“Life is a conundrum of esoterica.”
– Lemony Snicket
(A Series of Unfortunate Events)
Bookstores are like a little oasis to me. There is always something to discover, always something to learn, and always something to plunge me into the depths of a topic. If you look at my library, you will see novels of various genres, books on historical events, secret societies, symbolism, religious art, film and narratives, zombies, vampires, art history and movements, conspiracy theories, Christian living, linguistics, theology, tattoos, and other various topics. When I was in grad school, a friend saw various book titles in my room and asked, “What exactly are you studying?”
Yet, there are some days I look at my shelves and shrug my shoulders. Who cares? I can even walk through a bookstore and nothing grabs my attention. Nothing enchants my soul.
Yet, this shows a deeper disenchantment. I have become disenchanted with God. Therefore, my soul is on life-support. It is supported with academics and books rather than the fire of spirit breathing life and causing bones to come to life.
I am not the only patient. Many of us have made our faith about morality and a political side. It is about right labels, right authors we follow, and we find ourselves on life support.
How did this happen? How do we get back that fire?
The Life Choked Out
“He had his life choked out of him.”
Choking. Not a pretty thing to think about. In fact, it is scary if you’ve ever choked. You can’t breathe. You slowly feel the disconnection from the world as the air is slowly depleted from your lungs.
The Bible talks about people being choked, and actually uses that word. Jesus tells a story in Matthew 13:3-9 – the parable of the sewer. One of the groups of seed find a home among thorns. As the plants grow, they are choked out by the thorns (Matthew 13:7). Jesus explains these seeds are crowded out with everything in life, and no fruit is produced or harvested (Matthew 13:22).
When someone’s airway becomes crowded or blocked, the life is choked out. This happens to many of us. Sure, we can talk about “the worries of the world” crowding out the Spirit. But, what if Jesus means more than that? He is talking to a Jewish audience. Their world is tied to the law, to the religious leaders, and to God.
What if religion can be a powerful weed which can choke us? In Mark 1:21-28, Jesus casts out a demon when the demon speaks out while Jesus is teaching. It wasn’t the building which caused the demon to reveal itself. It was the teaching of Jesus. Something about what Jesus was saying began to break the power of this demon. We can become so focused on fulfilling religious standards and images that we choke out the life Jesus has given us.
Think about it.
We are concerned how we are perceived by other Christians, concerned about our looks, making sure we act right, and vote right. Where is Jesus in that? Did he die on the cross for us only to live a moral life and vote “like he would”? No! He died to give a us a new life.
When we allow things to choke out the life Jesus has given us, we are disenchanted. And, we are dying.
Choking can cause us to die. But, why disenchantment?
Disenchantment is being unimpressed by something or someone. No longer wowed. No longer awed in a way which changes our lives.
Most of us have become like the religious leaders of the New Testament. We study our theology books and box God with neat labels and the verses to match. We see people who are not like us, and we immediately either dismiss them or debate them.
What this attitude has done is caused us to see God only in the pages of a textbook in order to be dissected.
Can we be comfortable with the paradoxes of Scripture? Can we be ok with saying, “I do not know”?
When Moses saw the burning bush, his curiosity was peaked and he was enchanted. Abraham was enchanted by God many times. Joshua, Elijah, Daniel, and even the disciples were enchanted by God. They did not see something God did or said and immediately tried to dissect it. They wondered at it.
What is the first thing we do when we hear a testimony, listen to a sermon, see someone respond to God, or watch people worship? Do we immediately look for how it is “wrong”? Or do we look for the Spirit of God moving and wonder at his work?
Disenchantment dissects and wants a debate. Enchantment explores and enters into an encounter with God.
The Enchanted and Curious Christian
A close friend and spiritual father to me brought to my attention the idea of being curious. Being curious is not being skeptical.
In Romans 1:19-20, Paul (writing to Christians) states God’s power can be seen in our world. How many times have we dismissed this in order to not be “off the deep end” in our thinking? The whole creation praises God and shows us God. Each person is made in the image of God, yet how many times have we dismissed a person instead of seeing the masterpiece God has brought onto our path?
The enchanted and curious Christian yearns to see God in life. What happened to Moses at the burning bush? Watch Here
So often we get stuck in a textbook and caught up in labels that we miss God working in our lives and in the world around us.
Are we enchanted with God moving in the lives of others? Are we willing to encounter God in nature or the image of God found in another person? Can we encounter the heart of God in a piece of art, a piece of literature, or a meal?
My friend is right. Being curious breaks the spell of disenchantment, breathes life into us, and we become guided by the Spirit.
If Jesus came to give us a new life, why do we only find it in our theology books, Sunday school classes, and Christian labels? Have we become disenchanted so much with religion that we have forgotten that Jesus gave us a new life to live, to breathe, and to encounter him each moment?
Curiosity and enchantment become the fertilizer in which the Spirit can produce fruit in us and a bountiful harvest can be shared with others.