Capital G

th“Well, I used to stand for something. Now I’m on my hands and knees, turning in my god for this one, and he signs his name with a Capital G.” ~Nine Inch Nails

You know god, the guy in the sky who looks down over us and says stuff like “It’s good.” From the time I was little I was well-acquainted with the big G, or at least I thought I was. My father was a preacher, and my mother was heavily involved in the church too, so I thought I was positioned closer than most to a true knowledge of the true god. I figured if anyone was going to be saved in the long run it was going to be me. I mean, it had to be me, because I had a close personal relationship and everything. I knew to spell his name with a capital G.

But somewhere along the line I realized that my father’s personal relationship, and my mother’s personal relationship, they didn’t equate a single bit to my own personal relationship with God. I had to figure that one out on my own, and that made me exactly equal to every other bloke on the planet who was also clueless about how to go about doing that. Sure, there’s a manual that starts with a capital B, but it’s so old and the language is so dowdy that I had no idea what any of it meant anyway, and the things I thought I understood could have easily been misinterpretations as well.

When do we use capital letters anyway? I mean, in our society they’re superfluous even when they are used. Generally I only see them anymore when someone is trying to write “scholarly,” not even in emails or text messages. Some people don’t even use a capital letter when signing their own names. I’ve seen more and more of that lately, so when we do use capitals it really is for special occasions or for special people. So this capital G that set God apart even before all this technology, even eons ago, it serves to set him apart even more now. When I use that capital G I know I’m talking about the one and only, not just some people’s approximations of who they think he is. Because it’s not about our perceptions. It’s about who he is.

Wow. So it makes sense that getting a personal relationship with God wouldn’t be an easy endeavor. I’ve spent nigh upon 30 years working on that one, and some days I don’t think I’m any closer to comprehending him, much less to having a relationship, some kind of give and take, with him. But I do know that it all starts with humbling myself, because God doesn’t go for all that confidence stuff. Why would he? None of us have done anything that’s worthy of his love, of his answering our prayers. He loves us in spite of ourselves, so going into it thinking that I was a preacher’s kid so God would take notice, that was entirely off point.

Maybe that’s the key. We can’t assume with God. We just need to be still and wait. It’s not about us, and it never was. It’s about him and his gift to us, his sacrifice for us even though we did nothing to deserve it, any of it. That’s how we get a personal relationship with the maker of all things, perhaps. We admit that we can’t do anything, that it’s all him, and we humbly bow and wait. It’s in the stillness, in the acknowledgement that we can do nothing, that’s when we can truly appreciate our God.

Because he is indeed awesome.

Sam

Spiritual But Not Religious

I remember in college when I was working at the library’s circulation desk, and I would see hordes of other students come and go every single day. They would pass by the big black desk, or they would stop, and I would have small, incidental conversations with them about whatever book they were checking out, or about the class they were taking that required the book, or about the weather. Some of them I would know from my own classes, and we would exchange a little more personal chitchat, making fun of professors, or setting up study “dates.” And once in a while someone would come up who didn’t have books,who I didn’t have classes with, and who I didn’t recognize at all. These people had ulterior motives, agendas that they would quickly get to, and I would have to respond. They knew I was stuck at that desk, so they had a solid audience, even if sometimes a perpetually bored one.

There were these two guys who showed up one afternoon while I was behind the desk. They were dressed in suits & ties (and now I have that Justin Timberlake song stuck in my head), with closely cropped haircuts, and smiles that would have creeped out even the people from the Black Hole Sun video. On their backs were bookbags, not unlike the type young children wore to school, with characters from kids’ shows emblazoned across them. And in their hands were pamphlets with pictures of hands pressed together as if in prayer. I knew exactly what they stood for, even though I didn’t know them personally. Every few months some facsimile of those guys¬† would show up at the desk and try to get me to go to their church. I would always decline, and they would move on to the next person at the desk.

But that one time was different. You see, I was at a crossroads in my life then. So when these two guys came up with their short haircuts, with their bookbags, and with their pamphlets, I was vulnerable to them. Then they asked me the question that shook my world.

“Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?”

And I had to answer “No.” There wasn’t even a moment’s hesitation. The answer was “No.” And I didn’t even know if I wanted one right then, but I did know that I needed something to make sense of my life, where it was going, where it had been, what was so wrong with it at that exact moment. I knew I needed some answers. And those guys were as good a place as any to start. So I said “No,” and they took me to their nomadic church. They paraded me in front of their nomadic worshippers. They tried to groom me to be the next “guy” who would go out and bring other nomads into the faith.

I passed. Because in the process of going through the experience, I realized something extraordinary. I will always be spiritual, but I will never be religious. And that’s just fine with me. Let somebody else keep religion alive.

Sam

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