of the miracle of the loaves and fish, but I think previously I had assumed that it was just another opportunity for Jesus to show off. But the second time he does it, Mark describes it thus:

In those days when there again was a great crowd without anything to eat, he summoned the disciples and said, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a great distance.” Mark 8:1-3

I can completely relate, since I love to feed people and am constantly thinking about what food I will make, who will be around to eat it, what they might enjoy, etc. For the first time I felt a real human connection to Jesus through a story in the Gospel.

I think my study of Buddhism and Taoism has deeply informed my understanding of Jesus and what he was all about. I think for me the Good News makes much more sense when approached from these directions, rather than the hellfire preacher or rigidly structured, Pope-dictated way.

The message becomes very simple, and living as Jesus did and following his example is precisely as we are told the Tao operates, flowing like water to the lowlands, moving with the terrain, serving without asking for credit or being clever, losing one’s self in the ocean of Oneness.

To heal, to feed, to love!

I don’t know how any of it could be officially integrated in any way that anyone else would ever recognize as valid, but for me, it feels like Spirit is speaking and being revealed through the interweaving of it all.

Using the Negative

We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.” — Kenji Miyazawa

Lao Tzu says that we must feed the good and the bad will wither and die.  This approach feels right to me, as I see so many people stuck in the “bad,” whether it is being trapped by worry or feeding negative fantasies until they come true or even talking obsessively about the “devil” and what he is trying to get them to do.  If we pour our energy into the positive, we cultivate the positive, and the negative has nothing to feed on.  (Why the “devil”-obsessed folks don’t just turn their attention to their faith in Jesus I cannot understand.)

So the negative withers and dies.  Compost!  It is still usable.  The idea of turning to the positive is a helpful reminder, but to turn our backs on the negative permanently encourages a dangerous denial; we don’t have to be afraid to look the dark side in the face and use it for good.

I think I have resisted optimism for so long because it seemed pathetically passive, to be a weak pawn clinging desperately to happy thoughts against the raging storms of chaos that toss us all around.  I could never understand how it could be better to be clueless about how bad things really are and to pretend that everything is okay.

But to be optimistic in the face of the suffering, the horrors, the pain of life, what courage and strength!  True optimism does not deny the negative, it simply acknowledges it, refuses to feed it, and converts it to positive energy to move forward along the path.

Cynicism and pessimism, which I used to think demonstrated a brave, bold acceptance of reality, I now believe are signs of defeat, of allowing the negative to swamp you and take over your life.  It is a cowardly surrender to despair.

There is suffering.  The negative does exist, and you will meet it on the path with alarming regularity.  But it is not the Way.  If we keep to the Wise Way, we will find love even in the midst of pain and sorrow, and our hearts, minds and wills can follow that light through any darkness.