An Exploration of (My) Faith

As I have shared before with several people and also in this blog, I have struggled with my spiritual life for the past year at least. Lately, though, I have found belief in God itself to be quite a challenge. From beginning to question my beliefs and deconstructing my faith, I have come to a point where the idea of God just does not seem to make sense. But I have not given up, and I have decided to continue this struggle by engaging in conversation with others about questions of faith, spirituality, and belief in God. And, since you know I love podcasts, the product of this will be For Laypeople, By Laypeople.

Let me be clear: I am trying to hold on to God with everything I have. Losing my faith scares me to death. I want to believe in God; but I am struggling to do so. I love the Body of Christ, but I’m tired of sitting in the pews wondering why I’m there if I don’t feel anything, if half the time I’m not sure I believe in any of what the pastor is saying. I find the Christian story so fascinating and beautiful that I can’t get away from it, and I want to believe it and live it with everything I have and am. So bear with me.

I strive to be completely honest about my faith. I think it is important for believers to be open about how difficult belief can be. It is a scary thought, for sure, but there are many of us who have questions but don’t feel like these can be discussed among believers because they may challenge the very foundations of our faith. And so we hide our doubts and avoid our questions in order to fit in. We grow discontent with our spiritual lives and live out a lie, one in which we may ironically find comfort. But I don’t wanna live out a lie, so I will be honest, and I would be honored to get your honesty in return.

While I believe sharing our struggles is beneficial to the body of Christ because there is a lot we can learn from one another, I am hesitant to be this open when I know how some in the community might perceive my struggle. All I can say is there are people who sincerely and constantly yearn after God and can’t seem to find anything or anyone. The process is exhausting and support, rather than reproach, from fellow believers is crucial.

Lastly, I know nobody needs yet another podcast on faith. There are some great (e.g., The Liturgists) and not-so-great podcasts out there, but I think I do need this podcast myself. I need a space where I can talk openly about where my struggles come from, a space where I can engage with different perspectives and learn from them. And while this is a very selfish project, I hope you can find something useful in whatever conversations take place in For Laypeople, By Laypeople.

So, with that, here’s the first episode:

Those plans are not yours

If we have talked recently, you know things have not turned out as I expected, or at least hoped. Even then, I felt confident I was heading in the right direction and it was only a matter of time for things to come together. Little by little, as the reality of the situation settles, that confidence wanes. Those plans I was so sure about, even when interrupted as they are now, now seem a bit unclear.

Were my plans ever clear then? No, they really weren’t. I just knew the general direction. But the problem doesn’t lie there—I can deal, even thrive, with some uncertainty.

The thing is that those plans were not mine. I liked and internalized them, but they still didn’t belong to me.

It was at a moment when my devotional life, although not great, it was stronger than at many other points in my life. God helped me to constantly remind myself of who was in control and what I was really after (or wanted to be after)—Him. Surrendering my fears and dreams, I began to experience His promise from Jeremiah 29:11.

As my connection with Him grew stronger, so did my confidence in His plans, regardless of things not heading in such a hopeful direction. I knew my way, because it was His revealed way.

Just recently, I can’t even point out when, I seemed to have forgotten about God, being preoccupied with graduating, figuring out a way to afford grad school, staying in Lincoln, moving out of the dorm, finding work—becoming an adult.

I don’t even know what happened. Without realizing it, I soon found myself lost again. My plans didn’t work. Without Him, they meant nothing and directed me nowhere. They only mattered because they were His. He had shown them to me and I took them away trying to make them mine. I took them away from He who had designed them, and without Him I couldn’t understand them.


Perhaps this is a bit unrelated, but I want to show you what brought about this epiphany.

I just finished reading C. S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” where he writes:

The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes and precautions—to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead.

For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves’, to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good’. We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way—centred on money or pleasure or ambition—and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do.

Christ is my righteousness

As I have previously stated so many times before, I am so stressed out most of the time as I plan my future after college—as much as I can actually control. It is so difficult to focus on God and pray to Him and read the Bible. The further away I move, the more I worry about my performance.

In fact, performance is such an important word for me. As a musician, I prepare performances, I deliver performances—it’s all about performance. Long hours in the practice room must result in a competent performance or else I’ll feel all my efforts are doomed.

Spending three hours every day in a practice room means a big part of my personal fulfillment and happiness is based on my clarinet performance. Worrying all day about whether my études will be ready for my lesson next week or whether I have the elegance required to perform Mozart’s concerto, has made me forget a bit about how my life and my worth depend on Jesus—not anything or anyone else.

