“What is truth?” - Pilate
“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” - Jesus
Sometimes I wonder if people want truth at all. Really…
‘Cause honestly, the truth usual sucks.
It’s just there.
Staring us down whether we like it or not.
Numbers on a scale, digits in a bank account, a flat tire, a screaming child.
If truth is the reality of what actually is, sometimes we simply don’t like it. In fact, we don’t like it so much we ignore it, deny it, and hope by pretending it’s not real, that it’s not the truth. That’s one of the many ways we treat the truth.
The other funny thing about truth is that everyone claims to love it, to know it and to own it. The realities of our lives that are tangible and undeniable? Those inconvenient truths are swept under the carpet. But big ideas about what is true? Concepts? Theories? Philosophies? Those things we own proudly and loudly.
We relish having the right ideas about things. We are not just willing but eager to fight about who has the right idea about things. We put on our armour of rhetoric and clever quips and wage bloody war against the offenders of truth. Our truth. Wait no, that can’t be right, I mean THE truth. There is only one truth afterall. And of all people I must have it. Of all religions, mine must have it. Of all denominations, mine must have it. Of all churches, mine. Of all people, me. And you too of course. You believe all the same things I do…. right? What’s that? I can feel a fight coming on…
Don’t get me wrong. I believe that there is truth. One very real truth. But like a true postmodern I suppose, I also think I’m limited in my ability to fully grasp that truth. I think we all are. Like a
postmodernist first century thinker I think we only know in part, and any big truths we do grasp we hold in fragile chipped clay jars. I think there is great diversity of ideas because of this, and we have to have humility and wisdom as we each try our turn at guessing the bigger picture.
A first century writer once described faith as confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. And as hard as it is, I have faith. Yet in many ways I feel like it would be easier not to. I do what no happy person ought ever to do too much of, and I think. I think about what might be truth. “Truth…What is truth?” said Pilate. I have dipped my toes in the pools of atheism and agnosticism and sometimes sat there for a while. Believe me - I have tried to run away from Christianity and leave it’s mystery and tensions and confusion behind me. But the love I see in a God that looks like Jesus haunts me, and heals me. And inevitably I can’t outrun it. And so, sometimes reluctantly, I have faith. Confidence in what I hope to be true. Assurance about something I cannot prove. I see the blurry edges of a big truth and I hold on.
For dear life.
And this truth really does matter to me.
I have ideas about what I think the details of this truth are. Ideas that grow, and shift and change as I ask questions, and learn, and read and pray. I am caught in the taunt balance of having confidence in something big and powerful that I hope to be true, and knowing like Socrates, that the one thing I actually know - is that I know nothing.
It is a balancing act like no other. And I need a lot more humility than actually have to walk it.
And so thinking about ‘truth’ is hard all on it’s own, yet there is something that makes all of this much harder…
In my honest search for life’s big truths, I sometimes feel like I am forced to hide the truth about what I think about the truth. (Let see how many times we can overuse a word, am I right?)
Sounds strange doesn’t it? No one is holding a gun to my head telling me to lie or keep silent. No one has threatened me… really…
But here’s the thing. Because I find hope and see truth in Jesus as God and his life, death and resurrection - I am a Christian, as un-hipster as the label is. And because I’m a Christian, I talk with, discuss, spend time around and am generally in relationship with other Christians. I’m part of the universal group of people who believe in this thing. These people are the Church.
The thing about the church is - it can be a scary place to hang out. Now it’s not supposed to be. It’s supposed to be a group of people known for a ridiculous love for everyone. People who show selfless love and open wide our arms to welcome the rejects of society, the poor and the tired, the hopeless, the bullied, the bruised, the stressed out. The church is supposed to be a bunch of people that look like Jesus. And sometimes the church is great at those things, while other times it’s not. I’m not faulting the church for not being perfect, mostly because I know that I’m not perfect. And if I want to see those things more in the church, I need to do those things more in my own life. I really do. I hope with time I will learn and am learning to grow more in loving others.
It’s hard work, and that’s why I need others who want to do that same thing. My family, the church. But again, the church is a scary place…
Why so scary?
Because, honestly, sometimes I don’t feel welcomed there.
There. I’ve said it. This is my confession.
I feel unwelcome. I feel like an inconvenient truth. The type people want to sweep under the carpet and try to pretend isn’t real.
I feel this way because Christians can get pretty defensive about the truth. I get it - Jesus was all about truth. He claimed to embody truth, an awesome truth that sets people free. It’s a big deal. And when you really believe something is true, especially something great and good and amazing, you get defensive about it. I get defensive about it. I get it. Love delights in the truth. I’m not advocating dishonesty. I’m all for speaking the truth.
And the truth is, sometimes the church makes me feel unwelcome. Sometimes the church makes me feel like I need to hide who I am and what I really think because those things are not welcomed. And that saddens me, because as someone who has been in the church my whole life, I love the church. The church is my mother. And if as a child of the church I feel unwelcome, how much more so someone who isn’t?
