Yeshua’s sacrifice is continually before the Father. He is the lamb continually on the altar before the throne. He is the “the Lamb of God” whose atoning sacrifice for sin is continually before the Father. Thus the writer of Hebrews states: “Nor was it that He would offer Himself often. … Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” (Hebrews 9:25-26)
For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. –Hebrews 9:24-26 (ESV)
I must confess that I’m not entirely sure how to compare the continual burnt offering we see described in Exodus 29:38-42 with this passage from Hebrews 9. It is, in some sense, almost comforting to think of Jesus has my continue “sacrifice” for my continually struggling life of faith, with all its rises and declines, but the writer of Hebrews is clear that Jesus was only sacrificed once, not continually. But then, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve missed something in the Bible that seems incredibly obvious to others.
I mentioned yesterday that I feel as if I’m waiting in a minefield for God’s next move, since I’m afraid to make that move on my own. OK, I’m being overly dramatic, but this blog is about how I am processing my own faith experience on a day-by-day basis, so what you read is what I’m going through more or less continually, like a sacrifice on the fire. I’m waiting with God and waiting for God but sometimes I just get tired of waiting. God’s timing is long and even infinite, but certainly he knows we short-lived mortals tend to live by the clock and not by a millennium-long calendar. So I’m waiting and waiting, but I’m also thinking and processing and experiencing.
I’m reminded of how nothing is perfect and that I’m shifting from Plan A to Plan B. It occurs to me as I recall my conversation with my wife, that I’ve been holding her responsible for something that has nothing to do with her: my faith. At least in Christianity, each person negotiates their own relationship with God. I suspect the same is true in Judaism but I can only speak from my own point of view. I’ve also been blaming synagogues, and churches, and congregations for not being what I want or need them to be, but that’s not their responsibility, either. God doesn’t become different from who He is because of me, so why should the world of religion. I can see I’ve been unreasonable.
So now that I’ve taken these failed assumptions apart, I need to put the pieces of my puzzle back together in order to see if it makes any sort of map by which I can navigate my course. I think there’s a map in here somewhere, but I’m not very encouraged as to where the trail seems to be leading.
It would be too difficult to pull together all of the different conversations I’ve had on my blog, on other people’s blogs, in various emails, and elsewhere on the web, that make up the pieces of the map, but as it stands now…right now, I need to be who I am all by myself as a person of faith and let that be the primary focus. Who my wife is, or my children, or who anyone else is in their faith and their identity cannot be the lens that colors my perception of who I’m supposed to be. I’m an intermarried Christian man, but my faith has to stand alone or it doesn’t stand at all.
So if I re-enter a Christian religious context, it won’t be a Christian man expressing his faith in relation to a Jewish woman expressing her faith elsewhere, it will be as a religious Christian man in relation to God and God alone. But what does that mean in a practical, “one step at a time” sense?
Barring some unforeseen event, I am probably going to keep exploring who and what I am becoming in my life of faith. Would going back to a church at this point make sense? I don’t know. If my wife doesn’t understand why I would want to be a Christian, or even if she doesn’t understand why I would want a spiritual life at all, I’m not sure the church would understand very much about me, either. As each day, week, and month progresses, as far as our “identities” go, we continue to spiral away from each other, spinning in wildly different directions. I suppose I have to face that and not let it drive me from searching for the person who God wants me to be.
So what if? So what if I just did this alone? I mean, I’m continually reducing my choices down from many to few, and being alone in a life of faith is one choice that has always been in front of me. It doesn’t make sense in terms of the Christian and Jewish templates which both describe social and corporate gatherings and worship, but maybe this is the equivalent of being stranded on a deserted island with nothing but a Bible to read. Just me, the book, and God.
I’ve been criticized before about my incessant complaining regarding lack of fellowship, so maybe it’s time to stop complaining and just to accept the facts about my existence. I’m not dying or in chronic pain. I haven’t stepped on one of those metaphorical landmines I wrote about yesterday and blown a leg off. According to the classic five stages of grief, the final stage, after denial, anger, bargaining, and depression, is acceptance. I don’t know if what I’ve been experiencing can rightly be called “grief” or if I’ve experienced some sort of loss in order to justify a sense of grief, but what if I just skip ahead to “acceptance” and be done with it?
Supposedly, in the world of grieving, “acceptance” isn’t the same thing as being “OK” with the loss. It’s just accepting the reality of the situation. I hate waiting and I’d much rather “cut to the chase,” so to speak. None of the worlds I’ve been exploring are really “home.” I’m not Jewish so I don’t actually belong to a Jewish world. Although I call myself a Christian, I really don’t belong in church singing “Onward Christian Soldier” or jumping up and down in response to the “worship team’s” pep rally presentation as if I were a hyperactive jack rabbit (I was in a church that did that on exactly one occasion and couldn’t get out of there fast enough).
I’m not saying that I’m walling myself off, and when or if God decides to offer me an opportunity to share who I am with others, I will go ahead and jump in, but in the meantime, I can’t wait on pins and needles. I’ve been kvetching about this far too long, and I’m sure you’re getting just as tired of it as I am.
Dr. Michael Schiffman recently said on his blog:
People who are always upset, will always be upset. It’s just a matter of time before they are upset over the next “issue.” We are supposed to live our lives in tranquility, not in a state of constant crisis. Sha’ul wrote in Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” If we are always looking for an argument, always wearing our emotions on our sleeves, we are not living peaceably. It’s an issue of maturity.
Anyone who’s been reading my “meditations” for more than a few days knows that I don’t exist in some otherworldly sense tranquility, and I’ve said more than once that I wear my heart on my sleeve here on this blog. I guess I always will as long as I continue to need to write and allow a venue such as this one to exist. But that doesn’t mean I have to exist suspended between one decision and the next or between one heartbeat and the next. I need to remove myself from suspension and begin to move.
So, until “my ship comes in,” if it ever comes in, I’ll be the guy on the deserted island with a Bible reading and praying and walking with God. Jesus will be the offering continually being burned before the throne of God for me, and for who knows how many others like me. Or, his offering of himself is over and done with as far as me and everyone else like me is concerned. But I’m also done. I’m done scanning the horizon with my telescope every hour on the hour for some sign of “rescue.” A “ship” may come today, tomorrow, or never, but I can’t get on with my life as long as I think something is still on hold. I’m done waiting. I can’t make anything change and in fact, those things that continue to change around me, I have no control over. I might as well face the fact that things are as they are and proceed as best I can by letting go of some of the things that drive me.
The sound of the wind through the trees is my companion and the rising and setting of the Sun mark the passing of my days. I’ll read, and study, and pray, and live, and time will pass. Whatever comes will come. But I’m not going to try and make it turn into something anymore.
There are no plans. There are only nights and days. Let God do as He will.