Patience as a spiritual exercise; day 27 of Ramadan

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At times the above comic sums me up succinctly; I ask God for many a thing, including patience, and instead of waiting around on God I yell at her to hurry up the process! The thing is, as you probably know, patience is a process and it takes time to get there; both in being patient with ourselves as well as being patient with others.

My work demands quite a bit of patience given that I work with kids. One thing I’ve learned over the years with working with kids is they require a LOT of patience, but to a certain degree persistence as well. They also need to know your intentions in the matter, because it is very possible that in your patience and persistence they might think you’re doing it to be mean or that you’re coming across as being a harsh authoritarian.
I do push my students, but I know their limits through rapport built with them, and some can take on more and some can take on less, it varies (as with all of us) person to person. It helps that I work with nearly the same classroom on a daily basis, and so I am familiar in my ways and approaches with my students.

When it comes to patience in my life it’s usually in light of what is going on in my life, and while I tackled contentment the other day I need patience. Because there are times in my life I wish could be resolved in a blink of an eye, but while sometimes a lot of the time I cannot have it that way. I am still content throughout all of it, but I want it in an expedited manner. Yet life isn’t like that all that often, and sometimes it is through the trials of error we’ll figure out the reasons why, but even that is in limited supply because sometimes (as cliche as it sounds) the answer is that there is no answer.

In moments like that I am sometimes aloof, sometimes I am able to surrender to that truth, and other times I yell at God will all my might, hoping that she hears me and does something about it. And yet there are times where I hold the answer, sometimes I am the answer to my own prayers as well as others. All in all, patience needs to be carried out without having a mindset as to when will “x” come to fruition, because sometimes it comes to be and other times it doesn’t come at all and sometimes it comes in time but a time frame we might not align ourselves with.

So with all that being said, patience was my keyword on this 27th day of Ramadan. Thanks be to God, the ever patient one, may we learn to be patient with ourselves and with others.

Salaam alaikum be yours now and always,
Nathanael

Allowing room for doubt as a spiritual exercise; day 14 of Ramadan

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“The opposite of faith isn’t doubt, it’s certainty.” – Anne Lamont

There was a time in my life when I read my Bible and I took the entirety of it literally. From a 6 day creation found in Genesis to end times imagery found in Revelation, if it was in the Bible I thought…believed…it had to be completely true and literal.
But I didn’t account for several things; context, audience, hermeneutics, literary techniques, different writers, figures of speech, historicity, etc.
I admit, when I started reading the Bible through a lens that wasn’t completely literal, it shattered me and I was somewhat distraught, because I thought that’s how you had to read the Bible, that’s you had to deem it infallible and inerrant- the classic ALL or NONE fallacy…

But nowadays I examine and read the Bible through the lens of Jesus, in which I do think that is how it meant to be read. I also read it with the mindset of “it being written by real people in real places in real times.” (hat tip to Rob Bell for that terminology)
I think that because I do hold this stance of the Bible, and even my faith, I am at a place where I’m healthier for it. I’m not hung up on parts that I once deemed necessary to my faith; yes I do find myself doing what I can to emulate Jesus in my life in my doing as well as my being, but sometimes you gotta eat the meat and spit out the bones and fat, sometimes you have to take portions of it seriously but not literally.
My church covered this a few months ago as to what a healthy stance looks like when it comes to reading the Bible:
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I agree with all those statements, and so while I might align myself as a Red Letter Christ-centric Universalist with theistic evolution thoughts and ideas, I hold it with an open posture that says I might be wrong…and you know what, that’s okay if I am wrong, my faith is one that’s okay with the challenging that comes from the inside as well as the outside.
Lately I’ve been commuting and listening to the podcasts of Drunk Ex-Pastors. Their views, one of an atheist and the other of a Catholic, are refreshing and encouraging because they too have a nuance of being subjected to scrutiny and the possibility of being wrong and it sure trumps the views I grew up hearing about it’s all about right beliefs, right practices, and saying the right things. I’ve been alive for 30 years and I realize more than ever that God’s bigger than our beliefs, our dogmas, and our doctrines.

I think that’s why all of our religious and non-religious beliefs should be put under the microscope of healthy criticism and skepticism. It’s one thing to say well I believe X because of Y and it’s another that says well I have faith about X and Y, but…I might be wrong. On a human level this works immensely because while we can subjugate ourselves to tribalism, to one view, and to one thought, there’s a bigger world outside of our churches, our synagogues, our mosques, our temples, etc!
Somewhere down the line we’re going to run into people who think and believe differently (gasp!) than ourselves, and rather than retreating to our worship places and our sacred texts, perhaps the healthiest thing to do is get to know those individuals better and dialogue about it all. I wouldn’t be surprised in the midst of such dialogue we’ll find that the commonalities will outweigh the differences we have.
This is also applicable to our brothers and sisters who are atheists and agnostics, because they too experience life like we do, they’re just not bound to a set of religious beliefs and texts. Even in my own life I am thankful to God for the atheists and agnostics in my life, for while there are differences there are more commonalities to be shared.

So with all that being said, doubt was my keyword on this 14th day of Ramadan. Thanks be to God for allowing us space to have our beliefs but to accept our doubts as well. May we put our beliefs to the side and allow room for doubting and take things at faith value. May we learn to appreciate the value of our commonalities with everyone we meet and put our differences asunder for the greater good.

Salaam alaikum be yours now and always,
Nathanael