No one tells me I’m not welcome. And I know that a lot of my hangups are probably all in my own insecure head. On the contrary, people welcome and say they want me among them. Especially as a young adult - an age range notoriously absent from the church. People come to me and ask me, where are the young adults? Why are they gone? And sometimes the tired cynic in my head replies, “Why am I here?”
At the end of the day, I’m just trying to be honest. I call myself a Christian, even though I am ashamed of so much of what is done in the name of Christianity, but I do so because I’m being honest about what I believe about Jesus. So I don’t disown the name. And I ask questions and I have opinions about God and the bible and theology because I’m just trying to honestly discover what God is like if there is a god. To find out what honestly makes sense to me. In life I just try to be honest about what I think is true… But I know I get it wrong. And I know other people have different opinions than I do about a lot of the details of what Truth is. And I am completely ok with that. Let’s figure it out together, let’s both please admit we don’t really know what the truth is at all we’re only kids trying to figure out a big puzzle and you might have one piece of the puzzle and I another and we might both be trying to put them in the wrong place. I’m happy to play with you. Honestly. But am I welcome? Really?
As a teenager I held to most ‘conservative evangelical/pentecostal’ views. And I felt welcome. But as I’ve grown I’ve changed, as we all do. And my honest search for what seems true to me has led me away from many of the ideas I used to hold. So am I still welcome? Because when you say that people can’t be a Christian and believe in evolution…I feel unwelcome, because I do. It’s not a belief or understanding I came to easily, and to have my relationship with God attacked over it hurts. When you talk about “liberals” as if they the enemy and feminists as if they are evil…I feel unwelcome. When you say that to vote for Marriage Equality is to vote against God. I feel unwelcome, because I think the church needs to radically rethink its view on homosexuality. I think so precisely because I care about how God wants us to treat people. (And I don’t deny that many who disagree with me do also!). When you call authors and teachers that share ideas you may disagree with heretics, you are calling me a heretic, because quite often I share the same thoughts and questions they do.
I understand you have a truth to protect. But how big does the truth you protect stretch, and are you certain of it’s edges? Historically Christians have disagreed about a lot a lot of things. And we have done so badly. Can we do better?
When Christians crack jokes about atheists as fools and idiots in their workplaces or on facebook, it makes me feel unwelcome. Because I sit alongside my agnostic friends who have to quietly keep their views to themselves for fear of the fight. For fear of the ridicule. It makes me feel unwelcome because I understand the feeling of just trying to search for truth and trying figure out what you honestly believe but feeling like you have to hide the conclusions you come to.
The feeling of being ‘in the closet’, afraid to come out. Tired of being so careful about who you will be honest with. Of hiding the truth for fear of a fight.
Is it ok to be honest? Will we still be welcomed? Is Jesus really enough?
If I say I think the church might be wrong about homosexuality…Is Jesus enough for me still to be welcomed? To feel welcomed?
Can I come out of the closet?
I accept evolution. And all the questions that come with that..
I don’t believe that a God of love would torment sinners for an eternity for a life of finite brokenness.
I hope his love extends beyond the grave and is accessible and able to heal people even there.
I don’t believe in “Penal Substitutionary Atonement” anymore. It doesn’t make sense to me. I think Jesus’ death was to appease our bloodthirsty ways and prove them wrong, not to appease a bloodthirsty God. God was on the cross in Jesus, and we were the killers. Not vice versa.
I don’t believe our brokenness separates God from us. It makes us feel separated from God. The reality is nothing can separate us from God’s love.
I don’t believe that the Bible is the perfect word of God. I believe that Jesus is the perfect word of God whom all of the bible points to. Jesus showed us what God is like perfectly.
I believe in progressive revelation, not infallibility.
I believe that love fulfills the law.
Is better than the law.
It is the spirit of the law.
And love gives life.
I believe that love is non-violent whenever possible.
And it’s possible far more than we are willing to believe.
I believe that love is not just a characteristic of God but the core identity of God.
I believe love and fear don’t mix and messages of fear and intimidation aren’t from God.
I don’t believe God has favorite countries. Or people.
I believe people are inherently good - in our core being. Made in the ‘image of God’, made to love and be loved. But we are broken. Sometimes very broken. Total depravity is not our natural state. Jesus showed us what it meant to be truly human.
I believe God is big and cannot be boxed in or understood fully. Our best guesses are just guesses. I believe he is present in churches, and gardens and temples and living rooms and mosques and wherever people who are really looking for him are.
And there’s a lot more…
But like Socrates,I really know one thing: that I know nothing. Like Paul, I know nothing but Jesus and his death.
None of these are new ideas, and I’m not alone in believing them. I know people will disagree with many of them…
So is Jesus enough?
Because I’m tired of hiding what I believe. But I’m also tired of defending what I believe. I don’t mind talking about it. I do talk happily about it with people who want to talk - other kids with pieces of the puzzle and a curiosity about the bigger picture. But if you’ve got the complete picture already sorted out, and I’m just messing it up… If I “can’t be a Christian and believe x” around you, if I am a heretic or false teacher, I’m sorry. I’m a messy puzzle player, I can’t help it. I don’t see the finished picture you see. I just can’t hide the truth anymore. And I don’t want to fight or defend anymore. If I am not welcome, I will go.
