There’s this little hyperactive kid in my mom’s second grade class who I love to death. He’s one of those kids who just genuinely has so much energy he often, literally, cannot control himself. He is forever moving, in one way or another, and has trouble concentrating. I feel for him. Probably because he outwardly manifests what goes on inside my brain a great deal of the time. Plus, I just have a soft spot for the kids who are considered more “difficult”.
Anyways, today I was at the school and he walked up to me, pointed in my face and said, “JINX!” I said, “Hey! Wait a minute! We didn’t even say the same word at the same time. You just walked up to me!” He shrugged, and agreed. He said, “Ok. When I count to three say ‘go’! One, two, three, GO!” I humored him and shouted go at the same time he did. He excitedly shouted, “JINX! You owe me a rootbeer!”
Hmmm. It used to be Coke when I was his age.
And while we’re all arguing over whether there’s a heaven and a hell, and how to get there, and who will be there, and how it will look, there are people around us right now who could use some tangible love, right here, right now. I’m just saying…
Everyone wants to be right about everything, pretty much all the time, most especially when it comes to religion. Some people take it to the extreme of being willing to write hateful stuff on signs and stand out shouting mean things, and others will fly planes into buildings for their cause. Just as convinced as you are that you are right, there is someone else with an opposing view who is more convinced they are right, and willing to do something far more radical to prove it. It seems the more right we try to be, the more wrong we become.
Some of the most nasty, disgusting behavior I have seen (regarding religion) has been related to people trying to prove to others that they are right, and “the others” are wrong. The interesting thing is often it seems like those people, trying so hard to prove their point, are trying to convince themselves about what they believe more than anyone else. They are also usually scared of any type of question that might challenge their belief in any sort of way. And these questions can cause them to totally freak out, become emotional, and ensue in heated debate about the matter.
We can become so ugly when we think we are right about something. I hate that ugliness because it puts huge divides between us. Surely if what or who we say we believe in is big enough to believe in, it should not shake our belief in that thing or being when others have opposing views. I have friends who believe many different things when it comes to religion, politics, world views, and life in general. I can have conversations with them, hearing their point of views and sharing mine, without feeling like I have to convince them that they are wrong and I am right, just because I may not agree with them. And most times, even though I may not agree with their entire view, there are areas where I can find common ground of agreement; and on certain occasions that may be to merely “agree to disagree”.
Now, I am not at all saying that we should all believe the same things, or not have strong opinions about things. I have very strong opinions, beliefs and views on pretty much everything, and I like it that way. Diversity in belief and lifestyle is what makes it fun to live in this world, for me. But I guess, over the years, I have just seen that the best way to tell someone what you believe, is to show them with your life, and if it doesn’t speak loud enough to convince them of your views, then your words will probably do nothing for your cause. One thing I know I am right about is one day we are all going to be very surprised about what we always thought was right and wrong, because we are all right in some ways, and we are all wrong in others. Until then, we all have the right to think we’re right but let’s try not to act wrong in trying to prove we’re right. Right?
Rob Bell’s new book “Love Wins” is apparently stirring up controversy. From what I can see, many Christians are thinking that he is saying that hell doesn’t exist, and that anyone, who wants to, can get into heaven, no matter what they believe. I have no idea what he says in his book, as I have not read it. I did however just watch a couple of interviews with him, and he didn’t seem to give any sort of really concrete, controversial answer in any way. His main point is just that God loves everybody, no matter what. I agree with that.
The funny (not “ha ha funny” at all) thing about all of this is, while people sit around and argue about whether or not there is a heaven or hell, and the location, and the guest list, and the cover charge, and all of that, there are people around them who are living in literal hell on earth. People often get so caught up in “what is to come” they forget about what is happening now. If this earth, and all of the people within it were created by God, is He not concerned about this life, now? I’m worried about it. I think Jesus worried about it too. He is my number one Christian role model.
Even people like Bill Maher, an outspokenly anti-religion, anti-Christian person, agrees that Jesus lived an incredible life; I heard and saw him say it with my own eyes and ears in a video just yesterday. Jesus’s life was a literal example of how to live, love, serve and accept. His words and lifestyle offended the religious who were blinded by pride and legalism, but His life and words touched and comforted those who were cast out by society. He lived a life of selflessness, that many of us in the modern-day church will never be able to grasp, or even come near to; not that we shouldn’t try. I mean, He had no home or possessions to speak of, at least that we know of. These aspects often get left out of sermons and discussion in and around church and Christianity. Probably, and mostly, because we are often self serving, and we like our “things”, and we especially hate to be inconvenienced.
