(Warning: I am going to be expressing my personal view here. If you are wanting to read something light, today is not that day.)
Last Tuesday was April 21st. Amongst all of the daily things and special things, it happened to be the day that Ben and Jerry's was celebrating 31 years of business and consequently they were giving away free single scoop ice cream cones to all customers. It had been a warm day so when hubby got home, we all loaded up in my car to go and receive our fair share of sweet yummi-ness.
The closest Ben and Jerry's to us happened to be in a colorful and diverse part of Portland. It is the unique urban type of culture that inner Portland is known for. One can find a diversity of second hand shops, ethnic cuisine, and a variety of peoples that harmonize together. To use their given slang names that refers to their style; suits walk the same sidewalks as goths, homeless and fit cyclists wave to one another while granolas eye the artistic handiwork of struggling corner vendors.
As I sat on the (broken) bumper of my car with the petals of cherry blossoms dancing in the breeze, I enjoyed my chocolate fudge brownie cone and took in the scenes playing out in front of me. Like I tend to do a lot, my mind observed in blog post form, making a rough draft of my observations. But then I stopped myself and sighed. I was after all hot and tired from a day of errands and phone calls on the insurance claim to get things rolling on fixing my car. I just wanted to suck down my frozen treat and go home.
But now, days later, my mind keeps playing back in slow motion a scene I saw as I waited for my family to finish their treats.
On the corner in front of me, there was an young artist displaying her drawings. I walked over to take a look and found her talent to be quite good. Much of it was nude anime and same sex images so I didn't really personally care for it. But like I said, she had talent for sure. She had a huge welcoming smile, bottled black hair and matching black attire to complete the look. Her long hair was pulled back into two pig tails on top of her head, giving a fun an innocent air about her. She seemed confident in herself, brave in her singular attire, and ready to take on the world.
Directly in front of her was an entirely different type of person. A young man in jeans and a t-shirt stood in a way that blocked much of her display from passers-by. With a somber look on his face, he held up a sign in both hands for all to see. Truthfully, I did not read the sign. But I can imagine it said something to do with Christianity, sin, the coming of Christ, and /or the ending of the world as we know it. I imagine that because of the reactions he was getting. One pedestrian read the sign and held up a 2 thumbs up and then nodded his head in whole hearted agreement as he walked away. A couple of car loads of people then hung out their windows yelling, "Right on! Good for you! We are Christians too so we understand!"
It was about that time that Young Miss Artist peeked around his arms to see what he was proclaiming. She then walked back to her display area, looked at her companion and then broke into covered giggles with one hand on her mouth and the other wrapped around her waist.
I absently thought it was great that they could be so comfortable as to let each other stand in their own thing and not get into an argument of issues.
But now, I keep thinking about them, imagining their individual lifestyles, and feeling broken in my heart for them. I feel for her because she doesn't know the God of truth and love that I know. I feel for him because of the same thing. Let me explain........ For me it all pivots around Christianity and how a large percentage of the world views it today. I don't know if I can even adequately explain what I am thinking but I would like to try.
For that man, he was brave to stand there and give his opinion of conviction despite knowing that there would be fingers pointed and differences thrown back at him. And yet, I find that I could never do that myself. It is not because of the strength which I posses or do not posses. For me it is a question of what truly displays my active relationship with God and how I can make that a desire for others to want as well. I am not saying that He was entirely wrong to do what he was doing or even that I am so good as to know what is always right. I certainly have had and will continue to have my fair share of mistakes. But to wave around a concept of God that is entirely based on judgement......I just don't see how that could make anyone want to be a christian. Does anyone ever look a 'soap box preacher' in the eye and say, "Wow you are right and I have been so wrong. Please show me what to do to make things different."
The attitudes of the people that cheered him on and then went about their personal business.....what did they convey to the other people watching? Did they demonstrate any amount of unconditional love?
For the young female artist......how many times had she seen that kind of religion displayed? How many times had she had a finger of condemnation shaken in her face? While having an individual flare for fashion is fun, did she dress that way and draw that way so as to push away the fake people that don't want to do more than condemn? Is all of that unique style really just many layers of armor that say, "I dare you to take the time to find the real me. I dare you to stop 5 minutes of your busy self life and see what is in my heart. How could you possibly know what I feel or have lived through?"
How in the world do I put into words what I am feeling?
I think I want you to know that there is so much more to God than what was displayed on that street corner. I want you to know that if you have walked away from church and God because of attitudes thrown at you of judgement and condemnation......please don't give up. Those people were sincere in thinking they were doing right. The problem is that they were looking through the eyes of their own hurt instead of the eyes of God's love.
There is a difference between religion and relationship.
Religion is what happens when people go to church on the weekend and then live a life during the week that doesn't show love to anyone around them. Religion is what happens when people are more concerned about what they are wearing instead of the meaning of the song being sung from the church choir. Religion is what happens when a person proudly displays their bible where people can see it but the pages have never been touched. Religion is what happens when it is important to only pray blessings for meals but not seek direction in life, love, and family.
Relationship on the other hand is knowing without a doubt that God loves each of us despite what we have and have not done. Relationship is taking the time to put aside my own inner self to see what people are really seeing, saying, and thinking through their hurts and perceptions no matter what day of the week it is. Relationship is knowing that if there was only one person on earth to be rescued and loved, God would give His all for that one person and it is knowing that that one person would be each of us....no matter what.
I have written and re-written this post so many times because I am trying to figure out how to put into correct words just how much God is all about relationship. He is ALL about relationship. A relationship happens and grows in and through things. We all have our cherished friends because of what we have weathered through together. God is the same way.
How does that get displayed on a street corner?
I personally don't think that it can. I believe that way because it is when people see God's love through me in relationship, in my ups and downs, despite my failings and mistakes......that is when the real gift is seen.
Again, I stress that I do not ever try to act like I have all my ducks in a row, or learned all my lessons, or for a lack of better words....think myself holier than the next person. I know I mess up, I know I have wrongly judged and hurt people, and because I am human and fail-able...I know I will have many more times of humble apologies ahead of me as long as God has me breathe air. I am simply here learning each day that God dares to love each of us fresh each day with an unquenchable and everlasting love with no strings attached and I want you to know that same joy.