Thursday, January 13, 2011

The nature of comfort

Went to my second bible study with my church since moving to the area a year and a half ago. I guess some things get off to a slow start. I could say it was from all the church searching/switching and also my attendance of the Intervarsity bible study on campus, but really it's priorities. Doubt is a strange circle. It's hard to prioritize something I do not trust. That then takes me away from the community that might enlighten me to the answers of my doubts. Of course my doubt also reminds me that I'm not exactly placing myself in places where I could be enlightened to other varying beliefs.

We studied the first chapter of II Corinthians, a passage that reflects upon the suffering, comfort, and integrity of God in Christ. It seems to me that the nature of God's comfort in suffering comes from a knowledge of His character. Paul's comfort came from a knowledge of God's power (over death and over all). Others in our group were comforted by God's character of being ever present or faithful (a presence in times when one might otherwise feel alone). Paul asked the Corinthians to find security in God's integrity (when others might seem fickle).

For myself, I always wonder if the comfort I have felt in times of need comes from a head knowledge of God's character as expressed in the bible, or if there is the actual presence of God reaching down and comforting me. It would be more convincing if in a time of need, I did not need to know the character of God in my mind and yet I still could feel His comfort. Instead it seems to take reminders from His Word or reminders from other believers to get me there.

I suppose I also know when this specific doubt began. You might think all Jehovah's Witnesses spreading their news on the streets should just be ignored; but after being trained in Christian evangelism, I really wondered what the Jehovah's Witness had to say, what they thought was so compelling about their own belief. So after being approached one incredibly rainy day, I stopped to talk, in the rain, getting soaked. That young man had plenty of his own stories to tell of Jehovah's Witnesses experiencing god's love, god's peace, god's joy, comfort in times of need. The stories were no different from those within Christianity... and no less enthusiastically related.

I guess one thing that struck me tonight is that Paul was a real person. Okay, that was obvious, but Saul was also a real person. Even if I sometimes doubt the validity of the bible, the people of the bible existed in history and there really was a Saul character who went around killing Christ followers, and somehow, in a miraculous moment, he became one and went around planting churches, being persecuted and being in danger of being killed. Who would do that unless the miracle actually happened and it really showed the existence of Yahweh God? I always -- perhaps stupidly -- ask God to reveal Himself to me -- if he really is there -- in a miracle that I cannot deny. Perhaps Saul's story (and others like it) is the closest i will ever get to knowing a miracle of God. Christians often cite the disciples willingness to die for Christ after his death and resurrection as evidence of a truth, since only truth would be worth dying for. That never caught with me; they were already for Christ to begin with and would have been fickle for changing their minds, but if Paul is a real character, then he really was reacting to truth.

Of course my doubt then reminds me of the miracles that people of other faiths also claim of their deities. I become more and more convinced that whatever one wants to believe, one can find the arguments and examples... I'm not sure I even know what I want to believe. I suppose that's why I continue to live within the field of doubt.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

First Night, Boston

Funny how the crappy quality of my cell phone camera gives everything a dreamy (crappy) quality. I'm glad I made my way back to Boston for New Years. Nothing goes on at home in Pennsylvania for the New Year other than a dark house and sleep, so it was good to be out.

First Night, for those who don't know, is Boston's friendly way of bringing in the New Year, with performances and activities all through New Years Eve. The $15 cost of the button to get into all the events was well worth it even just for the American Repertory Theatre performance of the Blue Rose, my afternoon venture. One of the options was Boston Ballet's Nutcracker! (which... I did not see because I did not want to wake up to go get the tickets in the morning.)

Waiting for ART ticket office to open:

One of the many ice sculptures. They didn't all survive so well in the 40 degree weather:

Bridge to the left, water to the right. Wintry night walk near the MFA. Walked all the way to the harbor:

Pond in the Common was frozen over: .. ... ... ... (we counted too early):

Perfect view, and we didn't even have to get there early! The reflection in the water was certainly a nice touch. These are views from a surprisingly uncrowded Christopher Columbus Park.