Southern Beliefs

In God We Trust - licensed from Dreamstime.com by LikeTheDew.comWhen meditating on one of the final prayers of Jesus on the cross- “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me”; if pursued with diligence, can be transforming in how ones relationship with God is looked upon and also perhaps, how this is shared with others. For Christians, Jesus is an actual revelation of God. Christianity is more about a life and a person, than about the Bible by itself. The New Testament is a faith document passing on to those who would come after, their experience of the risen Lord. The Church was around for over 200 years before the Canon came into existence.

It is often easy to use the bible to back up ones own private understanding of whom Jesus is and what he came to do. It is easy to see how wide and far flung these differences are and also what that means for the rest of the world. We have Christians of all types. All sincere, like I am, yet we all still have a long way to go in our collective understanding just what this revelation means for mankind as a whole. More often than not, we preach ourselves and our own insights, well I know I do, and these are not binding for others, for our inner perceptions change as we grow and hopefully they also deepen and widen our understanding. The times we live in, what we read, whom we hang with; all these influence us on our journey to seek a deeper understanding of our faith, as well as learning from the insights of others.

It seemed that Jesus spent some time trying to tell people that what was needed was faith and trust, not fear. He talked about seeking the one that was lost, leaving the other ninety nine in order to do so. He gave us the parable of the Prodigal son to ponder, along with parables that pretty much showed that the kingdom of heaven grows in ways that can be seen, but are actually beyond our control in some ways. The yeast analogy comes to mind, the rising of a loaf of bread; once the process starts will continue until fulfillment.

How did Jesus relate to those around him? If he was on earth today, I would think that he would be just as shocking to Christians like me as he was to the pious believers of his time, since his actions would draw froth from me my many blind spots, pious pretensions and yes deep and abiding arrogance that I am blind to at this time in my life. Holy people do that, which is why they are often hated; we can feel very uncomfortable around them. Their light reveals ones own inner darkness, which is a call to change and grow, yet it is also easy to become defensive and angry as well. It is hard to let go of self regard and also the shallow perceptions of ones own tendency to self centered action and yes at times evil (all covered by good reasons of course). When a light is shed on a soul in need of healing, forgiveness and redemption, then there are two responses, humble acceptance (by far the harder way) and rage and rejection, the natural way of preserving ones ego. So yes, I believe I could very easily fall into the second group. No matter how much such a self revelation is feared it will one day need to be faced and experienced by all. Perhaps that is why Jesus said that final prayer “Father forgives them, for they know not what they do,” for we really don’t.

This last prayer is one of great hope for all of us. It shows a love not based on need, since that is what human love is, even the best and purest love is needful in some way. God’s love is shown to be impersonal because it is based on true compassion and empathy (the Word became flesh), we are seen, known and walked with through out our lives with Christ, who also became flesh, suffered, died and forgave those who betrayed, tortured and killed him.

The life we are called to is less about morality than a total trust in God’s freely given love, allowing us to choose to trust even in the worst of time. Be it in the turmoil around us, or that which is within. Even our sins cannot keep out Christ love, since he bore our death on the cross. It is our souls we see hanging from the wood; he bore it all. So when Jesus said “Fear is useless, what is needed is faith,” he was calling us to a new life. Now that takes a real death to self in order to achieve and perhaps for many it is something they have to do over and over again….confronting self centered fears and then seeing them for what they are, lies, seeking to create barriers to a fuller life in the Spirit.

I am speaking from experience. I am not one of those Christians who keep on the road. I zig one day and zag the next, falling more than the “seven times” of a just man everyday. Yet Christ forgives “seventy times seventy times.” It is this knowledge of Christ mercy that compels us to have mercy on others. For this awareness comes through self knowledge and failure and again through that, the experience of Christ saving love. Hard to believe (?), well yes, but meditate again on Christ prayer “Father forgive; them for they know not what they do.” That prayer is not only for those who killed him, but also for those of us living today. To pray upon this verse and to ponder it when things seem to fall apart and perhaps feeling far from God, for what ever reason, leads to deeper trust and faith in God’s word, which in fact Jesus. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

God, as St Paul says, is always “Yes.” That is hard to understand (at least for me), because I am many different states, my inner life unstable and not all of them “yes’ by any means. Each following the other slowly, or rapidly, it does not matter as the days and hours fly by. Yet no matter how dark, or bright, no matter if we fall or we are victorious, the answer from God is the same: “Yes.” I am still seeking to understand what infinite love means and I am no closer to that answer than I was at the beginning. Except for this, my trust is growing, and at times, when things are dark, and I feel lost, or even in hell, I hear then, the quiet gentle whisper: “Yes”!

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Mark Dohle

Mark Dohle

I am 62 years old and have lived in the Atlanta area since 1971.  I am Catholic and my faith is important to me, yet as I age the mystery continues to deepen, so I read broadly and try to keep things somewhat open ended. I work with the aged and the dying. I was in the Navy for four years and I guess I am life of center when it comes to politics, but not too far left. Actually, I am kind of a political moron.

I am the third of  11 children; ten still alive, one died in in 1958, three days after birth.