The Gospel Truth: Maybe cliches aren’t so bad after all

One of the things we talk about in psychology is how simply listening can be healing.  And I think we all know this from our own lives and relationships.  When I am hurting, hearing words of wisdom or similar life experiences can be helpful, but it’s really a person’s wholehearted presence that brings comfort and hope.  I want to feel seen, understood, accepted and loved.

Somehow, though, over the years (I’m not that old, so I’m not sure how many years, haha), it seems like we have become so consumed by the need to be fully understood and not judged, that we are quick to dismiss any kind of wisdom or advice offered.  All of a sudden, people have to “measure up” to these invisible standards and earn the right to speak truth into our lives.  If there’s something we don’t like about the person, or if we know of an area in their life that is not up to par, or if they say something we already knew, we feel offended by their attempts to impart wisdom to us.

Maybe this is not you, but I know in my heart, this has definitely been me.  And I think it reflects our culture these days…our obsession with tearing down any and all authorities, and with preserving our own rights, autonomy, and confidence in ourselves.  I am my own expert, and I know what’s best for me.  My experience and my feelings are not only valid, they define truth for me.  Even within the Church, these ideas have subtly become a part of our thinking.

But the thing is, the Gospel is different.  Jesus is different.  Jesus says that He is the way, the Truth, and the life.  Jesus is the same —  yesterday, today, and forever.  We believe in a Truth that transcends culture, life experiences, and even our own feelings and perspectives.  It’s not that these things don’t matter, but that they themselves cannot encompass the full measure of Truth.  And we believe in a Truth that does not discriminate; it can be found on the lips of the broken, the poor, the mighty and the weak. No matter what packaging it comes in, truth is still truth.

And if I am totally honest with myself, this is exactly the kind of Truth I need.  I need a Truth that is bigger than my circumstances.  I need a Truth that holds me steady when everything else is confusing, and blurry, and inconsistent.  I need a Truth that doesn’t rely on me, that is the same with or without me.  I need a Truth that is so simple, it takes childlike faith to receive it.

So bring it on.  Bring on the cliches, the simple Gospel truths that I have come to love. God, help me to have an unoffended heart that cares more about what You are trying to say than about who is saying it.  When I offer truth to others, I want to be one who listens first and seeks to understand.  And when others share with me, may I be one who tests everything and holds onto the good, who humbles myself enough to listen and receive Truth wherever it may be found.

 

Advertisements

Christians and the LGBT dilemma: a plea for honest dialogue

I can’t believe I’m writing about this.  I kind of wonder if a lot of Evangelical Christians in my generation are afraid to say anything either way about all of the same-sex marriage discussion going on…and I wonder this, because I feel it too.  I’m afraid of offending people, and I am afraid of being misunderstood.

So let me start by saying a bunch of disclaimers (that will at least make me feel better, haha).  No matter who you are reading this, I value and respect and am interested in your viewpoint.  There is a reason you believe what you believe.  Also, no matter what my personal convictions are, I do understand why people are fighting for same-sex marriage, why people are celebrating because of the recent Supreme Court decision, and why people might view opponents as judgmental or narrow-minded.  Any of these perspectives probably come from real-life experiences that are valid and important.

But what I wish more people understood is that even though our postmodern culture cries out for more and more autonomy and less and less authority, there are other ways of seeing the world.  There are many people all over the world — young and old alike, rich and poor included, Christian or not — who truly believe in an authority that is higher than humans.  And for those of us who ascribe to such convictions, it means that whether we understand it or not, whether we like it or not, we are faithful to this authority and we believe that somehow following it brings about good, trusting in this thing that is higher than even our desires or understanding.  Unlike the voice of our culture today, we believe in an absolute truth.  Maybe to some that is arrogant, but ironically, in my experience, submitting to a truth that’s bigger than me keeps me in my place.

And this is where I find myself today.  I know people even within Evangelical Christianity have different views about this issue.  But what I’m really asking for is not even the right to impose my beliefs on others or to be forceful in how I express them.  I’m simply asking for the right to believe what I believe without feeling judged.  I’m asking to be known as a person before being labeled for my beliefs or opinions — something I think people on all sides of these issues long for and deserve.  I too feel so much grief for the injustices experienced by the LGBT community, especially for the hatred and anger expressed in the name of Jesus. This reality does not change. I am happy for the positive movements towards grace and equality.  But when I read scriptures and seek God and consider what I know of Him already, I honestly cannot shake this conviction that there must be some other solution than to rewrite how marriage and family are designed to be.  I humbly submit to this, even if I don’t fully understand.

As you may have noticed, this belief system still does not assume any kind of political viewpoint.  I guess to me, that’s not what’s most important. Policies and culture and all of that will inevitably change, and I don’t feel strongly about it all one way or another.  (If you do, great! Live out your beliefs authentically and unafraid!)  Politics to me has become a way to divide, to perpetuate stereotypes and false assumptions.  All I know is, I have experienced the power and love of Jesus in my life, and I am simply doing my best to hear His voice and follow, that others might know Him too.

So I don’t know about you, where you stand on the same-sex marriage issue.  I’m not going to try to persuade you in words to see the world like I see it.  But I am pleading for honest dialogue and for a renewed interest, concern, and love for people of all different backgrounds and perspectives.  Behind every viewpoint is a person, and behind every person is a story.  Let’s learn to listen first.

My (re)lenting heart: living life in the blank space

IMG_0159

This year, I gave up sweets for Lent.  And you know, the hardest part hasn’t so much been refraining from chocolate and ice cream and cookies (though I do, I do, I do love chocolate!!).  The hardest part has been knowing what to do with the empty space.  So many times, I want to go and find something else — anything else — to eat and make me feel full again.  Not dessert? Fine.  Popcorn will do.  Or fruit.  Or pancakes…

But God has been reminding me lately, that it’s in the space that things happen.

And it’s funny, because that’s sort of where I am in life now too.  I think living overseas has wired me for constant change and stimulation, and I find myself waiting, looking, hoping for the next big “adventure” to be revealed, or the next dream to pursue, the next challenge to embark on.  Lord, will You send me out again?  Or will I get married and start a family?  Or will You open up new opportunities here, where I am?

And finally, after running around and getting nowhere, I’ve realized that God is simply calling me to be.  To live wholeheartedly where I am, and to trust Him to carry out His purposes.

It’s so easy to get caught up, filling that space — filling my stomach when I’ve had enough to eat…filling my days with pointless activities and appointments…filling the silence with noise and distractions — when God is calling us to receive from Him what is better.  Why do we fill ourselves up on things that don’t really satisfy, when God is holding out to us the choicest of foods, the richest of fare? Man, I don’t want to miss out on that.

This week, I read about Elijah and that time when he journeyed up a mountain to seek after God — feeling desperate, hungry, and alone.  He thought that God might be in the “big” and “exciting” things that passed by, in the earthquake, or the wind, or the fire.  But God wasn’t in those things.  Nope.  Elijah found God…in the silence.

It’s in the space that God speaks, that hearts are moved, that circumstances change.

So as we wait…for breakthrough to come, for prayers to be answered, for dreams to be fulfilled…as we wait for our next meal or appointment or “adventure”… may we have soft and open hearts, ready to listen and receive from Him.  May it be in the blank space that we find rest and satisfaction for our souls.