Recently, the “Do good for yourself” video clip of Victoria Osteen went viral. I clicked on the video to watch it because I love Bill Cosby. When it started playing, I started to get really uncomfortable because my kids were watching it with me and I didn’t like what she was saying. I was really confused and shared it on my Facebook timeline to try to shed some light to a culture that I was clearly in the dark about.
After reading this article about The Osteen’s theology, I realized that…GASP… I used to believe in this. I quit my career because “I wasn’t happy” and was given trusted advice to follow that. (I still to this day do not regret that decision because I believe my growth journey is mine – the good, the bad, and the ugly – plus, it allowed me to raise my children.) I started a small business and had Christian mentors and coaches that also taught this. I believed it because it felt good and helped me reconcile my dreams and desires and the motivation to go after them. I didn’t know it was false teaching (shamefully, at the time I probably didn’t care if it was false teaching because I didn’t understand the ramifications in my lukewarmness).
I attended church (grew up in it as a matter of fact), but had a hard time calling myself a Christian because I didn’t think I deserved it because apparently I was really bad at it. Pour into the lives of others and it will come back to you tenfold, right? Well, then I didn’t understand why I still had struggles (and they kept piling on no matter how much good I was doing for others). I was trying to bask in the glory of being in His favor, but I had a hard time staying positive and upbeat. If I was made for greatness and abundance, then where is my cut? Where was my break? Everything drained me because I wasn’t seeing a return. My self-esteem was at an all time low. I didn’t reach out to anyone, because I figured that everyone else was on their own journey and didn’t have time to notice me drowning in my sorrows – because I deserved it, right? It was because of my “lack of faith,” right? And I was embarrassed by my failure to get myself out of this rut. The worst part was that all of this inner turmoil was my biggest and deadliest secret.
But my thinking, and therefore my circumstances, began to change about 5 years ago. In 2009, a girlfriend of mine invited me to a bible study. I was shocked when I got there because we were actually studying THE BIBLE. Like, started in Genesis. Read verse 1 the talked about verse 1. Read verse 2 then talked about verse 2. And so on. This was completely new to me. I mean I’d been to “bible studies” before, but we were usually covering a book with a study guide. You know, discussing people’s opinions about someone’s interpretation of the Bible. Absolutely NOTHING wrong with that. It just really highlighted the fact that I had never STUDIED THE BIBLE. I had only been a part of these “Book Club” type studies, and if I didn’t like the book we were studying, I usually just stopped reading and would come to socialize and then zone out during discussions because “it didn’t really apply to me.” (haha, THIS is what my friend had to work with!)
Unfortunately, I didn’t stick with that bible study because, well, it was Genesis, and “it didn’t really apply to me.” The next year, my dear friend did not give up on me (THANK GOD FOR HER). She invited me to another bible study, but it was of the Video/Study guide variety which is more my learning style. It was amazing. and hard. and eye-opening. and hard. and affirming. And it.was.HARD. I didn’t stick with this bible study group either (WHAT is she going to DO with me???) because it was just that HARD. It was difficult to process everything that I was learning about the Bible and reconciling (and/or debunking) what I thought I already believed in life. I did finish it eventually, at my own pace. It took me a year to complete the 10-week study.
That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship, not just with Christ but a community and lots of Bible studying. It wasn’t overnight. In fact, I’m still in processing. I mess up, and start stressing over my health, wealth, and prosperity. But I learned that nothing in this world makes sense without Christ. There is a real peace in that. When I started to see the world through the context of the Bible (the whole Bible and the story it tells), I started redefining my idea of prosperity. To prosper is to love. The more you love, the richer you are. The reward is still happiness.
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” Luke 6:35
BY ROBIN WILLIAMS
A man went to a barbershop to have his hair cut and his beard trimmed.
As the barber began to work, they began to have a good conversation.
They talked about so many things and various subjects.
When they eventually touched on the subject of God, the barber said:
“I don’t believe that God exists.”
“Why do you say that?” asked the customer.
“Well, you just have to go out in the street to realize that God doesn’t exist. Tell me, if God exists, would there be so many sick people? Would there be abandoned children? If God existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain. I can’t imagine loving a God who would allow all of these things.”
The customer thought for a moment, but didn’t respond because he didn’t want to start an argument. The barber finished his job and the customer left the shop.
Just after he left the barbershop, he saw a man in the street with long, stringy, dirty hair and an untrimmed beard. He looked dirty and un-kept.
The customer turned back and entered the barber shop again and he said to the barber: “You know what? Barbers do not exist.”
“How can you say that?”, asked the surprised barber. “I am here, and I am a barber. And I just worked on you!”
“No!” the customer exclaimed. “Barbers don’t exist because if they did, there would be no people with dirty long hair and untrimmed beards, like that man outside.”
“Ah, but barbers DO exist! What happens is, people do not come to me.”
“Exactly”, affirmed the customer. “That’s the point! God, too, DOES exist! What happens, is, people don’t go to Him and do not look for Him. That’s why there’s so much pain and suffering in the world.”
I got this in a email and it is a topic that we discuss frequently in my small group. It is much like the discussion held at this post, but a little different perspective. I know that one of the questions raised in my small group would be something like, “but what about when bad things happen to good people?”
How do YOU explain that? What analogy do you use?
When I was 12 I wrote an essay called “Analogy to Life” and I have it framed somewhere but I don’t think I have it digitized so I’d have to find the frame and then retype it, which would be worth it to me if I could just find it. I promise when I do I’ll post it here, especially for my own archival purposes. It pretty much sums up my spiritual view about life. It is odd that I could write it down at that age not really knowing my spiritual self at the time, and now as a Christian adult still agreeing with what I had written. Anyhoo, what is a little freaky is that my analogy is a puzzle. At the time my mother was a puzzle addict (she has weaned a little as we stopped getting them for her for holidays). It wasn’t even an assignment (very uncharacteristic of me) but something came over me while I was helping her with a puzzle and I wrote it. So as we embark on World Autism Day and Autism Awareness Month in April, the essay has brought on a whole new meaning to me. I can’t wait to find it and post it. It may have been the single most profound thing I’ve ever birthed, not literally..but literarily.