I grew up in the South, so I learned early that good Christian girls (and women) were expected to always be “nice.” This fundamental edict is ingrained in me at a very deep level, and I measure myself against it constantly.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
Belief and faith are words that tend to be used interchangeably in many religious circles, but I think of them differently. Belief is the holding of a mental proposition to be true. Faith is trusting in something or someone even without proof.
For me, belief comes from the head. Faith comes from the heart.
One of those things is taking a hard look at what an idol really is, how we worship idols, and which idols show up in my own life. I’m discovering that idols don’t always look like I expect them to and that I am not always consciously aware of what I worship.
It’s precious to watch a young child (or a newborn animal) just learning to walk. They pull themselves up and stagger along on unsteady legs as they build their strength and learn to balance themselves upright. It often involves more than a few tumbles and moments of abrupt sitting down before their gait becomes natural and steady. And they must learn to walk before they learn to fun.
This process is not unlike my own process when it comes to learning a new way to approach life or replacing an unhelpful pattern with a new one. I begin practicing that new pattern (or new outlook) is unsteady ways that involve lots tumbles and shaky moments. Eventually, though, the new pattern becomes my new normal, and I can navigate it without effort.
I made an interesting observation today about expectations.
I was part of a conversation this afternoon with one of the seminarians where I work. He’s in the process of doing his “student pastoring” at a church outside of town, and he was reporting that it had been a rather intense few weeks. Someone had recently outed him (as gay) at the church, and there was a lot of uncertainty about how people would react to knowing this about him at that particular church. It turns out things have (so far anyway) gone very well, and he even took his boyfriend with him to a church function last weekend.
While I was very encouraged to hear his story, the thing that surprised me is that I did not in any way let on to him that I am also gay. I stayed quite firmly in the closet throughout the conversation despite the fact that he was openly out of his as he shared his story.
Now that I’ve heard and accepted my body‘s message, the challenge is finding a way to live into that decision in a way that is respectful to everyone involved, including those who are depending on me. As I think about ways to do this, I keep finding myself pondering an age-old (for me) question about handling seemingly impossible situations: Is it appropriate to just “turn it over to God” (as is so often urged) and wait for God to create a miraculous solution, or is it more appropriate to move into action searching for possible solutions and pray that God works a miracle in the doing?
Those who would urge the former would suggest that it is in the waiting that we demonstrate our trust and that our attempts to take action on our own constitute a lack of trust in God’s ability to act. Those who would urge the latter would suggest that it is in taking action that we put ourselves in the path of God’s movement making ourselves available for whatever plans God may have. And besides, it seems incredibly lazy for me to sit back and do absolutely nothing to attempt to solve a problem that I created and expect someone else to fix it for me.
I happened across an Epiphany blog post today from Dick Staub, which went by the rather amazing title of Epiphany: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. Use words only if necessary. Not only am I late in finding this post for this Epiphany (which was last Sunday), this post was actually from last year’s Epiphany! But given the fact that I recognized a couple of my favorite quotes in that delicious title, I just had to take the time to read it.
I’m really glad I did, and I suspect you will, too. It’s really good well-written. (And full of quotes from some of my favorite authors!)
I’ve spent much of the day reading Phyllis Tickle’s latest book, Emergence Christianity: What It Is, Where It Is Going, and Why It Matters, in preparation for a book discussion that I plan to attend later this week. Although I’ve heard the term, this is my first real introduction to Emergence Christianity, and Tickle does a beautiful job of explaining the cultural and historical forces that led to this form of Christianity, the characteristics that belong to this group, and the variations that can be seen within the movement—and it’s all done in easy-to-read, nontechnical language.
It’s a great book, and I’m learning a lot. But reading it has also been an uncanny experience.
When I was younger, I used to believe that God had a perfect plan for our lives. Our job was figure out what this plan was and get with the program.
I believed that there was one perfect spouse for each of us, one perfect career path, one place we were to live, one church we were to attend, one choice in every situation that was right. All other choices were wrong and disobedient. This put an awful lot of pressure on every decision to make sure it was the one perfect one.
It used to really frustrate me to think that God had laid out this perfect plan that I was supposed to follow, but that I wasn’t given a copy of the checklist for ever decision I faced so I’d know which one was right. It seemed so unfair. To top it off, I often heard it said that God would call you to whatever you were least suited (in skills and personality) to do, so if you were actually good at what you were doing or you enjoyed it, it was a sure sign that you were on the wrong path.
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” ~C.S. Lewis
I spent some time with a newer friend today and had the pleasure of discovering several things that we share in common, from interests, to authors we enjoy, to patterns of reacting, to writing styles. It reminded me of just how powerful it is to discover a point of commonality with another person, a discovery that becomes more powerful the more rare the point of commonality is.
These moments of connection remind us that we are not alone. They bring reassurance that all of our quirks fall within the natural variety that makes up the human race, and that we are not broken or defective for being as we are. They bring the pleasure of finding someone to share our interests, hobbies, and activities with who will value them as we do. These moments whisper the reassurance that we belong to those corners of our souls that fear that we are forever on the outside.