My heretical impressions of James Chapter 1, part the first

Hello, gentle readers!

I’m going to go out on a limb here and write about religion again. As you may know from a previous post, I’m religious. But my religion is kind of unorthodox. I don’t go to church, large groups of Christians make me uncomfortable, the concept of heaven bothers me, people who don’t try to live their religion bother me more. This includes myself, and I can do way better about this. In short, my religion is trying to adhere to two big rules: love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. I’m not great at loving myself 99% of the time, and my inner bully is especially active right now. I hope I do better at loving my neighbor. The book of James in the New Testament was a game changer for me, and I keep going back to it.

Coming from the Mormon Church, organic religion and spirituality are freeing. If the Mormon Church works for you, I’m just as proud of you as I am of those who have left. I want everyone to experience faith and religion (or lack thereof!) on their terms, not mine or anyone else’s. Fear is not a good reason to practice faith, at least to me. The book of James, especially the whirlwind that is the first chapter, captured my heart and set me more free in a way. I got so much out of it, and I continue to do so! That was organic faith. I truly stumbled upon it by chance, read it, and it resonated with me. Enough talk. Let’s jump in.

I use the Passion Translation wherever I can, it speaks to me the most.


“My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties, see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! For you know that when your faith is tested, it stirs up power within you to endure all things. And then as your endurance grows even stronger it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.”

This is James 1, verses 2-4. It packs a punch. A really big punch. The word “joy” can also be rendered from the Greek as “calm delight”. Some people think “OMG, you can’t do anything worldly” in order to experience this kind of joy, and there’s something to be said for that if that’s your style. I’d argue, however, that some days you’ve done all you can and joy for you is simply coping – petting a dog, taking a hot bath, etc..

For me, I’ve found that unless depression is crippling, forcing myself to get something done, no matter how small, starts a snowball effect that makes me feel a bit better. Usually I call a friend or a family member to get this snowball rolling. Self-care, to me, is another form of calm delight, or joy.

I’m not an optimist by nature, and I tend to dwell in the past and hurt myself in that way. This throws me into depression most of the time. My mind needs to be kept busy. My form of self care is doing things and keeping my mind active, like blogging daily or keeping in touch with people I love. I think I endure that way, too. Coping is also another form of enduring. It makes me stronger, and I’m proud of you for making it here to read this post. That means you’re getting stronger, too.

Healing isn’t linear, I need to remind myself of that often. But the bad days are teaching me how to handle the good days, and vice versa. My bipolar brain is sometimes glitchy and forgets the good times when I’m in a dark place. Remembering good times or planning for them are other forms of joy to me.


And if anyone longs to be wise, ask God for wisdom and he will give it! He won’t see your lack of wisdom as an opportunity to scold you over your failures but he will overwhelm your failures with his generous grace.[d] Just make sure you ask empowered by confident faith without doubting that you will receive. For the ambivalent person believes one minute and doubts the next. Being undecided makes you become like the rough seas driven and tossed by the wind. You’re up one minute and tossed down the next. 7–8 When you are half-hearted and wavering it leaves you unstable.[e] Can you really expect to receive anything from the Lord when you’re in that condition?

Gaining wisdom is something I long for. My dad was what I’d call a Christian zen master towards the end of his life, and I want to imitate that. People say that I give good advice, but I don’t take it for myself. I don’t like that about myself, but I’m never sure how to change this trait.

Lately I’ve started to simply ask friends and family to listen to me because I have all of the “therapist answers” somewhere inside my messy brain. Talking my problems out helps me find them. I’m thankful for everyone who listens.

I hope I’d be a lot more calm if I at least took my own advice. I think that owning who I am and being better at taking good advice will help me become a Christian zen master myself. I’m adding that to the list of things I need to do to make a home within myself.

Also, I get from this that God gives me what I need in the times that I need it, and I’m given the tools to process my gifts somehow. I have managed to hold onto the most precious things in my life, just as they hold onto me. I think it’s some variant of the phrase “the things you seek are also seeking you”. It took years of trying to calm down before I was given the love of my life, and he was indeed seeking me for awhile while I was seeking him and we reconnected. I did doubt – I doubted a lot, wondering if he was right for me, how in the world he could love me like he does, how I deserved such a marvelous human in my life, picturing all of the scenarios in which I could accidentally kill things, the whole nine yards. He stayed. He stayed. I am given what (or who) I need in the time I need it, even if there’s no rhyme or reason why I should be blessed with it.

I don’t deserve the things and people I am given. But differently than the love people show to one another, God sees me differently than anyone else, and loves me for – not in spite of – who I am. I will do better with being gentle to myself and others, because one of the pieces of my personal faith is to love others as I love myself. Some days I can do more than others. Others all I can do is ride out the storm. I need to stay strong. I’m loved, so are you.

Until next post,

Meg

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