Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Out of Egypt
I've just finished reading "Out of Egypt, Christ the Lord" by Ann Rice. A good friend lent me the book a few days ago and being a loaner, I wanted to finish it quickly so I could return it quickly. I was a bit skeptical about being as enthralled as he was with the novel about the life of Christ. I half hoped to be thrilled, half expected to be offended.
I was raised in the Assemblies of God under strict Christian conservatism. I was taught holiness and the importance of man's pursuit of it; and the reality that we will always fail in its achievement. In the frailty of trying to put mortal minds to divine ideas; much like the Pharisees I think we attached a lot of laws to act as our safety nets. Some would say we were self-righteous to which there is probably some truth. But I never saw us as that, just as people who really wanted to please God. Somehow the best way we seemed to be able to try to attain this pleasing of God was to avoid displeasing him. Then came the rules, the Law for the modern church. No drinking, smoking, swearing, divorcing, dancing, secular music, movies, amusement parks, and if you were really serious, no women wearing pants. Certainly not to any church function. We all had at least one pair of culottes worn to the Sunday School picnic every year.
We were trying with sincerity to be holy.
I stayed within this purpose for most of my life and today do not entirely turn my back on those precepts I once embraced. I no longer believe the consumption of alcohol will sentence you to hell. I have also not broken my own childhood vow to never taste alcohol. I have never smoked. It does not seem so much a sin now as just stupid. I like to dance and always have. Movies are a tricky thing. Like most of man's designs, movies can be used for everything thing from inspiration to depravity. We, in the old days, must not have trusted ourselves to know the difference so we just avoided the thing altogether. Now most of us do watch movies (VCRs made this a little easier, nobody would catch you!). And I suspect most of us watch movies we should not. I still wonder if we were better off to turn away from the things we could not be trusted with.
Today I have moved away from the Assemblies of God. Not in a stand against them so much as a leading to a new place. I have tried, by trial and error, to hold tight to the teachings that God requires of me with the courage to examine the things I only knew to be true by the mouths of men. It sometimes seems to be a tight rope. We are called to be holy, this I know. We are not able, this I know. Still, we must reach after God to guide us toward the unreachable and to cover in us what remains blemished.
I find myself now in a more personal and less afraid relationship with God. I am aware of him continually and still learning to live in constant worship. I do not care about the things that used to matter. I am not offended by people's sins, my own being quite enough to keep me busy.
I have found a new heart to hurt for people who I once judged. Yes, I judged them. Never in those words, but the spirit of the thing was the same. It said I am closer to holy than you because _________________________.
Closer to holy or closer to God? Or did I ever understand what either of these meant outside of my own actions? I spent many moments trying to redeem myself through obedient hands and a distant heart.
So I read "Out of Egypt" over the last few days almost afraid that it might displease God. This woman had written some pretty offensive material. Her own explanation of her faith walk was at odds with even my growth into faith and grace beyond Law. But I read it.
I do not write this to recommend this book to you or to turn you away. Like my own walk with Christ, it must come of your understanding today or tomorrow what you should do. But what I did find within these pages was a little shove toward a more personal Christ. Through fictional moments that might have happened in the life of Jesus at seven years old, I found a little more of my Jesus. Through the Psalms sung by the family of Christ I found a voice to worship as the Hebrews might have done, as David had done.
Is it blasphemy to read about a little boy Jesus raising the dead "acccidentally" or causing snowfall with his imagination? I thought it might be, the Bible being enough and all that needs to be said on such matters.
I did not learn about a different Jesus in this book. I did not change my thoughts about holiness or sin; law or grace. But I spent two days fully immersed in God among us. I have to think that at the turn of the final page, for me, it was time well spent.