Thursday, June 12, 2014

Closed does not actually mean closed...

I finally went to my former bank on Monday because I was tired of the increasingly strongly worded correspondence I was receiving about not switching my online profile to the new bank owner.  I had already received new checks and a new debit card.  This was for an account I went to the downtown branch to close on April 2nd.  The bank ownership change was not until the 28th.  What I learned on Monday is that a "closed" bank account is not actually closed.

I had wanted the account person to close my account whilst I waited and then to give me confirmation.  She said she was too busy, but would do so later.  She gave me the money I had withdrawn.  When, reading upside down, I saw on her receipt book that the top copy had the words "customer copy," I asked for that top sheet.  She was reluctant to hand it over, but she did.  It turns out that that slip of paper was my only documentation that I had, in fact, closed my account.

I did receive a "final" statement and I was shut out of my online profile.  So, despite the bolded, underlined, and highlighted letters I was getting about the need to sign onto the new bank website, I could not, in fact, do so.  I didn't want to go back to the bank, but given that the letters kept coming and there were those checks and the debit card, I knew that I needed to do so.

I did not want to go back because it is effort for me to do so, and I am so bloody tired all the time.  [Yes, it makes no sense for a bloody tired person to be working on her back porch or a friend's dresser.] I did not want to go back because I did not want to face the battle of trying to close my account for a second time.  And I did not want to go back because I was afraid of that wretched anxiety in me resulting in tears or strong words or a complete meltdown at the bank.

I wanted Becky in my ear (on the phone).  Actually, I wanted Becky or Marie or Mary or Celia to actually close the stupid account.  But I am the one who has to take care of my life.  So, I went.

And, as I said, I learned that "closed" does not actually mean "closed."  Even though I had requested the account to be closed, the code entered basically put the account in "holding"  status, a flexible way of temporarily closing an account, but leaving it available to be reopened by a deposit.

I had asked to speak to a bank manager.  He was not available, but I at least got an accounts supervisor.  I will admit that I was fairly annoyed to sit and watch him straighten up his office for about 10 minutes before calling me back.  He was not on the phone; he was not working on the computer.  He literally was cleaning up his office.  Perhaps he was moving confidential files???

He could not understand why I found no comfort in the fact that the account would only become active again with a deposit.  He did not foresee that anyone could make a $10 deposit and then write checks for $10,000 or make charges on the debit card (neither of which I was expecting in the mail and could easily have been stolen) before the low balance/lack of credit was noted.  I would be the one stuck with the fees and the headache because the account was still technically open in my name, under my social security number, and on my credit report.  I was still responsible for the account.  He also could not appreciate how stressful I found the situation, given that I had already thought this account closed and off my plate of worries/obligations.

The supervisor asked for my email and promised to send me confirmation once the account was actually permanently closed.  What I still do not understand it why he (or the first account specialist) could not actually close the account whilst I waited.  You can open an account whilst someone waits and receive documentation that the account is actually open. Why is it that you cannot close an account whilst someone waits and then give that person documentation that the account is actually closed?

Tuesday, I received an email from the supervisor stating that the account is now permanently closed.  However, he did not, as he had promised, forward me the email from whatever department that was going to do the closing as proof that it is actually closed.  So, really, I still have no real confirmation. Just another assurance from a bank employee.  I suppose if the correspondence from the new bank stops, that will be my confirmation???  SIGH

Closed doesn't mean closed.
What words mean is a great problem of mine at the moment.
Faith.  Believe.  Trust.  Repentance.  Forgive.  Forgiveness.

GREEN is GREEN. I mean, there are many shades to my beloved most favorite of colors, but still I can recognized and understand and know to be true what GREEN is.  Recently someone said that my problem is that biblical trust is not the same thing as non-biblical trust.  Huh?  I don't understand that.

You know, one of the first things I realized, in encountering Lutheran doctrine, is that the word "salvation" does not mean the same as what it does in the mainline evangelical church.  If you ask an evangelical if he or she is saved, that person, if saved, would place the affirmative of that answer in a specific date on which he/she prayed the Jesus prayer, asking and accepting Jesus into his/heart to be his/her personal savior.  That is salvation to the mainline evangelical.  To the Lutheran, I think, the answer to that question is two fold:  I was actually saved (as all mankind were) when Jesus died on the cross and that salvation was accredited to me (given to me) in my baptism.   A veritable Grand Canyon exists between the two meanings.

I can write things from the Christian Book of Concord (BOC) and from the Bible (okay ... mostly from the Psalter) in which I find great comfort and which better elucidate the latter concept of salvation.  However, what I have been trying to ask every pastor ever since first reading the BOC is the meaning of all the other words of Christianity:  faith, believe, trust, repentance, forgive, forgiveness, etc.

As I noted when I read Grace Upon Grace, I was stunned by the reality that Christianity is a religion of reception.  We receive faith and that is contained therein.  However, the dissonance between the Bible and the Doctrine that teaches reception and all the talk, sermons, blogs, comments, etc. about the actions of faith is not something that I can contain anymore, that I can bear.

  • What does it mean that Saul lost his faith, that the Holy Spirit left him?
  • If faith is received and a gift from/act of God, is the losing of that gift also on God's part or man's?
  • If faith is built and sustained by the gifts of Christ, by the hearing of the Word and the receiving of the Sacraments, how is it that one loses faith?  I mean, I hear that you don't have to do anything to receive faith, however there must be some doing in order to not lose faith.
  • Yet the doctrine is also clear that the good works that are done, that the fruit of faith that is borne, are set forth by God and accomplished by the Holy Spirit through those gifts of Christ, because the Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier, not man.  
  • I don't have to do anything, and yet there are all those Bible verses about loving God, believing and trusting in His promises.  So, in reality, I have to love, believe, and trust.  If I cannot do those things, how can I have faith?

