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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Walls of Our Own Construction

I confess that I am not a scientist. The so-called "hard sciences" have never held much interest for me, I suspect because I have never believed that I would find a reason to use them in my daily life. I have never had to factor an equation at the grocery store, I never have been called upon to recite anything contained in the periodic table of elements, I haven't peered into a microscope since leaving school, and I don't fix my own car so I don't need to know much about mechanics, either. Of course, I value people who are excited by science - I am married to one. It's just not my thing. The result is that when I read about what physicists (and other scientists) have discovered I pretty much have to take it at face value. I'm not in any position to say, "Excuse me, Mr. Physicist, but I believe your methodology is faulty!"

Physicists say that everything on our planet is moving, that in actuality nothing is solid at the molecular level. It's all vibrating very quickly. That's not a new idea, it's been around for several years, but it's an idea I am still trying to come to terms with. Certainly, as far as my eye can see there are solid things and plenty of them. As one who has fallen down more than his share of times, the ground certainly does seem solid to me! You probably have stubbed your toes or hit your elbow on something that sure felt solid to you, too! Anyone who has been in a car accident would most likely attest to cars being solid objects. Of course, when we are talking about very small things like molecules that are packed very closely together and vibrating, larger things won't pass through them, which explains why things that are not solid leave bruises behind!

On the other hand, what if Jesus really did pass through a "solid" wall in his resurrected form? This information certainly speaks to that, doesn't it? =Some years ago people I respect as sane, rational people told me of the time they invited a Jain monk to speak to their church education hour and really couldn't explain how he was standing next to the table one moment and then sitting cross legged on top of it the next without anyone having seen him get up there. What about the "healer" in South America who apparently shoves a scissors up his nose without ill effects (though we don't know how the scissors feels about the whole thing)? It would seem that things are not always what they appear.

As I was reflecting on all of this it occurred to me that we humans love to create walls. Some of us like to create literal walls with bricks and mortal or studs and drywall. Most if not all of us seem to like to divide and categorize things. I seem to remember one of the first astronauts to orbit the earth remarked how beautiful it was and how he was struck that the human made boundaries between nations were (of course) not visible from space, adding to the beauty of his orbiting perspective. Somewhere I have a globe from when my children were in grade school, and some of the lines have moved and some of the names have changed. A globe from when I was in school would be almost comical in its inaccuracy today.

We put up walls in our spiritual lives, too. Religions are comprised primarily of walls that say we can believe this but cannot believe that; these behaviors are acceptable but those are not; these things make you welcome and those make you an outcast; and hosts of other walls. Sometimes religions remodel their houses by moving the walls and declaring what was bad to now be good and what was good to now be bad. Sometimes what had been thought to be eternal truths delivered directly from God get shifted around, to the anguish of some and the joy of others. This kind of wall moving can be healthy or destructive depending on whether it is life giving or life denying.

There is a video going around the Internet of a pastor in Oklahoma attacking his congregation in what he probably believes is tough love but in actuality is religious abuse. You can view it here. There was a day this kind of behavior may have been acceptable, but today it is not. The wall has moved, and apparently Pastor Jim Standridge didn't get the memo - or he didn't care. At least two of his members did care. The couple who were going to be married by Standridge and were attacked as "members not worth fifteen cents" in the video have left Immanuel Baptist Church and plan to be married elsewhere. I guess Pastor Standridge isn't the "real deal" he proclaims himself after all!

Religion isn't the only place that walls get put up, however. In our own spiritual lives we construct walls around ourselves all the time. There are practices and beliefs that we believe we can participate in and those that we believe are beyond either our ability, our beliefs, or both. Very often, people stepping away from the unhealthy restrictions placed upon them in their religious settings unwittingly carry the walls with them. The result is a kind of voluntary imprisonment in the name of freedom.

If we really believe that God is good and kind and loving, then God simply must encourage human beings to explore, learn, achieve, and move toward their full potential. If God has even just a few of the attributes traditionally attributed to God, there is nothing we can possibly do that would threaten God. Despite that, when we walk away from a restrictive religious environment (not all religious environments are restrictive, by the way) we may find it hard to step out fully into our new freedom. At that point, walls that once were imposed upon us become walls of our own construction - and what we build, we have the power to take down or walk through because they aren't solid anyway.

It may be frightening at first, but every new experience brings with it uncertainty. In some people uncertainly brings a bit of fear with it. We should remember that living things can only thrive when they are free to experiment and grow. Spirituality can and should be a playful journey filled with new discoveries. Our life stands before us and invites us to live it fully. It may be that our biggest obstacles are self imposed walls - tear them down! They were nothing more than fictions anyway! Spirituality brings with it the freedom to move into the fullness of our potential. The only thing standing in the was is us!

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