Have you ever faced an obstacle? Have you ever felt like something stood in your path that just made something impossible? Have you ever felt like you have a mountain to climb in order to get to the other side? Guess what? Most if us have. It’s actually quite human to experience this! There are times in our lives when we feel as though we cannot move forward because something is blocking our path, or even worse, something is dragging us back into the past.
Recently, I have been getting quite a bit of feedback on some of my blog posts, most notably, my post on health care and my post against the inerrancy model of scripture. (Surprisingly, not really anything about my biblical beliefs surround the LGBTQ community) In particular, I have received a fair amount of negative feedback. These past few weeks, for me, have felt like something is standing in my way. In fact, it feels like a wall that continues to press against me, trying to force me back into a shell where I believe what I believe but don’t actually tell anyone about it. It feels like a wall that is trying to box me into the old self, the past, into an old box that doesn’t fit me anymore.
You see, when I was growing up, I grew up in a church and in a faith where I pretty much took whatever anyone gave me and applied that to myself and my own theology. Beyond that, I never really talked about those beliefs too much with other people. However, when I went off to college and began encountering new ideas, broader understandings of the Divine, and actually began applying and understanding what I was reading and learning about in my personal study, in my Bible classes, and in my theology classes, all of a sudden the world burst forth. Yes, it was painful. Yes, it felt as though my entire worldview kind of crumbled around me at first, but that was partly due to the unsteady nature of it in the first place. I went from a faith that was handed to me into a faith that began with who I was and through who I saw the Divine to be. This lens, while it may seem simple, was difficult to find and even more difficult to actually look through without have serious doubts, questions, and fears.
Only recently have I began to feel comfortable with actually giving words and voice to my beliefs and thoughts and understandings. Where before I felt fear of “What would people think?” or “What if I get fired from my traditional church job for saying this stuff?” and “What if I’m wrong?”, now I am able to confidently speak what I know to be true to my life and to the world around me. I have lost the fear of “what will happen?” and am instead living into the person that I know God has created me to be; inviting others into the sacred flow of love and grace; inviting others into the transforming landscape of Christianity and Spirituality. My identity was all of a sudden not found in other people’s opinions of me and instead, it was based on who God created me to be and how the Divine has interacted and reveled Itself to me. I came into a more holy union with the Sacred around me and the Sacred within me.
However, as I was saying, the recent negative feedback has made me feel as though people are trying to force me back into that old box that was handed to me that doesn’t fit anymore. I have push back. Jesus encountered a similar circumstance, as told in the book of Mark (Mark 3: 19b-35). In this story of Mark, Jesus goes home only to be bashed by his own family and friends that he grew up with. They went so far as to call him a servant of Satan! Jesus, the beautiful union of the Divine and Human, was being told that he was tantamount to Satan. It’s interesting to note that within this last week I myself was labeled a “false prophet” for what I had been saying.
Now I do not attest to be Jesus, by any means, however, our lives are lived in similar fashion to Jesus’s life. Jesus continually calls people to “Be like Him”. That’s what it means to be a disciple, right? This is what some would call the “Hero’s journey” or the “human journey”. You have to leave the village, leave your home, leave the box you’ve been given, in order to be true to yourself, in order to, as Rob Bell would say, “Do the Thing” that God has called you to or God has placed within you.(This can be found in half of his podcasts) Sometimes that leaving the village leads to the village labeling you an outcast. Sometimes it involves those from your home, those who you used to be in community with, those who you used to identify yourself with, labeling you as a heretic. However, when you break out of that old box, there really is no going back.
Jesus did not turn back. Jesus continued forward. For three years of ministry he continued forward, breaking apart the box he was given, the box that the wall was trying to force him back into, and instead, he broke through the wall, he jumped over it, he climbed it, he broke through and continued down a path of liberation and freedom. I also cannot go back to where I used to be. The Divine love that flows within me and through me is way to expansive to fit back into the traditionally conservative box I grew up in. God’s grace and majesty and beauty is too big for it. The beauty of the Divine image in me personally is too big.
For me, this means that I need to have thick skin. I have to understand that people I know might not feel the same way as I do in terms of biblical interpretation and the essence of the Divine…and that’s okay. I need to put my action where my mouth is and actually take time to celebrate the complexity and diversity in life. This does not mean that I will sit idly by while “bad theology” and “injustice” run rampant. However, the fact is, this earth is full of diverse people, with diverse backgrounds, diverse beliefs, and diverse interactions with the Divine. Why on earth would I expect everyone to think exactly like me? Breaking through the wall means continuing on. God has placed this on my heart to communicate to others. God has placed within me a desire to invite people into the Sacred flow; to invite people into the transforming landscape of structural Christianity. This is the lens through which the Divine has been revealed to me, so I must remain true to that. I have to have thick skin to shrug off critics (and believe me, whatever you do, there will be critics), and continue in the firm knowledge that my center is the Divine. It is not other people’s desires, it is not for self gain, it is not to “sway people to my way of thinking”, but rather it is a voice that is calling for expansion that moves me. The desire for all to see the love and beauty within the world, to see that everything is indeed connected, that’s where I feel the joy.
So what about you? what walls are you facing? Are you facing critics in the face of doing “The Thing”? Are you facing an impossible task that you don’t think you can accomplish? Are you thinking that you are being forced back into an old box that doesn’t fit you anymore? Do you have an old box that needs to be broken out of? How are you going to climb he wall? The goal is being true to yourself and being true to the Divine that works within you and through you. So what is it that you need to be true to? I cannot answer that for you. That is between you and the Divine. That is what contemplation and prayer is for. That is what worship is for. That is what close friends and family are for. (yes, even the ones that you don’t agree with!)What is “The Thing” you have to do in order to be true to yourself? And in the face of adversity, how are you going to remain true to what God is calling you to do?
Grace and Peace,