Scattered Ramblings on Time Out, Unity, Preservation, and Marriage

I went to church last Sunday.  The church had been closed for two weeks due to inclement weather.

The man who was leading worship last Sunday was telling us that he found the time off to be edifying.  He is often busy, and his time at home from church gave him an opportunity to hear from God.  He said that he wouldn’t have been as prepared to lead worship without that time.  I could somewhat identify with what he was saying, only it was the opposite for me.  Going to church gave me an opportunity to stop, take a breather, and think, since I spent time walking to and from church and was thinking during that time.

The sermon was about unity.  The pastor said that he will do a series on this topic.  What has inspired it has been the political divisions among people.  The pastor was promoting unity around the commands of Christ.  Political divisions have been on my mind as of late.  I get frustrated when I read political debates, and I have to take heed not to demonize those who believe differently from me.

The pastor was also saying that the Godhead itself is united, in that it works together harmoniously in the work of salvation.  He said that the Father sent the Son, the Son paid the price for our redemption, and the Holy Spirit preserves us.  That made me think: Do I really believe that the Holy Spirit preserves believers?  What about Christians who leave the faith, and who wonder where God was when they were departing?  Why didn’t the Holy Spirit preserve them in the faith?  I suppose one can say that the Holy Spirit tried to do so, but the apostates resisted the Holy Spirit.  I cannot read the apostates’ mind, but I tend to accept their word that they wanted to stay in the faith, but they just couldn’t because there was no proof for it, and God was doing nothing to reveal Godself to them or to keep them in the fold.  Actually, I cannot speculate about what God was and was not doing, but they felt abandoned, or at least alone.

Do I rule out that the Holy Spirit ever preserves believers in the faith?  No.  I just wonder how much of a rule of thumb it is, and how to account for apparent exceptions.

After church, I saw that Great Clips was offering $7.99 haircuts.  I needed a haircut, so I decided to take advantage of this deal.  The people around me were talking about marriage.  The hair stylist beside me was saying that she tried marriage, and it just didn’t work out.  The person whose hair she was cutting talked about his two marriages, both of which were for ten or more years.  My hair stylist was saying that she was married to her second husband for seventeen years, and now she is married a third time and is seeing how that will turn out.  She told me that her second husband was verbally abusive to her, but her third husband sticks up for her.  I asked her how she gets along with her third husband’s children, and she said they are like the Brady Bunch!

In these sorts of situations, I am hesitant to “witness.”  I am afraid that people will think that I as a Christian judge them, or that I criticize them for failing to live up to a high standard.  The night before, I was reading the Catholic catechism and what it said about divorce: it is against it and expects married couples to stay married, with the help of the Holy Spirit.  But I could not judge the woman styling my hair.  I myself wait and see how things will turn out.  I am not married to the church that I currently attend.  I don’t think one should be flippant, bailing out at the least offense.  But is there anything wrong with keeping one’s options open?  Some environments are healthier or better than others.

In any case, I’m sure what I just said can be critiqued, and rightly so.  Something that I found myself feeling, though, was empathy and hope that things would work out for the hair stylist—-that she would find compatibility with her husband, whatever trials may come.  I believe in cultivating a desire for somebody else’s well-being.

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
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