February 4, 2010
Jumble is an interesting word. The dictionary says it means all mixed up or jumbled together, cluttered, a confused multitude of things. Well, I think my brain, and life for that matter, resemble that definition currently.
In the back of my mind I know that all these things must fit together somehow. But how? The issues of caring for the dying, the penniless and the unloved are forever pressing. It is interesting how some issues seem so consuming to me, while to others these things are just another item on the morning prayer list. Perhaps I just give these things too much of my energy.
There are bigger, more abstract thoughts that are mixed in with the challenging tasks at hand - questions that will not go away. Questions that are so huge in my mind that I can hardly put words to them, such as men v. woman...what does G-d really think of women, are they really second-class citizens? Are we required to mold ourselves to the model of the first century? Were the words of the apostle Paul meant for shaping our lives to first century culture, or are they just midrash, his opinion or good halachah?
Ah, I know...now I just crossed the line.
Further, I am confronted with a interesting and thought-provoking contrast. I have the privilege and unique opportunity to witness, from the inside, the differences and similarities of two believing communities. One, a Messianic synagogue with it's strict fundamentalism, and the other a rather flashy Christian assembly with a more tolerant mindset. Both are, to the best of their knowledge and ability, diligently following the commands of the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). However, one is earthy and the other is not-so-much. The comparison that comes to mind is the difference between whole grain bread and the lovely wheat bread - you know, the soft kind that the kids will eat. Both provide nutrition, but one is definitely an acquired taste. Strange analogy, I know.
Am I trying to discern which is the better way? Certainly not. But I'm seeing the benefits and disadvantages in each, that's for sure. Being a part of a very tight-knit group of believers can be a challenge, as is the case with my synagogue. Don't get me wrong, I believe that's where I belong, to be sure. It's not perfect by any stretch (not that anyone is expecting that, surely). Much more time is spent together in a synagogue community than in your mainstream Christian congregation, and when people spend a lot of time together, they tend to get to know each other very, very well. Maybe too well. Faults start to show, differences start to cause cracks and then questions start to come up...questions most wouldn't dare to verbalize. Questions about faith and love. Questions about priorities and truthfulness. Questions about the validity of halachah.
In sharp contrast, stepping into the setting of a strong-believing group of Christians is like stepping into a warm pool...aaaahhhh. No expectations, at least not on the surface. Welcoming acceptance and inclusion is the rule of the day. Loving, affirming words beckon and draw participants while the group worship experience binds them together. But the time spent together is limited and I see that people don't really get to know each other, not on a deep, personal level. And don't veer off the doctrine, don't ask questions...
Yeah, interesting contrast - most certainly a jumble. A jumble of thoughts and emotions, questions without answers and duty to be fulfilled. And personalities adding nuances to the jumble like little accents of color shot through a black and white optical illusion.
This, too, shall pass, but I'm afraid those insistent questions will remain.