Tuesday, October 09, 2012

If The Bible’s Not A Self-Help Book, Where Do I Get Help For My Self?

I have recently asserted that the Bible wasn’t given to us as just a “self-help” book. God gave us the Bible to point us to Jesus, who is far more powerful than 300 pages of “how-to”.  Here’s my issue today: I want self-help. I’m feeling overwhelmed with life and just want a set of rules on how to do things to make life easier. I want to be able to turn on TBN and do what the guys running around with bad hair are yelling about and know that I will then have a perfect little American middle class life.

Isn’t that what American Evangelicalism is all about? If I follow this book’s set of rules on diet and don’t worry about my underlying food issues, I can still be thin and perfect on the outside. Another book will give a list of principles on how to have plenty of money. And then, there are the myriad of books about how to be emotionally healthy and calm. All the time. And all of these books are based on pulling lists of what to do from the Bible. See? It’s all there. If I could just find the key, I could pull out the right set of steps for my perfect life. (‘Cause clearly, I am not emotionally healthy . . .)

Or could I? Looking back through history, I’m betting that the Christians who were fed to the lions in the first few centuries after Jesus’ resurrection weren’t feeling all contentedly American middle class on their way to the arena. Same thing with the Christians being burned at the stake by other Christians for practicing their faith “incorrectly”. And plenty of other folks who just had a rough time despite hanging on to Jesus.

Even in the Bible, Jesus doesn’t tell us to follow him to be comfortable. He tells us to “take up our cross” which means to pick up the means of our execution. Ack! But he reminds us that “In this world you will have trouble. But, take heart; I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33) In Matthew, he tells us to give us his burdens and take up his because his burden is light. (Remember that this is a man who knew he was going to be crucified in the next couple of years – light burden?!)

So, I kind of get it. I need to be walking with Jesus. The Bible is to teach me about Jesus and all the self-help stuff is kind of bonus because it’s teaching me about the character of Jesus. Right now, though, I could use some practical steps. What is the next step when I get off the computer?

My head aches. I want to be at the yarn shop, but I’m at home debating whether to ice my head or put a heating pad on my neck. My 14 year old son is growing up and getting more busy, but also starting to think for himself (who said that could happen?!). My 17 year old daughter is doing a much better job of thinking for herself, but she’s getting overwhelmed by the whole college/school/music thing. I love my husband dearly, but feel like there’s never enough time or energy to spend with him. And at some point, I think the kitchen and bathroom should be clean!

How does walking with Jesus help these problems? This is why our Christian bookstores are more like self-help bookstores! I just want a list of what to do today. How much of my Bible to read. How long to meditate. How long to pray. Who gets more of my time and energy.

My dad points out that faith is uniting my life with Christ. WHERE’S THE HOW TO LIST?

Maybe it’s because my list isn’t the same as yours. Maybe the way Jesus works in my life and wants me to walk with him isn’t the same for me as for the other 7 billion people on this planet. After all, I’m the migraine queen/yarn diva/homeschooling mom of two great kids/wife to an amazing man of rural Wisconsin. My life and walk with Jesus certainly aren’t going to be the same as that of a single mom in an urban area or a suburban mom with four kids.

The Bible is God’s way to point me to Jesus. There’s no list of rules for how I walk with Jesus. I know that my way tends to involve lots of reading, praying, meditating, and music. Other people may find that their spiritual journey is enriched with more music while others  prefer more intellectual stimulation. And the “self-help” books I’ve been complaining about aren’t all bad. Lots of them have great suggestions for how we can practically enrich our own devotional lives. I’m just starting to see that we can’t rely on them like chemical formulas.

I really want a list. But that’s not what you get in a relationship. Thankfully. (Can you imagine getting a list of “what to do” at your wedding ceremony? Ugh.) It’s a lot harder, but I suspect it will be a lot better in the long run. So, back to my life of figuring out how to “cast my cares on the Lord” without having a manual.

What are your thoughts? Any insights?


mercygraceword said...

Thanks for this - I've been guilty of thinking the "next book" or study or blog would be the magic key - you're right, we can't impose any one method or track on each other, it is a RELATIONSHIP. I'm just listening to some "Drive by Marriage" CD's from Wretched radio and they keep talking about how they hate giving people "lists", so I had to laugh at your blog, which I always enjoy.It's always funny to me that I can't remember how I started following most of the bloggers that are on my reader :o)
D in Canada

Catherine said...

D, sometimes it's hard that this relationship is so nebulous! I'm glad this resonated with you, too. Just when I think life should be getting easier because I've got the to-do list set up, I realize that there never was a to-do list, just a "to-be-with" Person.