My Blog List

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Emerging: Introduction

image from wendy pastorius
I recently wrote about a season of grief that began a little more than a year ago.  (See A Year of Lament:  Introduction, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)  In the introduction to that series of blog posts, I alluded to finding new hope and sensing that the darkness was subsiding, and my desire has been to write about that as well.

But even this new season is not without challenges.

Sometimes I feel like a baby bird trying to peck my way out of my shell, knowing even once I've emerged my wings are still going to have to be strengthened before I can actually fly.  And that probably means some falls and bumps and bruises along the way.  But the prospect of flying pushes me forward.

I read an excellent article today in which Brian Zahnd briefly describes how rediscovering Jesus in his 40's altered the way he was reading Scripture (and, subsequently, his thinking) even though he'd been a Christian since he was very young...
" my forties, I began to encounter Jesus all over again.  I discovered the 'unvarnished Jesus' and gained new eyes.  I was born again...again.  The Bible had not changed, but I had changed.  I was beginning to read the Bible in a new way.  Ironically, it was closer to the way I read the Bible when I was teenager.  I now knew again what I had once known long ago -- that dropping atomic bombs on cities is incompatible with loving your enemy!  I now knew that no matter how you spin it, the Jesus of the Gospels would never bless the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Never!"
I went through some similar shifts in my thinking about three years ago.  Just as Brian describes not a mere departure but rather a return to a previous way of thinking, I, too, was returning to some perspectives I'd first experienced in my early twenties.  Back then I was disillusioned with church.  I felt we too often were missing the point of our whole existence by neglecting Christ's heart for love, justice, and mercy while constantly working to manipulate people into little more than assent to our beliefs and assimilation into our particular branch of Christian culture.

The more I've reacquainted myself with the life of Jesus (and, thus, the heart of God) over the past few years, the more I've become convinced we are, in fact, meant for more than that -- that we are actually supposed to care about things like justice, that we are actually supposed to love people in tangible ways.

This kind of shift in thinking is not always well-received.  I know more than a handful of people who have been met with criticism and judgment from those who think we've stumbled down a "slippery slope" as we've come to believe God actually cares about life in the here and now, not just what happens to us when we die.  It's sad and ridiculous, really, but a lot of people have been taught to think this way, to fear anyone who dares to veer the tiniest bit off whatever path their theologian of choice has described as "right."  But if I remember correctly, Jesus told us that He IS The Way.

HE is The Way.

I cannot count the times I have pondered over the past couple years how little we grasp how radical, crazy, and even heretical Jesus would have sounded to His own people, the Jews, God's own chosen Israel, when He walked the earth.  At times He directly contradicted their Scriptures.  Had Twitter been around back then, He almost certainly would have received a "Farewell" tweet from a well-respected rabbi (for church pastors did not yet exist) at some point.  We, myself included, need to spend more time camped out in the Gospels, reading about His life and ministry, realizing HE is a truer picture of God than ANYTHING else we've been given.  HIS example is the one we ought to follow first and foremost.

So while I still have a lifetime of transformation toward Christlikeness ahead of me, I've at least been pushed toward the decision in recent years to follow Him actively, even when people around me don't understand, or sometimes even disapprove of, certain choices because my expression of Christianity doesn't look like the version that has been handed down to them.  I grapple with this because I want people to like me and approve of me, but I'm finding that following Jesus just might mean risking my reputation as a "good little Christian girl" because He just might lead me to interact with and even love people who might be looked upon with disdain in some Christian circles.

The following posts are excerpts from my journal in which I've wrestled with this.  Read here Part 1 and Part 2.

No comments: