I only know what I have lived. Anything else, beliefs, creeds, thoughts, proposals, talk– is just talk. If I haven’t lived it, it’s just theory. Theory is just a way of positing what I think is true, but until I really test it out in the laboratory of my life, it remains a theory, something that does not impel me to change or to be in a new way.
Too often our religious beliefs are thoughts that we entertain mentally; we like them, we cling to them, but we don’t try to live them, to embody them; we don’t put our hearts and souls into them. Our religious beliefs might impel us to church on Sundays and to be nice and kind and to even help the poor, but they remain at a safe distance from how we live, how we treat others, what we challenge ourselves on, how we run our business dealings. We will argue about them and uphold them against all challengers; but by not embodying them, we retain the illusion that we are in charge of our lives. Our beliefs by themselves don’t change us, don’t propel us into God’s arms where real change takes place, don’t make us followers of Jesus who showed us how to live. Only when we make a commitment, turn our lives over to Christ, decide to live congruent lives, and follow through on the commitment on a daily basis, do our choices begin to reflect what we believe.
We can only claim what we have lived. We can’t say we know God loves us if we can’t feel that love. We can’t say we trust God unless we live without anxiety. We can’t say we love Jesus like a friend unless we have allowed him into our life to transform us. We can’t say we are Christians without loving other people—embracing, accepting, forgiving, making time for them, being with them(as Jesus does with us).
Christianity is too often a soft religion; it’s easy to embrace, claim the beliefs, attend church and stay the way we are. That’s how we often interpret it now twenty centuries after Jesus lived and taught. But Jesus never said believe in me. He most often said, “Follow me.” And also, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”[John 14:6 NIV] To follow implies belief and action. It’s like the one-two punch: with commitment to live out the beliefs, belief impels action. If we don’t live the beliefs, they are empty.
I have come to understand how to do this by living into certain beliefs. Right now in my life I am living into trusting God, living into feeling God’s love for me, living into living without anxiety. When I am living into something, I have set an intention to be that, then I work to incorporate it, to embody it, to have it be my experience. It takes the need for perfection out of the process and focuses on the becoming.
I set an intention to embody trusting God in everything, for example, about a year ago. And in the meantime I have worked at reducing my anxiety about things not going “my way” and, at the same time, I have worked at radically embracing what my life contains as if it came straight from God. I have opened myself up to God in new ways. This is a real workout because my conditioned reaction has been to push away anything I don’t like or anticipate and to be anxious about it. As I imagine how much of my life has been consumed in fighting what is, I grieve for the lack of trust and confidence in God’s plan for me.
Even as we pray for, say, trust in God, we have to do our part to make it happen. We can’t, if we want to embody trust, just wait for God to magically produce it in us. We have to imagine what it would be like to live totally trusting in God. Would I experience anxiety? Would I let ____ distract me from my purpose? And so on. Then we identify the problem areas, like anxiety, and when we become aware that we are anxious, then we need to let it go, reaffirm that we want to trust God in all things. This is our part of the equation.]
As I have been doing my part to affect these changes within, God has been supporting everything that I do, highlighting my anxiety so I see it more clearly, transforming, easing the transition, doing the Spirit’s part. And I am becoming much more aware of his presence throughout the day.
I have had to give up my personal, limited attitude about my life and step back to look at the bigger picture, of how embracing what is will give me more energy for positive contributions to life, and help me to realize what my life has really been like, not just how I have felt about it. And I recognize that accepting what is may be just what I need to embrace, to take the next step in God’s curriculum for my life. Living into is the means for becoming congruent with my beliefs. It starts with a commitment, then an embracing and finally an incorporating. This process makes the beliefs come alive in a life, declares them not just from the mind but from the body, the soul and heart. Then I am living what I know to be true. Then I am congruent, that what I say is what I do. I have integrity.
Questions to ponder over the week: Am I living what I believe? What would I have to do, to give up, to bring my life integrity and congruence?