In learning about (I am ... now ... afraid to write "in converting to") Lutheranism, I have struggled with encountering the fact that my entire world view of Christianity was wrong, was warped and was not actually true.  All these words are different and you cannot really compare apples to oranges.  Yet if I move away from the Bible and away from the BOC and try to ask about faith, ask about all those apples, what I hear back, primarily, is that I am worried about the word "enough,"  Enough is so far off my radar at this point, that is a laughable, errant assumption.  Else wise, I hear back that I am trying to understand everything when understanding everything is not necessary.  Those assumptions are absolutes that are not of my concern.  Really, my concern is that folk talk about the Lutheran oranges, but what I hear are apples.  And I am confused.

Really confused.
Unable to pretend that confusion away.
And terrified.

Closed doesn't mean closed.
Saved doesn't mean saved.
Faith doesn't mean faith.
Believe doesn't mean believe.
Trust doesn't mean trust.
Forgive doesn't mean forgive.
Forgiveness doesn't mean forgiveness.

I happen to think that one particular truth is that the same drive for the comfort of works righteousness exists in the Lutheran church as much as it does the mainline evangelical church.  It is just clothed in different words.  And so that particular terror remains.

I also happen to think that there is a pervasive (in the Lutheran public discourse) and utter dearth of confession (if not actual understanding) of the work of the Holy Spirit.  I mean, it is so very clear in the BOC that the Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier, is the One who works the Word and Sacrament to the benefit of the believer, who brings repentance and who accomplishes good works.  The Holy Spirit heals, forgives, sustains, strengthens, loves, honors, trusts, obeys ... all of those works and fruits that are what is received in and a byproduct of faith.  In short, our Triune God is doing everything.

Yet, primarily, what I hear is this emphasis on ensuring that the Law is taught so that believers can be chastened and know what to do to please God. As if the pastor is the one working and applying the Law part of the Word of God.  If the pastor does not use the Law to discipline and train the believer then the believer will go out and sin, that teaching too much Gospel gives people freedom to live in sin.  That simply does not fit with the Bible and with the true doctrine to which those public discoursers profess to adhere.

To put it another way, on one hand you hear that faith is all about what Jesus does for you, but on the other hand faith in a person is measured by what he/she is doing to give evidence of that faith.  The Myrtle word for this is that the talk of faith is talk about fruitification.

I wish I could write better, but a prime example of what I think is a lack of confession about the work of the Holy Spirit is these (oft angry) calls for someone to repent, calls that are accompanied by this measuring stick of actions that will prove repentance in that person.

My pastor never got to teaching about repentance—even though I tried hard to say that really is part of the heart of my terror—before the reality of just how much I am forgetting showed me that it is too late for me.  By this I mean, what I see in the church is that repentance is from the person and yet what I read in the BOC is that repentance is from God, is received in justification.  I actually find it a bit ironic that, in the doctrine, the discussion of repentance is about how the advarsaries focus on only one part of repentance, on contrition, when repentance is two parts, contrition and faith.  Well, if faith is received, then contrition is also received.  After all, you actually cannot be contrite about sin without having faith since the doctrine of original sin teaches that without faith you cannot fear or love or trust God.  Original sin precludes and prevents one from having contrition of sin.

In part, I think some of the problem is that contrition is defined—perhaps without realizing it—as being sorry for wrong-doing.  Well, even non-believers can be sorry for wrong-doing.  But being sorry for sin is not contrition.  Contrition is actually anguish and terror of the realization of what sin is and the consequence of that sin, i.e., eternal death.  Death forevermore.  The faith part of repentance is believing in the Promise of Christ crucified, believing the consequence of the sin has been borne already for you.

Key to the doctrine of repentance is that you cannot separate one part from the other.  There is no division in repentance where one is first and the other is second, for faith really is a continuum.  It is not as if you are first contrite then have faith and then repentance is achieved. I mean, well, the contrition can be separate, can be overwhelming and obscure the Promise of Christ, but that does not mean repentance is divided.  Oh, how I wish I were a better communicator in these things.  It makes such sense in my head.

Anyway, again, from what I read in the BOC, the problem was that the adversaries to the pure doctrine, to the Gospel, were teaching repentance solely as contrition and that the satisfaction of that contrition must therefore be met by the believer ... all those indulgences and hail marys and all manner of personal works of being sorry based on measurements of visible faith.  To me, when I read some (angry) call to repentance followed by a list of how that repentance can be demonstrated, I just despair.  Is that what the church actually teaches?  Have I just been hallucinating what I read in the BOC because I need faith to be external to me and not based on my actions or level of sorry-ness?

There is this great dissonance between what I read and what I hear and see and how I am measured by other Lutherans.  I just cannot pretend anymore that this is not a great and dire problem to me, that this is not a fear so large as I am certain it will (if not has already) consume me.  For one truth is that I am running out of time, out of time for understanding and for remembering.

Really, it is that there is the apples and the oranges problem, which is compounded by bananas being added to the mix.

I do not need to know everything, but I need to know what my confession is ... and if it is the truth.  So, in a way, I actually thought it was rather apt that I discovered on Monday that closed does not mean closed.

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