Monday 18 August 2008
I've been a Christian for nearly 16 years now and sometimes I'm concerned I'm finding it a bit stale. Bible studies, sermons, reading --- sometimes I feel like I've heard it all before. This is dangerous since I'm not nearly the saint I ought to be --- a lot of what I've heard I need to hear again, and do a better job of applying!
I can see several ways to try to grapple with this. One is to take on fresh challenges, and that's happening a little bit. With growing kids you can't really avoid it :-). Another way is to vary the routine and do things differently.
One little experiment I'm trying with a few friends, as a new topic of study, is to dig into some popular Christian songs, ancient and modern, and understand what they're really about. It's easy to sing along with your brain somewhat disengaged, taking it all far too lightly, or in some cases missing the point altogether (especially with the older hymns where the meaning has not carried over well into modern English), so I think it might be useful (and fun) to dig deeper for a change.
For example, "As The Deer" is quite popular:
As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after you.
You alone are my heart's desire and I long to worship you.
You alone are my strength, my shield, to you alone may my spirit yield.
You alone are my heart's desire and I long to worship You.
It plays as an uplifting, joyful song of worship. But the first line is straight from Psalm 42, and the context of the whole psalm is actually very harsh --- "My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, 'Where is your God?'". This is not a happy Bambi* deer situation; the psalmist is at rock bottom, the "panting for water" is sheer desperation, someone in the desert at the end of their rope. Thinking of it that way definitely gives the song a different feel.
The rest of the song doesn't get any easier. "You alone are my heart's desire" --- who loves God so much more than anything else that they can honestly sing that? Not me. Most days I'm considerably more animated by a desire to fix Gecko bugs than by love of God. Now, the easiest way for me to make that line true would be to play it cool and disengage emotionally what's around me, but that's definitely not the right idea; we're supposed to love God more, not others less. In fact, as far as I know, the most direct way to where I need to be is to be clobbered by a huge tragedy or crisis, which is presumably how we got Psalm 42. (That would help with the "stale" problem too.) But I'm not too keen on that, so, er, I'll try taking the long way around, thanks!
Of course, songs are not authoritative, so part of the job is evaluating where the songwriter might have got it wrong. Bummer if your favourite song turns out to be heresy. "As The Deer" seems OK.
* Yes, I'm aware that Bambi itself is not the happy deer situation pop culture remembers. It's rather ironic.