Thursday, October 2, 2008

Thoughts on Devotion

Have you read this? I used to see it everywhere I went: bookstore, grocery stores, gas stations (I made that one up). I think I bought it at Sam's, which tells you how mainstream this book has gotten. I avoided it for a long time until my clients began to ask if I'd read it. I wanted to be able to connect with their experience so I finally picked it up and had it sitting on our dining table for a month.

But now, halfway through it, I've allowed this book to stick in my gullet. I'm frustrated...and in a good way.

Without ruining it for anyone, I was able to get completely on board with the author when it came to her personality, her neuroses, her "issues", if you will. This gal and I have a lot in common: codependency, relationship addiction, unrealistic expectations of ourselves, clinical depression, guilt mongering, crappy thinking...the list goes on. I appreciated the fact that she is very clear about her view of God, recognizing that her universalistic theology (many paths lead to God) skirts her clear of calling herself a Christian. So while I was reading I was able to put her in the "wants to know God but doesn't really know God" box.

And she won't stay there.

I am at the point in the book where she is studying at an Ashram in India and I had expected her to share all about the Hindu gods, and how she was worshiping them, how enlightened she had become...and there's a little of that. But then there's this: she's crying out to GOD, asking Him desperately to fill her. She's spending HOURS meditating, describing focusing her mind on God and all the discomfort, pain, and fulfillment that comes from doing just that. She's describing a devotion to God that I have felt glimpses of in glorious moments and it's actually making me jealous.

Most of us in the bible belt have this little phrase we use called, "having my quiet time." It basically means anything from spending time in prayer, reading the bible, reading a book meant to complement the bible, or perhaps writing in a journal about our thoughts on any of the above. Growing up as a PK, this was also often called, "doing my devotional." At Kanakuk, we called it "devos."

I was thinking about this last night - what is devotion? Today I don't think it's something I have or do...though certainly you can practice devotion to God or you can be devoted to God. But the way that Elizabeth Gilbert describes it, it is something that you yearn for, you long for and are willing to lay all else aside to strive for. And that makes my sorry little "quiet time" look so very lame. That's what's bugging me. I'm prideful to the core and this Universalist, Man-centered theologian is showing me that I'm not devoted to God real much.

I'm reminded of hearing Beth Moore speak on agapeo love at a Passion Conference in 1998. She was referencing John 21: 15-17 where Jesus publicly restores Peter after Peter's betrayal. Jesus is asking Peter, "do you love me?" But he's using the word for love as agapeo- Godly love, love flowing from the Spirit. And Peter can only reply (love his honesty) "I phileo you," or "Jesus, I have fond, friendly, brotherly love for you." Beth was pointing out that Peter knew he didn't have it in him to love Jesus with that great, heavy love of agape' love. She compared herself and the rest of us to Peter and explained that we don't just have that kind of love for God. I believe her exact words were, "Buddy, you couldn't muster it up if you tried."

So that's what I am reminding myself of when it comes to devotion: Beck, you don't have it. You can't do it. And you couldn't muster it up if you tried.

I'm in great need of God to do that...and actually I believe this is one of the vast differences between Jesus-centered theology and universalism: I am powerless to be godly. I need God to love Himself through me.

But wouldn't you know it's taking reading this non-Christian, very spiritual book to remind me of that?


Kay said...

Good point. I also have not wanted to read her since she has been Ophraized on television, but I may have to change that. I agree with her on the eating part:)