Be Happy, God will understand

I recently listened to an interview I found by happenstance of an old acquaintance.  I had always admired her brilliance and tenacity, her quiet way and her commitment to her religion. I don’t think it is important for purposes of this story to tell you what religion she is, it is enough to know that she was devout and humble all at the same time. 

I don’t know what made me think of her, but I was curious to see what she was up to. Last I had seen, she had the perfect career and perfect life, still devout and lovely. But this interview was different. It was many years later and life was not so perfect. Her religion had not changed , but her life had. So she was quick to meld her words to fit her life’s circumstances. My God would understand this, and He would understand that. I have to make myself happy and I cannot worry about what other people think. I was perplexed. Her God had remained the same, her devotion the same, but her life had not. So she fit her God into her life’s circumstances to ascribe to a “Be Happy God will understand” theory which completely blew my mind.

These thoughts were not unlike so many I have heard and areas which Paul has recently explored on Just Me Being Curious where he discusses openly the hypocritical Christian and their unconscious quest to use the bible as a weapon. Paul goes into an in-depth discussion of whether the bible is fiction and other deep-rooted and tough questions, but the message is deeper than that. While my old acquaintance sings a song of “Be Happy God will understand” the song that Paul’s talking about is more along the lines of “The only way to believe is the way I do.” Both schools of thought though steeped in religion are cloaked in secularism. Twisting our way into what “we” believe is right or wrong based on our own selfish notions. What bothered me about the interview was not the fact that she was still devout to her God. What bothered me was that she had made God devout to her.

This is a continued thought in our culture, in our world, where we make God just ours. The bible or Quran or Torah can have only that person’s interpretations, and there is no other room. It is this way or that, no room for exploration or understanding. It is the reason that modern-day religion is more secular than it is anything else.

I look to those who have criticized Mother Teresa’s care for the dying. She a Catholic, speaking to them and praying with them in their own religion, their familiar God. Restoring their dignity in the last breath with a comfort each individual will understand. She has played a great role for me in understanding the human person and Jesus, and the dynamic that exists between the two.

You see if we were really Christians, people would know. We wouldn’t make God live in a bible, or on an altar, or in a Sunday sermon, we would let Him live in us. It’s not a matter of conversion, it is a matter of being. I don’t seek to convert anyone other than myself to be the love that Jesus is or was. I don’t subscribe to the “Be happy God will understand theory” because taken in context that is a selfish way to be. The only way for me to live is ensuring that I am doing my best to invest my happiness in you. More like, “Be happy, invest that happiness, because I acknowledge Lord that it comes from you.”

When we get outside of ourselves and realize that God is much bigger than a t-shirt or a slogan, the real work begins. Because if we’ve discovered that life is not about our own self-satisfaction but rather attending to the needs of someone who will never be able to repay us, following Jesus gets real.

If you ask me if I’m a hypocrite I’ll tell you yes, that I am working on it. If you ask me if I’ll convert you, I’ll tell you I’m too busy working on myself. If you want me to show you God, I’ll try my best. But it will probably involve a cup of coffee, admitting who and what I am and asking for your forgiveness.

The “how” rather than the “it”

I woke up this morning with the law on my mind.

Almost all my career has been working with companies who provide a service to other companies.  Just as each human being needs resources to live, so do companies.  And unlike each human, almost all companies will provide resources to another company on credit.  The obligation to pay – but just not yet.  And credit is governed by contract.  A piece of paper agreed by both that is enforceable by law.  And the ruling of a court of law is enforced by sanctions.  Sanctions that allow goods and possessions to be taken.

And the reality is a lottery.

In the main I have worked for small companies. And where litigation has been necessary as the plaintiff or defendant I have been personally involved.  On one occasion I was in court and the judge asked the plaintiff company suing my company: “Do you see anything else in your terms of business you would like to draw to my attention to before I give my ruling?”  I scanned the paperwork (discretely) before giving a sigh of relief (silently) when the plaintiff replied: “No – nothing else I am aware of, madam.”  We walked away from court with nothing further to pay.

