Why can’t I say “Praise God” when someone is telling me good news? Why don’t I say “God has blessed me with…” in conversation, when I am sharing something for which I am grateful? Russell Wilson, NFC Championship winning quarterback, praised God and gave Him credit/glory for helping achieve the Seattle Seahawks’ victory. And it’s not just celebrity athletes. I see other people of faith, in my own real life, openly expressing like this, comfortable with verbal demonstrations of their faith. But I feel awkward. I’m thinking that, if I were involved in a romantic relationship, I would be one of those people who’s also uncomfortable with public displays of affection. That particular question is one that I’ll never be able to answer, though.
But, what about God and me? God and me. I just don’t talk like that. And, yet, here I am, studying theology and writing about matters of faith. Maybe I’m just a better writer than speaker. Maybe. I know I shouldn’t be hard on myself. After all, look how far I’ve come! Faith, like knowledge, is ongoing growth.
So, let me break it down and see where I am now:
(1.) I would never tell someone to “praise God” like a kind of command or exhortation. True praise can’t be forced or even cajoled. (Not that people who say that are trying to command or force, but I would feel like I was.) If it isn’t an honest and spontaneous rising from the heart, then it isn’t praise. What I don’t ever want to be, and what I don’t want others to be, is insincere or halfhearted.
(2.) I don’t feel right about saying something like “God has blessed me with –” because I believe that God has blessed, and is blessing, everyone. The reason that I am able to get through a difficult situation is not because of any special blessing that God has given to me and has denied to others who are struggling through similar situations. I don’t believe that God has favorites. Perhaps, at times, I am more open than another person might be to receiving God’s gifts – but that comes down to human free will, not special blessings from God, because God won’t force anyone open. God gives all of us opportunities to open our hearts to divine blessings – and then gives us the freedom to choose.
I do, however, believe that everybody, including me, is given, by God, particular talents or gifts that make each of us unique. Maybe I have been given a gift for words (maybe) while you have been given a gift for music or science or physical strength. Maybe God has given me a gift for the written word, but not for the spoken one. (Aha!) How we use our gifts is up to us – but God will continually be giving us opportunities, encouragements, and reminders every moment of our lives.
What I can say is something like, “This is just how I’m made.” But, that doesn’t give direct credit to God. It seems, indeed, that I am very reluctant and uncomfortable about giving credit to God out loud. Shyness is a poor excuse. I probably just don’t want to be stereotyped as “religious” – but, isn’t that like fearing Men and not God? And what if… What if the credit and praise simply isn’t rising strongly enough from my heart to roll naturally off of my tongue?
So, there you go. …Heavy sigh. Well, I guess we could say that it’s a good thing that I’m a Catholic and not an evangelical Christian, right? Humph. And yet, popes have even been telling us Catholics to be more evangelical – to boldly and publicly share our faith in Christ, our love of God, in everything that we do and say. Well, then…
I am, as always, a work in progress… and what slow work it can be sometimes…. Thankfully, God sees what is in my heart and is ever-patient with the lack that is found there, ever-merciful.
© Christina Chase 2015
I don't call myself a poet — but the beating of my heart is poetry. I don't call myself a theologian — but the light of my mind seeks the Divine. Who I am is a Child of God, a Divine Creation, a person devoted to being fully human, fully alive.