Sick Religious Consciousness

I have developed a sick religious consciousness. This is not to say that this consciousness is the sum of who I am, or that it is dominant in my personality, but it certainly is prevalent. It occurred to me moments ago (and so, I of course have to blog about it) that this consciousness is like a person who receives a diagnosis of cancer and then becomes obsessed with cancer, and in his obsessive analysis of his cancer is surprised that cancer is so cancerous. In this analogy cancer is a good analog for sin because it is a destructive reality, and it seeks to dominate its host. Moreover, when one is in the process of being healed of cancer what happens is that the presence of cancer diminishes in the host. In other words cancer is always cancerous and healing is not about converting cancer into something healthy, but about its shrinking to the point that it vanishes. In the meantime, while one is in the process of healing, whatever remains of cancer is still cancerous, is still a destructive and ugly reality.

Continuing with this analogy, just as chemotherapy can provide healing for cancer, ¬†grace does provide healing for, and deliverance from, sin. With respect to religious consciousness, and this is where the analogy breaks down, it seems to me that when one enters into grace one can either focus on the reality of grace, or the continuing reality of sin, and what I am starting to see is that what you focus on dominates your vision, which in turn powerfully affects how you live in the world. For whatever reason, I have developed the depressing habit of constantly analyzing myself to see if I am in grace (my consciousness is a weird hybrid of a cloistered, medieval monk and a dour Puritan. Keep in mind, not all Puritans are dour, but the Puritan in me is), and in this analysis I end up discovering all sorts of sin, and I run to the conclusion that grace must be absent or not working because sin is still so sinful. Going back to the analogy, it’s like I am in the midst of the healing process, and yet I run to the doctor and say, “The chemo must not be working because the cancer is still so cancerous, it’s still such a diseased and destructive reality”

To take all that I am saying and make it more specific, I currently struggle with anger, at times a dark anger, and when these feelings of anger well up and crash upon my consciousness I am very tempted to despair in the belief that grace cannot be present where such anger exists, yet what I am also experiencing is a still small voice saying, “You can either focus on the anger or you can focus on the grace.” In this instance I assume the grace of which the voice speaks is not a transforming reality, but an embracing reality, a reality that embraces me while I am angry, and what I sense is that this embrace is the foundation for any transformation that is to come. In this way grace is utterly gracious, and what I must learn to do in those darkest moments is embrace the grace that is embracing me, embrace the grace when its most clear that I don’t deserve it, which of course is the very nature of grace.

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me a sinner.”

Perhaps the above breath prayer is a bit odd to tack on at the end of this post, but somehow it seems fitting.

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