A Year of Living Biblically - III

Indulge me in letting me share a few more thoughts from my latest readings in A.J. Jacobs' book, A Year of Living Biblically. It's been giving me some good laughs and some interesting thoughts (that's the author at right, displaying his beard-growth journey as he obeys the command to not cut the hair at the side of his head or his beard).

One of the things I appreciate of Jacobs is that he does take the time to reflect on what he's learning from following the Law. He also doesn't resist it affecting him. Jacobs mentions how in trying to follow the Law all the time that it helps him to live more in the moment. In doing so, the mundane becomes sacred. "I thought religion would make me live with my head in the clouds, but as often as not, it grounds me in the world."

I've mentioned a few times in previous posts my desire to practice the presence of God--what Jacobs called making the mundane sacred. I envy him that he has been able to experience that--not at the level of Brother Lawrence, of course, since he is missing out on a relationship with God, but he still gets to a point where he is thinking about God as he tries to be prudent in keeping the commands. I'm trying to be more mindful--being intentional about taking time to pray while I'm in the shower or washing dishes or other routine tasks that enable my mind to focus elsewhere.

I think that part of what helps Jacobs connect in his legalism is that he has to be mindful of being intentional in all he does. That's the key--not the legalism, but in being intentional, being mindful of the intent in all I do. Not just my intent, but God's intent for my life.

At one point near the middle of the book, after traveling to Israel, Jacobs reflects on how one of the downfalls to his experiment is that he's doing it all by himself. One of Jacobs' spiritual advisers told him, "The people of the Bible were 'groupies' . . . Only the crazy Europeans came up with the idea of individualism. So what' you're doing is a modern phenomenon."

Jacobs isn't the only one going about this religious experiment by himself. Most of us do it. Yes, there is a big part of faith that is individual. But there's an even bigger part of faith that is communal. And we're missing out on it. That's how Judaism and Christianity were lived out up until sometime after Constantine: faith was lived out in community. Not just lived out, but shaped and believed. It's more than just going to church and worshiping with others. It's sharing our lives together, sharing our doubts and struggles and revelations.

We've been exploring that at church some recently: how we connect more and experience community in a large church. It's not easy. But little in life is--at least the worthwhile stuff. It's a shame that we got away from church being a corporate, daily-lived-out way we practice our faith. It's also how we keep faith on track as we don't just develop our dogma in isolation. It is shaped by everyone else around us, and everyone else who has come before us. That doesn't mean we all end up believing the same thing, but that we have respectful dialogues as we wrestle with issues.

There's another page I bookmarked with some thoughts to reflect on, but I'm apparently too tired to remember what it was on that page. Which probably isn't a bad thing right now. It's time for bed--and probably a few more pages from the book before I shut my eyes.


Mark Aamot said...

Well said. I especially feel you on your comments about community versus individualism. It's like doing anything not ultimately on your own selfish behalf has become un-American...by worldly American standards. Individualism is so entrenched in the mainstream American culture that we don't even trust folks who show too much consideration for "the other."

You mentioned how the Church has become since some time right after Constantine. Many (including me) argue that when Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the empire, it wasn't so much that Rome became Christian, but that Christianity became Roman...big difference, if you spend some time thinking about it.

Grace and Peace,

Ariah said...

I do like this perspective of religious attention grounding you and helping one be more present.

Thanks for sharing, I'm gonna add this book to my reading list sometime.