Although we Christians don’t always portray it, the gospel is simple and mind-blowing.

Last night, as I drove back to school I sang Matt Maher’s “Lord, I Need You.” As I assimilated every word, the gospel once again struck me to the core. “My one defense, my righteousness. Oh, God, how I need You,” says the song.

I worry and worry as if this world mattered more than God’s kingdom. My idolatry has consisted in putting my worldly struggles and ambitions above God’s love and grace and mercy and peace. And the only thing I’ve accomplished is a greater sense of hopelessness.

But this world is not my home and my salvation is not dependent on my performance.

The gospel tells me that Jesus came to die to take my place. My salvation is not based on what I can do but on what he has done. He is my righteousness. If I am asked what I’ve done to be saved or how can I be saved despite all my sin, I can say I am saved because of Jesus.

The greatest reliever is that Jesus does not look at my performance to decide whether I am accepted or not. Whatever failures I face in this world, Jesus has a place for me in the Father’s kingdom. He takes away the need to base my worth on my performance. Instead, as Maher’s song goes, “Holiness is Christ in me.”

Jesus is my righteousness and that thought is freeing.

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 1:30,31 (NIV)

Sickness

I’ve been sick for three days. I think I got the flu, but I am almost fully recovered. So I expect to feel great tomorrow.

On Wednesday night, I began feeling this really awkward pain in my throat going up to my left ear and I knew I would wake up the next day with a sore throat and other symptoms related with the flu.

As a music student, it is never a good time to get sick because I have to stop practicing and might get behind on learning a certain work. But the timing cannot be worse when you get sick two days before a performance.

Since Thursday, I spent a significant part of the day lying in bed so I could recover as soon as possible because I needed to get back into a practice room. But the fever and congestion made me slow and pretty much useless.

If practicing was not an option, at least I could listen to some symphonies I need to get familiar with. However, I felt too tired and fell asleep. By the time I woke up, two symphonies had gone by.

I went outside and instantly felt better. There is truly something magical about getting some sun and fresh air. (Okay, maybe it is not magical but you get the point). I walked over just one mile, and although I felt tired by the end, it really helped my mood.

During this walk, I though about sickness. I could not wait to get better. I wanted to feel like I did a couple days before. I wished to have the same energy and not feel so tired at 10 am.

While I was thinking about all that I would do when I recovered, sin came to my mind. Although seemingly unrelated, the topic had been on my mind thanks to a class I am taking in college this semester. We had been talking about Adam and Eve and how sin entered the world.

Perhaps this is why I thought, How would it feel to be without sin? I know what it feels to not have the flu, so I long to be healthy every time I get sick. I know all the things I could be doing and need to be doing, and I am aware of how sickness keeps me from accomplishing those tasks.

I have no idea what it feels to be sinless. Is sin like a handicap? Could I be doing more, better things if I was not being bogged down by sin?

Adam and Eve were sinless once. They knew how that felt. After they ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they became aware of their nakedness. As the snake promised, their eyes were opened.

I don’t know how they felt being kicked out of the garden, but I can imagine Adam and Eve wanting, longing to go back to how things were. They had become sick. Things were not so easy now. Sin came with its symptoms.

As I experience the last moments in my recovery from the flu, I think about how it will be when there is no more sin. How will it be to not experiences any headaches from all this meetings and tasks we put in our calendars and planners? What things are we going to do when are lives are no longer congested with materialism, envy and greed?

Right now I am sick. I am a sinner. Thankfully, that is not the end.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

Revelation 21:4,5a (NIV)

#004 – Guillermo Ximenez

[audio http://traffic.libsyn.com/ofloversandfools/004_-_Guillermo_Ximenez.mp3]

¡Escúchalo en iTunes!          ¡Escúchalo en Stitcher!             ¡Descárgalo!

Hace ya un poco más de dos semanas tuve la oportunidad de platicar nuevamente con Guillermo Ximenez. Hubo un tiempo en el que lo acompañaba en el piano a las diferentes iglesias a las que visitaba, incluyendo una iglesia en El Centro, California, y otra en Yuma, Arizona. Ya ha pasado tiempo de eso y ahorita él se encuentra grabando su primer álbum.

De esto y más hablamos en este episodio.

Junto con este episodio, estamos lanzando una campaña en Indiegogo para juntar fondos para este álbum del que Memo habla. No importa si tu apoyo es de $10, $5 o $3 dólares, cualquier apoyo por pequeño que sea es de gran ayuda. ¡Checa la campaña y apoya este proyecto!