Thursday, June 7, 2012

Do You Love Me?

I was thinking about being raised in a religion. That it is a bit like being in an arranged marriage. You didn't really choose it. That does not make it wrong. But marriage and religion can't be done right unless we do choose them at a very personal level. They are not impossible. There is just something missing.

I can remember growing up Christian Reformed and having this kind of "Do you love me?" moment. It was at a retreat. A few things that were said there really touched me. One involved a picture like this:
He talked about how shepherds would break the legs of wandering lambs. It seems mean but after their legs were broken the shepherd would hold the lamb on his shoulders for weeks while the legs healed. During this time the lamb would learn to love the shepherds voice. When the legs healed the wandering lamb would no longer wander. That resonated with me because I had experienced some real failure in my life. I realized it was not because I was a loser and maybe God didn't love me. It was because God did love me that I was going through these things. He wanted to keep me from wandering.

On the last day we had the Lord's Supper. They went though  the Jewish passover and brought some things out  that made Jesus death on the cross very personal for me. It was the first time I cried at communion. I still didn't believe in the real presence. That was not even on the radar yet. Still that celebration was very real for me that day.

So what changed for me? Everything and nothing. I still went to the same church. I sang the same songs. I listened to the same preacher. But that church was suddenly so spiritually alive. Those songs were suddenly so beautiful and touched me so deeply. That preacher stopped being boring. He was teaching truth and very sacred truth at that.

I am grateful to my family, to the Christian Reformed Church and to my Christian Schools for the faith they instilled in me. But there was something incomplete about it until then. It is not that one dimension makes the others unimportant. People have gone there. Both with marriages and with religion they try and base the whole thing off feelings. Manufacture an emotional moment and let the rest take care of itself. But we get a lot of failed marriages that way and a lot of failures in people's faith lives as well.

The post-Vatican II Catholic church went there. Forget the doctrine. Go after people's feelings. They expected the theological learning, sacramental discipline and moral practice to take care of itself. It didn't. Lots of Catholics who were formed in this way back in the 70's and 80's are still ignorant of the faith. They are still not going to mass or confession. They are still not following the church's moral teaching in many areas.

So there is no magic formula. We want to make it easy for people to get saved. But falling in love can never be reduced to a formula. So what should we do? Love them. Teach them. Pray for them. Then be patient and let them develop their own relationship with God. The most important thing we can do is just to model what a good Catholic looks like.

No comments:

Post a Comment