I am convinced that Jesus is actually the Son of
God and that he came and died so that who ever would believe would not parish
but get to know and experience everlasting love and life with God. This
being my conviction, I also happen to believe that Jesus is the best thing that
ever happened to me and that the abundant life I have partaken of in the Spirit
has radically transformed every part of how I interact with reality. However, I
still must resign myself to the fact that after nearly a decade of following
Christ I still am far from mastering this whole ‘life in the Spirit’ thing. I
guess you could say I still have at least a few (hundred) things I still
need to figure out.
You want to know what I did have locked down
This funny little world that has dominated
Western gospel thought for the last several decades and that is what we would
call American Evangelical sub-culture. We have our own books, movies, games (I
still NEED to know who was convinced that Christian Guitar Hero was a good idea?), fast food establishments, TV shows that we all collectively watch and feel good
about, TV shows that we all collectively watch and feel guilty about, clothes
that we will wear, clothes that we would never wear, philosophies on …well
every faculty of life, and we also claim a monopoly on both Truth and the
proper biblical hermeneutic.
And I knew
this world. I understood the structures, I defended the structures, I upheld
all of its tenets (well minus the movies because…well I am just never going to
be able to like “Facing The Giants”).
Over the years there were a lot of parts about
this protective bubble that I was more or less disillusioned with but I could
easily overlook these things because
A. I felt like I knew the intentions
of the people who were pumping out the content and they were ones for good and
B. Because I was entirely captivated by Jesus, by the Scriptures, and by the
divine romance I had found myself caught in that was both rich and
I didn’t mind that sometimes the breadth of spirituality found in
the Christian tradition and belief was obscured by trite and cheap phrases, a
certain winged politics, neat and tidy categories, and this unanimously shared
notion that we were never to ‘rock the boat’ amongst ourselves… butttt as soon
as one of us does such a thing in the public square at the expense of an
already marginalized group then one is applauded for “taking a stand on God’s
Truth” and it’s chicken sandwiches for everyone!
I say all of this because throughout all of this
time I was generally considered a part of the ‘leadership’ in these
conservative faith circles. I somehow found a way to squeeze, bend, and jump
through some hoops to the point of being able to fit. I learned to receive
rebuke, admonishment, and correction… both the kind which is exercised
graciously and the kind where I get told that I have a “resistant personality
that could destroy the Kingdom” without any context or clarification as to what
I said or had done to merit that description. I learned how to not conform to
the patterns of this world but to be clipped and groomed into the image of the
other girls within the non-denominational contemporary Christian world.
half-way through my general inability to identify with any of the Francine
Rivers books I tried so hard to read I decided it was time to just focus on my
prayer life, daily walking with God, and seeking out wise council from a few
other Jesus-loving rabble rousers who had been doing the same We-Don’t-Fit
dance for much longer than I and somehow I got by with a lot of eye-brow raises
but never having to fall victim to exclusion.
The first time I began to recognize the residual
effects of this phenomena was last summer as I was thinking about my brother.
If you know my brother then I don’t need to explain… but if you don’t we will
just say that he is a little rough around the edges. He is completely genuine,
too smart for his own good, musically genius, endlessly creative, and so
pro-anarchy and anti-establishment that he has more or less been in some kind
of trouble since my earliest childhood memories.
My brother is also a human. A
human who both needs love and is fully capable of giving love. I trust my human
brother with my life and despite our different religious identities my
atheistic human brother still respects the idea of life having meaning and
there being some kind of universal story interconnecting all of our lives.
Sometimes we talk about God and especially lately because for whatever reason
coming out to my brother made me that much more personally and emotionally
accessible to him. You see, in the last several months I have had my eternal
destination called into question and condemned more than my brother has his
entire life and of course he finds that, given all that I’ve told you above
about myself and him respectively, wildly hilarious.
He likes to know how I am
dealing with many of my friends getting all weird and Truth-speaky. He likes to
know what it is like to interact with people regularly who have a planned
questions and pre-tense to their conversation. He just likes to know how I am
doing. Sometimes I laugh. And sometimes I cry. I cry because I miss the days
when the people who God has loved me through and God has used me to do the same
for them didn’t have to dichotomize my existence and relegate me to this
category of “walking in open rebellion” and “choosing my sin over Jesus” and
all of these other kind of bombastic things…but my tears are for so much more
I cry because behind my brother’s questions
about me and my experiences are my brother’s questions about his own life and
his own experiences. Who does God say God is? Could God love someone like me?
What actually is grace?
My brother never took issue with Jesus. He never
resisted the gospel for sake of the gospel. My brother just wasn’t ever capable
of the social gymnastics it took to morph into evangelical culture.
Will my brother come to know and qualify the
message of Jesus? It is certainly possible…But will my brother enter as that
as a black sheep? That is for certain. My brother will simply become a little
black sheep who loves Jesus just as I am a little rainbow sheep who loves