Simplicity, Love & Joy

Simplicity, Love, and Joy

This morning over coffee I read a post by a former evangelical questioning her own ability to trust herself in matters of faith. She’d been raised, as many of us had, in religious environments where we were taught to distrust our own understanding, that our hearts and minds were inherently deceitful, and the world was a trap of evil. The only sure and safe thing to believe is what we were taught the bible said. That was the truth. All else was to be distrusted.

Now that she had distanced herself from that restrictive worldview, she felt unsure of herself.

It struck me that I’ve had rather the opposite response to my own “deconstruction” of faith doctrine. Rather than distrust myself, I am more inclined to trust my gut reasctions, my intuition, my spiritual sensitivities — even (especially?) where they contradict the doctrines of my childhood religion.

Why? My view of God is different. Rather than the strict old white man sitting on a throne in heaven counting my sins and failures, I embrace the wider view of a God who is everywhere present, enjoying the wild variety of life in this universe, entangled with it. That God joyously laughs as we try to understand Them, try to reach out with our hearts and minds to enter more deeply into connection with Them.

And because that God is so vastly beyond our human comprehension, it is to be expected that we will get it wrong. That we will not be able to define that God or completely nail down any singular “truth” about life, the nature of the universe, God, or even about ourselves. Instead, we’re invited to a lifetime of exploration and journey.

This week’s lectionary reading seems to echo that impression. In John’s Gospel, Jesus is quoted as saying, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

Simple stuff. Love, joy. Based on a simple instruction: that we live a life of love.

Funny how that simple view of the life of faith got complicated by intricate doctrines of humanity’s inherent sinfulness, the wrath of God, the corruption of the world … and the ultimate destination of eternal hell fire for those who don’t believe the right “truths.”

The longer I live, the longer my exposure to the divine presence in this world, the more comfortable I get in my uncertainty. The more I trust in the goodness of that ever-present yet elusive God. I can’t explain all the bugs in the program; I don’t have all the answers. But I also believe that nobody does.

What we do have is a simple set of instructions. Live a life of love. Love people. Love the planet. Love creatures and creation. Love the Great Mystery. And somehow learn to love ourselves. If we can do that, if we can CHOOSE to do that, we will, as Jesus said, “remain in his love, and our joy will be complete.”

Keep it simple, my friends, and have a loving and joy-filled Sunday.

ref: John 15:9-17