Here’s another one from Carrie Ratcliff:
By Carrie Ratcliff
So many of the things I believed before are being proven false right before my very eyes. This is awe-inspiring for me.
One of the things that I believed was that I needed to be in a community of believers. I judged my “present” community as being anything but believers. So I felt like I had to search for a body of believers. I went to church after church after church and nowhere did I hear the Cross being preached—I always found communities of self-seekers.
If you ask the majority of the people I encounter in my daily life if they are believers, many would say no. They are atheists, agnostics, or other. Some are Jewish, Muslim, or Buddhist. Others claim to be Christian, but with the amount of self-seeking and/or judging I’ve observed, I have to wonder.
But the thing is, I’m guilty of judging and self-seeking myself when I create a picture of what my community should look like and then judge my neighbors according to this picture. Who am I to judge or to make myself superior to anyone else? I am nothing but dust.
So I stopped wondering who might be a believer. Instead, I prayed to be able to see Christ within everyone.
It is amazing to me that when I reveal my idolatry in thought, word, or action, someone I believe to be agnostic or anything other than a believer will exhort me. What I have observed and experienced lately is that my community, no matter what their expressed religious views are, can identify idolatry and can call me on it. My initial reaction to this was irritation and judgment—these people aren’t believers—how can they exhort me? But that irritation turned into awe as I observed more and more the people around me calling me out on my idolatry. My husband does it, my step-children do it, my friends, my co-workers, my mother, etc. There is nowhere “safe” from the mystery. I could probably hang out at a convention of atheists and find myself being exhorted.
The thing is, I am not my own. When I offered myself to God I did so without condition. It was all or nothing. My “environment” is now no longer my office, my home, school, or anywhere else I might visit in the world. My environment is the mystery and everything that is used to reveal my idolatry so that I can repent of it and fully abandon myself. I am amazed at who and what reveals my idolatry—anything I encounter in my daily experience: People, programs, books, the news, my classes, policies, animals, traffic, magazines, etc.
I had recently written about struggling to repent of my desire to be thin. I am guilty of praying to be thin; to change my situation to make it more acceptable to me. But finally, I prayed for acceptance and concluded that my weight must be my “burden to bear.” Those “mature” believers will read that and will know my error. I didn’t realize my error until my company advised me that I had to enroll in a wellness program to maintain lower-cost insurance. This wellness program establishes goals such as weight loss that you have to achieve. My reaction to this was anger—why? Because I “owned” my “weight burden”. Well, I don’t exist so how can I be burdened? As soon as I realized that I believed that I was burdened, I signed up for the wellness program. Will I lose weight? That’s not my business and I will repent of any investment in that outcome. Weight loss is insignificant—what is significant is that my idolatry was revealed—and it was revealed through a corporate program.
I do not need to go searching for a community of believers. I do not need to change any aspect of my life. I do not need to avoid the activities of the world in favor of “spiritual” activities. My life is perfectly designed—just as it is—to achieve the only goal I’m here to achieve: Complete abandonment of self.
You are right where you need to be. Your life is perfect just as it is. If you disagree with me, pray for the ability to see and hear the mystery in your everyday life, in the people you encounter, in the things you experience every day. The revealed mystery transforms the mundane trappings of the world into moments of awe and wonder. A homeless shelter, prison, a dead-end job, an impossible home life—the mystery will reveal the beauty and meaning of any of these situations. If you are shaking your head in disagreement, I pray for Christ to be revealed in you and in those you encounter each day. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.