Despite writing a blog, I have to confess, I don’t read blogs very often. When I slow down enough to read, I like a book in hand with pages I can turn.
Feeling slightly like a hypocrite and wanting to learn from others, I’ve started reading blogs over the last several months. The two favorites I’ve discovered, a holy experience and (in)courage, both offer down-to-earth inspiration from the everyday lives of Christian women.
I’m honored that today, (in)courage posted a piece I wrote entitled “The Truth About Conflict.”
Unlike the churches I knew while growing up, the women at (in)courage don’t seem afraid of questions or struggles. I admire their raw honesty and transparent faith.
Having wrestled with questions of faith as far back as I can remember, I’m grateful to be able to do so openly in Christian community. It’s not often easy to find such safe venues.
Though the church of my adolescence provided a solid foundation, it quickly became an unshakeable bulwark when formulaic answers no longer satisfied me.
Oblivious to any political or social landscape, I couldn’t understand why questions would instill fear unless they blasphemed the Creator or threatened exposure of lies.
I don’t remember anyone at church having the courage to tell me the world doesn’t exist in black and white. If someone did, I imagine I was too terrified to retain the suggestion. I longed for answers that revealed a world I could make sense of and a God I could predict.
Unable to accept the black and white I’d found wanting but unwilling to live in shades of gray, I felt I had to reject God to live authentically.
I thought I’d lost my faith except for a single thread I clung to, knowing I dangled spiderlike over the flames.[i] I see now I was to some degree only starting to discover my faith.
I suspect the thread to which I clung was the slender core of Truth I’d yet grasped. The remaining web fell in shambles when the breeze blew strong.
In the shifting winds of a culture that seemed to threaten Christianity’s demise, perhaps my church, like many others, lashed back with what little it felt it had – absolute truth and a manual to life.
Given the choice to flee or fight, panic stricken churches wildly brandished swords of truth that struck anyone in their path. They seemed blind to the possibility of conversing, preferential to ousting.
If you didn’t agree with or couldn’t understand their black and white doctrine, you became as threatening to these churches as those they withstood.
Having robbed them of thick borders to delineate God’s form, you left a mess of mystery that made them vulnerable to attack. As if God is not God enough to withstand the gales.
More strategic or fainthearted churches quietly melded with the culture at large. Perhaps some intended subtle infiltration, but many gave way to relativity leading to a paralyzing abyss.
The pattern continues, with Christians still struggling to put an arm around the shoulders of others – within the Church and outside, each made in the image of God – and converse while walking alongside. To listen and hear, to speak truth with love.
It’s a battle itself for finite beings to live within the tensions that come with the mystery of God. But let us live in the tension, let us live with Christ, where “there [is] room for wrath and love to run wild.”[ii] Diminish either side, and we risk losing sight of the Lord.
May the Church help us live in these tensions, holding both in hand while never forsaking Truth for formulas or a void.
[i] An image from Jonathan Edwards’ Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God that has stayed with me since reading the sermon in a high school English class.
[ii] G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (New York: Doubleday, 2001), 97.