“For you’ve wrestled with The Divine”

September 20, 2017

Ever hear of Bluma Zeiganick? Yea, I hadn’t either until a few months ago. Bluma Zeiganick was one of the first women in Russia to go to a university. Upon graduating she became one of the first female psychologists in the world. Our dear Bluma discovered the Zeiganick Effect which links memory to incomplete tasks (and she had the audacity to name it after herself!) Basically, your brain remembers uncompleted or interrupted tasks, going back to them again and again.  You haven’t finished the laundry, you’re about to fly across the country, and so it stays on your mind all day. Conversely, once you cross an item off your list you’re less likely to remember having done that task. Perhaps this answers why so few of us can remember what we did the other day, but we can remember what we still need to do.

 

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling…” Philippians 2:12

 

The idea that I could “work out my own salvation” used to terrify me. I needed the very precise rules and restrictions to “know that I know that I know” that I was going to go to heaven. Faith was an item on my list and it was crossed off- I had it taken care of. I said the right prayer, I believed what my pastor told me. I believed what my congregation or denomination (or my political party) believed. What was left to “work out?” 

 

I needed the very precise rules and restrictions to “know that I know that I know” that I was going to go to heaven.

 

When I learned about evolution, I nearly cracked. It didn’t fit into my already established and clearly defined set of rules. When I allowed myself to critique the patriarchy in the church I ran away crying, vowing never to return. We all experience crisis, where sharp pain or doubt threatens to pop our perfectly designed faith bubble and our usual party line answers stop working. Some give up all together, throwing the baby out with the bath water. But some of us experience the Zeiganick Effect for the rest of our lives, returning to the unfinished task of faith again and again. Never fully satisfied with someone else’s answers, always working out our own salvation with fear and trembling. 

But it’s okay. It’s necessary for growth.

Faith, by its very definition is not knowing. It is working out. It is a verb. It is a never ending task. You cannot cross this item of a list in your brain. You must engage it.

 

Forgive me a quick digression into my Christian roots: 

In Genesis 32, Jacob is returning after decades to the family and the brother he has betrayed. The night before he sees his family again we find him sleeping alone by a riverside. He is visited in the night by an angel or by God, it’s not perfectly clear (and that’s okay!) and they begin to wrestle. Jacob refuses to stop until this divine being gives him a blessing. He doesn’t back down from the fight, he engages with it and is in it to win it.

As a result, the being says to him: “You’re name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you’ve wrestled with The Divine and have come through”  Gen. 32:28

“You’re name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you’ve wrestled with The Divine and have come through”

This struggle- it is positive. It is life affirming. It is necessary.

When your faith, in whatever form it takes, is left unfinished it’s like having an open tab in your brain for your whole life. When you’re still questioning and trying to work things out –you’re constantly adding, subtracting, creating, and wrestling with The Creator.

 

You’re dancing. And what better way to live your life then to engage is sacred and divine things?

 

So I give a blessing to those among us who are unsatisfied with someone else’s theology. To those who fall asleep by the river & dance with divinity. Returning again and again.

 


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