And to this day I remember that particular case: “Does the plaintiff see anything else … ?”

I have no idea what that was. But I do know that we won the case because none of us spotted what the judge spotted.  It wasn’t the judge’s job to share that knowledge – as “legally formed companies”, we were expected to know.  And as we obviously didn’t – the judge ruled on the evidence presented that day.

We have this view of “the law”. That it will protect us. That it will keep us safe.  That it will serve us.  The reality is a process that has rules and sanctions and consequences that are often seen to be unfair by one party of the other (and often both).  A process almost always used by those with a grievance.  With a motivation “to get” – or to avoid “being got”.  The “law” is not perfect but one side will always want to take (or stop being taken) from the other.

I read my bible – but I would never stand up in a court of law and use it as evidence.   I don’t read my bible as a correct and infallible historical document – I read my bible because I have found  it describes a way of living that describes unconditional love – that describes relationship – that has become my living relationship.  I do accept my bible has been translated and interpreted and translated and interpreted – that some bits are left in and some taken out – and I don’t accept that makes it irrelevant.  I do accept the bible was the one book offered to me because of where I was born and lived – I accept a lot of things that others who “don’t believe” believe that I “should believe”.

And I read my bible because the more I do – the more I find a living relationship today and tomorrow.  The more I find a relationship of love without condition – unconditional love.  I call this my relationship with “my God Soft Hands Jesus” – just as you would call me Paul (or him John – or her Elaine – or Judith – or whatever the name we each were given) – just as I might call you “J” or “Jonny” or “Jonny-boy” as I got to know you – I might make your name “our name” with a nickname of affection.

And if you took my bible away from me today and never gave it back – my relationship with GSHJ and unconditional love would live and breathe and flourish.  How do I know?  Because I love a lot of people – and no one ever gave me a book as to how I should love.  But this book?  It has taken my love beyond “love” – it has taken me to unconditional love.  I have found something real I believe in.  I have found Love beyond love.

And whether you believe I am correct or not – whether you believe there is a God or not – whether you believe there is just “this God” and some other – whatever you believe – we are all – ALWAYS believers of “something”.  Because being a believer of “something” (or many “somethings” all at once) is how we all live.

That – for me – is not the important bit.  The stumbling block is “the how” with each other.  That – for me – is the important bit.

I was part of a long conversation with someone I love deeply over the weekend – different opinions – different beliefs.  The questions could have been hurtful.  The conversation could have been toxic.  But it was not.  There was the odd “ouch”.  But there was no “ruling”, there was no “winner” and no “loser”, nor were there “sanctions and consequences”.  Other than we both drew closer to each other – understood each other a little better – allowed each other to “be” a little more – and loved each other even more than before.

Now imagine “applying belief” like that to each other.  About anything.  I can.  I do.  I want to.

And I know some believe love is not enough – that we need rules and the law.  And I know some believe that I should apply my belief in the same way as they apply their belief: in a court of law – with evidence – and rules – and judgement – one of us right – and one of us wrong.  But what I find odd is we never seem to acknowledge that “proving faith and God” is an odd opening position to even “believe in”.

And more than this oddity of belief … an oddity of reality: that my belief (whilst having changed in the past) will not now change in the future.  That my belief is now correct – is now static.  Really?  Well that was not true of your past – because now look at the differences.

My beliefs have changed and mine will continue to change.  And I will only know of that change afterwards.  So how can I say that will not happen again in the future?  So how can one belief ever be “the only belief” (even for the same person)?  And as for “proving faith” … ?

So just why do we get tied up in this “court of law” of beliefs?  Where is relationship, allowing, affection, respect … where is the gentle “application of (changing) belief” … where is the “how” rather than the “it” – doesn’t that need love rather than a court of law?

And if we are talking Love rather than Law … might we talk unconditional love as a way of living (rather than an impersonal “it” of belief that may change)?