Due to my self-imposed ban on new book purchases and my family’s voracious reading appetite and therefore constant trips to the library, I decided to look up some books from my Amazon wish list on the Fresno County Public Library’s website. I scored on this one – It’s Really All About God: Reflections of a Muslim Atheist Jewish Christian by Samir Selmanovic. This book was published in September 2009 and I just got to read it for free from the library! I have to tell you, I liked it so much I am going to buy it.
I will spare you a book-report-style summary except to say the book relates the author’s journey of faith, focusing especially on family, culture (he is originally from Croatia), and religion. Each of these are significant and Selmanovic weaves these throughout his book so well that I can only ask that you read the book to hear his heart for and in each. We also find the postmodern pillars of the call to embrace God and honestly face our uncertainty at the same time, not making our own religion an idol in place of the God our religion follows, and the value each religion can bring when we enter into meaningful dialogue. While these are no longer revolutionary ideas to me, the author does a good job of providing relevant story and insight to these fundamental concepts. You’ll have to read the book for all this good stuff.
The 2 parts that I DO want to talk more about are areas that have challenged my own heart.
The first is a fundamental question to my faith (and I suppose all others), but one that we spend too little time attending to, or answer too quickly. Q: What was Jesus promising to his followers? If you’ve been involved in this Christianity thing for a while, you recognize that your answer to this question might differ from what you first believed (or were taught. When you read Jesus, he talks about being without a home, seeing disruption in the state of our relationships, being persecuted…The author says it this way of Jesus… “Follow me and you might be happy – or you might not. Follow me and you might be empowered – or you might not. Follow me and you might have the answers – or you might not. Follow me and you might be better off – or you might not. If you follow me you might be worse off in every way you use to measure life. Follow me nevertheless. Because I have an offer that is worth giving up everything you have” (p. 210). My experience would agree with Selmonovic’s reading of Jesus’ call. What does Jesus say we will get from following him? Learning to love well.
Would you trade everything in exchange for learning to love? I am haunted by this question for several reasons. First, I do not love as well as I would like. If that is the point, what have I been doing instead? Not that doing it perfectly is the validation, but it should at least be a main focus. Loving God, loving my wife, my kids, those I am responsible for, those I work with, the needy right in front of me. There is no shortage of opportunity! Do I see each person as an opportunity to learn to love? AND, am I helping others in the same pursuit? Are my means of discipleship, training, mentoring, or simply relating actually helping others learn to love well????
I want this to be true – more true of my life. I feel like I am on this path, especially right now during our time of Sabbatical. What does it mean to remain on this path regardless of place, job, or other responsibilities? What I love about this call is that it deals with life now. My focus is not on a reward that comes later. Rather, it has affect on my life, and the lives of others, now. I need this.
The second part of the book that relates quite a bit to some of what God is teaching me concerns how we go about “doing.” This is very significant to me as I learn to separate my sense of value, being loved, and identity from what I accomplish. In a sense, it’s basic and I would espouse and teach that. But I am only BEGINNING to truly believe and live by this truth. The author, also a vocational minister, relates that ever since becoming a Christian, he has been taught to give, love, minister, care. This is what we are supposed to do, right? So, he asks, why isn’t this working? “Since we have been teaching and acting in our Christian churches to love others and to organize others and to organize our lives to love others, how curious, I thought, that polls report that non-Christians perceive Christians as not loving! How can that possibly be?” (p. 240). His answer speaks right to me. We don’t really love because we don’t know how to receive. In other words, we are not willing to let others affect us, especially in areas (like about God) that matter. We like to give because givers are in control. We bless because blessers are in control. “To receive, on the other hand, means to lose something. Everyone wants to teach and no one wants to learn.”
For me, I can only be in a position to receive when I don’t equate my value with what I do. How could I? If what I know, accomplish, and teach is what gives me my identity, how could I possibly take myself out of the driver’s seat? And so, as I am learning (again) who I am (and am not), I can be with you and just be. I can hear. I can learn. I can change. Heck, I can RELATE without trying to fix you. I want that, and am pretty sure that you do too. So, when I am with you, I give you permission to check that. Am I with you, or just trying to “help” you? I feel like God is really teaching/changing me. I hope you experience me more this way and invite you to let me know how I am doing.