‘My decision proceeded, not from the functioning of the reasoning mind, but from a revolt of the stomach. A man may persuade himself, by the most logical reasoning, that he will greatly benefit his health by swallowing live frogs; and, thus rationally convinced, he may swallow a first frog, then the second; but at the third his stomach will revolt. In the same way, the growing influence of the doctrine on my way of thinking came up against the resistance of my whole nature’
While Snow Patrol have been Chasing Cars I have been thinking about swallowing frogs.
There is a line of thinking in Christianity (and life) that it’s easier to act your way into feelings that feel your way into actions.
What that means is that even though you don’t feel like doing something such as reading your Bible, or praying or getting up on a Sunday morning for church you should always do so anyway because you are commanded to and that the feelings and commands will eventually match up.
Philip Yancey describes it as something like this in his book ‘Reaching for the Invisible God’
‘Great victories are won when ordinary people execute their assigned tasks – and a faithful person does not debate each day whether he or she is in the mood to follow the sergeant’s orders or show up at a boring job’
and a bit later
‘More often than I would care to admit, doubts gnaw away at me.
I wonder about apparent conflicts in the Bible, about suffering and injustice, about the huge gap between the ideals and reality of the Christian life. At such times I plod on, “acting as if” it is true, relying on the habit of belief, praying for the assurance that eventually comes yet never shields me against the doubts’ return’
In other words you should keep on swallowing live frogs even though your stomach may be in revolt as it’s the right thing to do. And if you swallow enough live frogs you will eventually grow to love it.
Once again I feel myself on dangerous territory with regards my Christian faith but Milosz describes pretty accurately how I’ve been feeling. More than that, he also describes the feelings of someone very close to me with regards to church.
This man has sat in church for over 60 years he had swallowed frog after frog, whether as an elder or a Sunday school teacher. Yet the feelings of joy have been fleeting and elusive. He claims to have never heard a sermon that has talked about depression or sexuality. Not once.
Feelings are perhaps too easily dismissed in our Presbyterian culture as something subordinate and deceitful, something that we need to suppress under the much more worthy and noble way of faith. It is noble to keep on plodding on, to stick at stuff.
I understand that the way of Christianity is the way of the cross, which means suffering and mess. We will have to swallow stuff we don’t want to do or feel like doing.
But a stomach constantly in revolt would indicate to me that something isn’t right. Maybe a stomach in revolt indicates that we don’t want to be hypocrites? According to Wikipedia hypocrisy is
‘the state of pretending to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that one does not actually have. Hypocrisy involves the deception of others and is thus a kind of lie.’
Maybe the revolt of the stomach isn’t just because we don’t want to do stuff or are liars, maybe it’s because we don’t want to be liars? Maybe it’s because people don’t want to go through the motions week after week in the hope that all the bits will eventually add up and make sense?
Maybe it’s because there is a fine line between acting and becoming a hyprocrite?
I guess part of what I’m wrestling with are divisions, especially divisions in myself and around me. Christianity is about/should be about fixing divisions and the restoration of things.