Yesterday, I mailed off a bundle of Christmas cards, finished the last of my Christmas shopping, came home and wrapped presents while "Scrooge" was playing on the TV. A perfect holiday-prep day, all around. And yet I felt like garbage inside.
I had done all the right things. Not in the order of Mother Teresa, mind you. I wasn't collecting money for the poor or passing out Toys for Tots but I hadn't murdered anyone or stolen anything. Now why is it that every time I do something decent, maybe even good, I feel so bad?
I have a cantankerous mind. It misbehaves in all sorts of ways but the most annoying aspect is this inclination to cut myself to shreds when I have tried to be good. I guess the Apostle Paul called that our sinful nature (see Romans 7.) But I no longer believe in sin. Then again, I might rethink this.
I no longer believe in a personal savior either though I might rethink that, too. I'm certainly in need of one. But whenever I call upon the name of God or Jesus, it's as if someone shouted "Incoming" and I feel like diving under the nearest table for cover. No offense on the Almighty. It's not Her fault. It's a residual effect of the cult.
So, I pick myself up and dust myself off, a daily experience. I've gotten to the point that I pray to God just to help me not be afraid to pray to God. If that makes sense. The last sentence in Paul Tillich's incredible book The Courage to Be goes something like this: "The courage to be is rooted in the God who appears when God disappears in the anxiety of doubt."
This God that's bigger than God is the God of imperfection, the God of what is. This God does not condemn. This God lives with, grows with, falls with, suffers with me. Sounds suspiciously like the little child born in Bethlehem. Maybe I do believe after all. Believing through self- doubt like mine is like trying to see in a monsoon. But I'll give it a whirl and when I do, I'll remember that I'm allowed to be imperfect. There's a word for that, too. Grace.