Friday, November 27, 2009

Time to Post on my Quarterly Blog

My husband gives me a hard time for not posting on my blog more frequently. I tell him that it's a quarterly blog, easing the pressure of having to post regularly. Sometimes life gets to be too much. A simple post starts to feel like a chore. Work, a baby, a house, a dissertation that is getting published, my son's NF 1 and imminent brain and skull/eye-socket surgery, mounting medical bills--who am I to sit in front of a computer and pour out thoughts on this or that? Yet here it goes.

The topic for this quarterly blog is anger, my own that is. I've been reading two excellent books, one called The Anger Trap, the other called Facing Anger. I must admit that I've been reluctant to read on this topic. It's just too close to home. Ever since I was a little girl, I've struggled with carrying a lot of anger. I recall sitting in my bedroom closet with my diary as a young child. I would press my pencil hard to the page and write "I'M SO ANGRY" over and over. Then I would lock my diary and hide the key. In reality I was trying to hide my anger. A fair amount of shame accompanied my anger because anger felt so wrong.

Then my anger diminished naturally later on as I grew in my faith during those years in Bible school. In faith, I read St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, Hildegard of Bingen, Teresa of Avila, Thomas Merton. In faith, these human beings inspired me to get closer to God, to go all out and live for Jesus. Then, as often happens, life's circumstances became a stumbling block. Ever since, I've been a firecracker with a short fuse ready to launch at any little thing; faith became a struggle.

It has been over several years now. That is a long time. The distance I have felt with God has to do with believing that God and anger cannot exist in the same space. I have been unable to free myself from being angry ever since going through a terrible experience. As a result, I have felt unworthy as a believer. These books have given me a fresh perspective on my anger. Feelings of being weak, disempowered, and loss of control have fueled my anger in hopes of restoring strength, power, security. What an illusion, like laying in a box and being sawed in half.

Anger is something that we as human beings must contend with. It manifests itself in different forms for every person. For me, it has not been enough to read that part in Scripture where it says, "Be angry, but do not sin." The Anger Trap and Facing Anger offer insights into owning and managing anger. My own breakthroughs with anger occur when I have the courage to be vulnerable and share. This helps me to shift my interpretation of what happened. It also helps to have a supportive husband who helps me distinguish what happened versus what I made it mean. What grace.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Language and God

Conversations with people from different religions, including atheists and agnostics, have peaked my curiosity on the direct correlation between language and God.

The following encounters make me wonder whether language shapes the way we think of, speak of, believe in, approach, and ultimately worship God. Two Mormon missionaries visited, leaving behind copies of The Book of Mormon and some pamphlets on family living. A Christian used the New Testament to argue that God's will for divorced couples with children is always for them to reconcile. An agnostic lectured me on how religious types give the impression of having God figured out. What texts do agnostics adhere to, I wonder?

Did YHWH call Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David? Did Paul encounter the risen Christ on the road to Damascus? Did Muhammed receive revelations from Allah? Did Joseph Smith have a religious experience? I have no doubt. A tension arises though, felt by most people when they encounter someone with a different belief system. This tension stems from being right and making others wrong. What I believe must be right. Anything else must be wrong. Whatever is wrong becomes a threat to my personal belief system.

The right-wrong approach has its limits when trying to understand conflicting religious beliefs. Paying attention to language can perhaps help. Christians use the word 'Trinity' to describe God in three persons. The Koran outright criticizes Christians for having this belief. Trinitarian doctrine lies at the heart of many divisions, not only between Christians and non-Christians, but among Christians. Language can be problematic. How can you capture a mystery or religious experience with words? The Mormon missionaries who visited had never heard the word "incarnation." They did not know what the word meant and that it pertained to Jesus' virgin birth. These examples may seem trivial, yet they reveal something important. Trinitarian language and incarnational language, for example, give rise to a specific religious context. Such language reinforces what it is exactly Christians/Catholics believe. Different interpretations of such language, however, bring about the need for ecumenism.

I am hardly a proponent of religious pluralism. My subjective, first-hand experiences of Jesus Christ as God cannot be denied. I have no doubt that Christ's intervention has made it possible for me to be alive today. At the same time, it is clearly the case that the Bible, the Koran, The Book of Mormon are all deemed sacred by their adherents, that each of these texts reflects the religious experiences of its writers. The language of each deserves greater credit for influencing, shaping, and reinforcing entire religious communities and traditions. Religious tolerance is a human construct. Understanding each others' language and relating to one other on the level of human being--a divine one.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Experiencing Love as a New Mother

Tito, Tito, Tito, Mi hijito
¿Como te va?
Tito, Tito, Tito, ¿Queres leche?
Ernestito, ¿Como estas?

Since March 27th, I find myself making up songs to sing to my new son Tito. The doctor laid him on my belly after the birth. Before then, I wondered sometimes why I had to be born. This thought tied directly to how I always prided myself on not having children. After all, my parents had three before their mid-twenties. The pressure to do the same never convinced me that it was a good thing to have kids. I had questions. Why bring a human being, who has no choice in the matter, into the world? Why have a child just to have a child? What drives parents to hurt their kids?

Jesus, in the gospels, identified love as the greatest commandment. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13, indicated that without love we are nothing. What does all of this mean? Why do we complicate the words of Jesus and Paul by shrouding love in mystery? Since my son's birth I have arrived at a satisfactory place concerning my unanswerable questions. We are born to love and to be loved. Right now my son is hungry and wants milk. I will feed him. I will catch him smiling as he gets his fill. In that moment, I will know that love is possible.

Tito, Tito, Tito, My little son
Little Ernest, How goes it with you?
Tito, Tito, Tito, Do you want milk?
Little Ernest, How are you?