I believe this is a strength in that I am able to be open and accepting of many others varying perspectives on faith. I can see truth being communicated in a variety of ways. I also can relate and genuinely connect to people of varying demoninations, faith backgrounds and belief sets. I can go to a variety of different church services and get a lot out of each one- be catholic, evangelical, baptist or something entirely different. Being open and accepting is a value of mine, and I believe this is one way I live out that value.
The sacrifice I can pay when I take this diplomacy too far sometimes is working under the concern that others will evaluate and judge me for my faith and how I live it out. The truth that hit me this week is just how scared I can be of being judged, of being thought less of. Of not being fundamental enough or being too fundamental. Of doing christianity different from how I am supposed to. I believe this mindset is part of why I have in the past had trouble connecting closely to a church body- I am worried about being evaluated by them, by having them diminish my faith because it is not enough like theirs.
This can make me a bit non-commital and tentative I believe. Furthermore it allows for doubt and being unsure to come into my experience of faith. I distinguished this weekend through a conversation with a Lutheran pastor and friend of mine part of what this stems from. When I was a kid and in middle school/high school I loved going to church and being a part of my church in particular. I was always an animated part of bible studies as I loved the discussion and perspective. Pulling out the deeper meaning of verses and the big picture of the bible is something I relished and enjoyed. One confirmation meeting, I got into an animated conversation with my small group leaders about believers of other faiths and if God loves them. I shared excitedly that it made sense to me that everyone went to heaven no matter what because God loved them and Jesus saved them. My small group leaders argued differently, pointing to versus in the bible that communicated how only believers of Christianity got to go to heaven and everyone else went to hell. They even called the pastor over and he confirmed that I was indeed mistaken. In that moment I was crushed. I was sad and felt like if I agreed with them I was condemning my buddhist thailand host family, or my athiest friend at school... not to mention the billions apon billions of other people in the world. What about northern africa? Asia? Most of the country of India? The loving, pure God that pulsed through my veins and sang amidst the stars did not seem to fit with their description.
The great thing was my relationship with God never wavered. But I lost faith in my relationship with the church and with the bible for awhile as a result.
I went on a walk with my future mother-in-law and she told me a compelling story about her husband that made me think. There was an interaction at their church where a unmarried couple living together wanted to host a bible study at their house. It was against the churches beliefs for an unmarried couple to live together, however the invitations went out and people planned to attend regardless. The husband in this instance approached the pastor of this church and made a stand to not hold the bible study at their house given that the couple was violating something that they and others knew was a principle of the church. The pastor agreed- and explained to the couple such and then the bible study was held elsewhere. This particular story/confrontation had a happy ending, as the couple proceeded to get married 2 months later- and likely as a result of the reaction of the church.
On the one hand this example is very neat because it demonstrates resolve. Standing up for what you believe is right even in the face of discomfort. And holding integrity with your beliefs and not tolerating behavior you/your church body believes demonstrates a lack of value. It also makes me slightly uncomfortable and I can't pinpoint why. Maybe it makes me wonder about the couple feeling rejected by the church. Maybe because I am not sure I would go have such a conversation with my pastor in this situation. Maybe because I am not sure if that is what Jesus would have done in that situation, but maybe he would have! I can see the honor this series of actions demonstrates.
I have a lot of resolve when it comes to sticking up for others. If someone or something is hurting a person- even if I am not close to them- I have no trouble speaking out no matter how uncomfortable. And I also am not usually shy of being challenged, in so many areas of my life I welcome it. Maybe my discomfort around faith and being judged caters to the intimacy, the vulnerability and the preciousness I tie with faith.
I prayed a lot this weekend about this matter and decided in faith the best thing to do is to be more trusting and less concerned. To continue to have faith in God, but also maybe a little more in myself and the beliefs I have worked years to hone, challenge and developed. I am not in danger of living an unexamined life or faith- thats for sure. And also trusting that God has led me to the right places, people and values. And I need to trust myself to be able to not only discern for myself but also trust my connection with God and my ability to listen to his direction. And ultimately, remember we all are human, and that no matter how strong my conviction or anyone else's, there are things that we just will never know in this lifetime. And that mystery and unclarity is worth embracing and accepting.