I think it is fair to say that humans are innately selfish. We often like to know what’s “in it” for us before we get into something. It is interesting to see different Christians’ reactions when you take the threat of hell and the enticement of heaven away from them; like, if you pose a question, which is very scary to them, “What if there is no heaven or hell?”. For some, it really puts the lives they are currently living in question, because the majority of their spiritual identity is placed on the afterlife. Maybe it’s a good question to ask ourselves, because I do not think it changes who God is; but maybe it changes who you thought God is, or how you have made Him to be.
And it is for this reason I respect people like Rob Bell, and Jesus, and Chris Boeskool (a Facebook friend who’s always challenging people’s beliefs and starting conversations on modern-day spirituality, and specifically wrote a note that got alot of feedback on this very topic). They don’t just accept the religious set-up as is, and they offer important questions to a continuous dialogue, and though some of these questions can only be answered with more questions, they are still not afraid to ask them. That is brave. Most people are scared to do that. And it is that fear in asking those questions that leads us to continue to guard our tiny beliefs with fury, while people sit waiting on the outside for us to respond with love. Because yes, often the lives those very people are living cause us to ask the deepest questions about God, life, humanity, and ourselves. Sometimes it’s easier just to defend what we already know, and ignorance is bliss.
I’ve had facial hair off and on for the past few years, but around the middle of last year I began growing what was to become my most epic and first ever “serious beard”. I grew it for several reasons; one of the simplest being “because I can”, and some of the more complex reasons coming from a sort of strange need in the deepest, darkest part of my soul. Yep, that’s pretty melodramatic. But so is life sometimes, I guess. So I just grew that old sucker right out! And people had all sorts of responses.
Some people’s positive reactions ranged from like to love. Some were indifferent about it. And most straight up hated on it, some more venomously than others, without naming names, you know who you are. But seriously, this “beard phase” I found myself in was real, and, as I said before, it was needed. It’s hard to put into words what it stood for, and what it meant to me. In some ways I was mourning a season of the past, in other ways it’s like I was in some sort of hibernation period, and in other ways it was just an outward “stay away” sign for a period of time. Yeah, the past few years have been a bit rough, and I guess it all needed to work its way out in one way or another; my beard was just one of the many ways I have been “working it all out”.
And I am still working it out. But I recently I have felt a tangible shift in the atmosphere. It’s like things are changing, certain things are lining up in amazing ways, and I am coming into a new, fresh, wonderful season. This is truly incredible seeing that I just lived through my first full American (literal) winter in eleven years, right after living through four years of the coldest, darkest (metaphorical) winter of my life. And now it’s Spring, and the birds are chirping, the weather’s changing, the ground’s thawing out, the flowers and trees are blooming, everything seems bright, and life seems to be filled with the promise of hope and newness. I like that. And I feel it too…deep, deep down.
This morning, with all of that in mind, I shaved my beard off. I shaved it off because I feel I am coming into a new season, and the beard phase is officially over. The thing is, I had really grown to like the beard. I’d actually even grown to love it. I hadn’t even realized just how much of my current identity (at least in my mind) revolved around the beard. So, today, instead of being filled with joy of going into this new season I find myself moving into, I rather found myself mourning the loss of my beard. That is so, so weird. And then I realized…that’s exactly what we do.
We get so used to pain, and hurt, and crap that we’ve lived through, we become comfortable in it, and we wear it, and if we allow it to, it becomes a part of us. Sure, sometimes it is important to go through phases of allowing ourselves to feel certain negative feelings, and mourn certain things we’ve lost, and acknowledge the pain that is there. But the most important thing is movement, and not to stop and allow a phase to become a destination. Sometimes sitting is easier than standing, wallowing is easier than walking, and dwelling is easier than moving on.
I don’t want to sit, wallow, or dwell. It’s just not me. I’m ready to move on to bigger and better, greater and more wonderful things. And I know that if I try to hold on to the “beard phase”, I will not be moving into this new season of life in the fullness of what I am supposed to be, or rather who I am supposed to be. I needed a fresh start, a clean slate. As much as I miss the beard, I am aware of the symbol that it represented for me and I am happy to shed it, and move on. I shared this because I know I’m not the only one with a beard that needed to be shaved, whether literal or metaphorical, and if you are a “bearded” woman or man, wearing that “beard” for longer than you should, making the “beard phase” a “beard stop”, I want to challenge you to consult your nearest “clippers”, whatever that may be to you.