History repeating itself

I’ve been reading Beyond Belief by Elaine Pagels, best known as the author of The Gnostic Gospels. It’s a rather short book including some serious research from the Nag Hammadi library, a recently-found collection of early Christian writings, interspersed with an autobiographical account of the author’s renewed faith following tragedy. What has been most fascinating to me is that most of the doctrinal debates that we are engaged in today have precendents in early Christian history. In fact, the very thoughts that I have been having about God, as in seeing him/her/it less as a lawmaker and judge and more as a merciful and loving source of being, were condemned as heretical. The historical account primarily centres on Irenaeus, who can be considered the father of orthodoxy. He had a mandate of unifying the church, and believed this needed to be achieved by keeping to a strict interpretation of the scriptures. This included considering Jesus as God and holding to the four gospels we know well, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, as being the ultimate sources for truth. This was prior to the formation of the canon of scripture.

It is refreshing to consider that my thoughts and feelings are not new, but have a long history. Just because I am in a minority position does not mean that I am wrong, and I am glad to have given up on the search for truth. God as mystery is a much more comforting position to me.


The Remaking

I have often made significant pledges regarding a commitment to change, to be a better person. Yet I quickly falter on my desires, for I find it insurmountably difficult to remain faithful. My emotional state quickly reverts me back to the same old patterns. I even invent glib little ideas to try to compensate, but find a more powerful force within stomping out these efforts. My personal demons consistently win in the battle for my soul’s enlightenment and enrichment.

I am battle-scarred but not down for the count. Slowly but gradually a base of wisdom is developing, built upon the mistakes and failures. The more I consider the consequences of my poor choices, the more desire I have to turn the tide. So where is God in this? God is in the pain, speaking to me from the depths of my frustration. Jesus felt abandoned by God on the cross, but God was there, and the victory on the other side was marvelous. I have often wondered why I have been so slow to change even though my prayers focused on this very goal. I didn’t get it then; I’m beginning to now.

I sit here writing on my Imac, purchased on a credit deal. It was a choice I was later to seriously regret, for it was either a computer or a car – the car would have been far more useful. An additional expense is the Ipod, which I love but which also added to the bill. A love of the good life had had me find and consume the best coffee and wine I could find. Problem is, both aren’t exactly good for me, as I suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome! I have been driven obsessions relating to food, health, and my relationship with my girlfriend much of this year, which have not assisted in my wellbeing. My peace has largely been non-existent. I’ve sought lofty goals but met none.

Is there redemption for me? Certainly, but not in the lofty goals. Not in the luxuries that I bury my head in, the relationships that I use as a means to avoid my problems, or theologically-themed reading. The greatest masters of all, the ones with the most peace and joy, are those who wanted for nothing. They lived, and do live simply and profoundly. They do stand in awe of human achievement, but they revel more in the more magnificent divine achievements. They learned not to succumb to every emotional whim, for they discovered that their emotions can often be their worst enemy. In calling his disciples to deny themselves, Jesus was pledging them to a life of liberation – if you lose your life you will gain it.

I’ve always thought these things and found my whims to be far too strong. Now I’m weak and frail and tired. I create more negative than positive thoughts, and ultimately find myself more in frustration and despair than in happiness and contentment. Yet it’s there before me – a struggle to take up my cross – and the joy that comes afterwards. I wanted it easy, I wanted it to be handed to me on a platter. But that is not the way of my master.

Relationship pain

I am in the middle of a relationship failure. My girlfriend and I have decided for a time of separation, to rebuild the friendship and hopefully in the future create a more sustainable relationship. My problem was that I centered my life too much on her, so that both of us lost much of what we originally held. I believe this is for the best, and am glad to now feel the liberation from an unhealthy bond.