If I can’t believe X and be a Christian, I won’t. I don’t need to have the label. And I can’t pretend in order to fit in. It’s exhausting. I’ll love God and Jesus and keep doing my best. And if the church feels threatened by me, that’s ok. Church is not found in four walls but in friendships and dinners and laughter and conversations with people who don’t mind my messy ways.
So this is my confession of feeling tired and a bit unwelcome. A bit cynical and a bit scared. And it probably has a lot more to do with me and my hang ups and insecurities than it does with anyone else. But it’s how I feel…the reality of what actually is. The truth.
I was reading some old journals recently.
Came across this.
That is all.
It’s funny how specific stories from your childhood stick with you through the years. I often recall a conversation that happened as my mother was driving my younger brother and I home from school, slowly easing through afternoon traffic. I couldn’t have been older than 9 or so and my brother a couple of years younger. Ever inquisitive, my brother spotted some contraption along the way and needed to find out more;
“Mom, what’s that?”
“That thing, mom, what is it?”
“Je ne sais pas”, my mother casually replied.
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know”, she responded.
Bewildered and frustrated my brother protested, “Whyyy would you saaay that if you don’t know what it means!?!”
It took a lot of stifled laughter and careful wording to explain to him that she did in fact know what it meant, and it meant, that she didn’t know. It never helped him figure out what the contraption was but his protest of frustration has stuck with me over the years.
“Why would you say that if you don’t know what it means?”
Step back in time with me a moment, open this diary, brace yourself for some melodrama, and take a peek into a frame of mind i found frozen into few dozen lines.
“Here I am… This dark room with a chilling wind that cools not your body but your heart and soul…leaving them feeling exposed and frozen.There are no visible windows nor are there doors and yet I am able to see out, somehow.
I remember a time when I was not in this room but I do not remember how I came to be here and, because of this, I don’t know if I’ll ever get out. Sometimes I shut my eyes and dream, and become so certain that I’ve escaped this place and that it and its pain were only part of a hellish nightmare. I feel as though I can finally rest and that somehow, someway, all will be fine. But then I open my eyes and see the void, empty blackness of this room again…
I stumble around the room, tripping over things I cannot see…searching. I run my hands along the rough, jagged rock-face of the walls until they become raw and bleed and then become callused and numb. I keep up my frantic search not knowing exactly what my lost possession looks like, only knowing that I need it desperately. I grope and stumble around the room endlessly until I seem to have drained myself of all the energy that I once held deep within me. And, even then, I continue my search till I can barely stand. I have fought till I can no longer try and I lie defeated, staring into the void emptiness, for I have lost hope and I cannot find it.”
10 years ago I was a fourteen year old teenager, which makes me feel really young. (And conversely, that thought makes me feel old).
And already at that age, just past a child, but not nearly an adult I was tired of feeling hopeless. I processed depression, loneliness and hopelessness the way many an emotional teenager processes things, by writing every cringeworthy emotional, angsty thought - preferably as badly formed poetry.
Yet, apart from making me cringe on many levels, looking back on this quote makes me think. For many of my teenage years my mantra may have been “I have lost hope”, yet ten years later i feel like I’ve found a new mantra.
Around my neck I wear a small silver pendant, an impression of an antique wax seal, with an image of an anchor and a French inscription ”L’Espérance Me Soutient” - “hope sustains me.”
It’s not that I’m an entirely different person than I was I at 14. Of course in a millions ways I am, but part of what makes me cringe when I read the emo-babbles of my teenage self is that I recognize that person still. The struggles that grew in me as I grew out of childhood didn’t disappear, don’t disappear as I grow into adulthood. Struggles with faith and doubt, peace and direction, self worth and depression. And, to be honest, I don’t foresee a day when I will wake up and those things will suddenly disappear.
But what I do see, what I recognize, is that my mantra has changed. In those tens years I have found hope.
I have seen how hope seeps in through the cracks of life.
Through the beautiful and the ugly.
In the face of newborns,
And the eyes of their parents,
In the painful bond of too many funerals
And the shared joy at not enough parties
In Holy vows
Sealed with a kiss
in the tears of confessions,
And the healing of a hug,
and bottles and roasted breadfruit
In the sharing of shameful secrets
And the patient support of friends
In lots of laughter
Even when life doesn’t seem funny
In the pages of books
And blogs and bibles
And most of all
I’ve found hope in a love that inspires me and revives me. That flows through and between friends and family. A love I aspire to but fail at, yet accepts me all the same. A love that challenges me to love my friends, but also the unlovable, even when the unlovable is myself. A difficult love, but a powerful, healing, transformative love. A love I see lived out on a cross. On many crosses. A love I’m learning. That I am trying to learn.Hope in this love sustains me.
So even when everything seems like shit. When bank accounts dwindle and friends struggle… When doctors give bad news, marriages fail or maybe just the chemicals in my brain tell me that 14 year old me was right. Even then, hope sustains me.
They say God is love. And so I hope in this love. Honestly I don’t always feel it, or understand it, or know why. But I hope in love. Because I’ve been hopeless before, and I know where that leads. But I’ve also seen hope spring up in the strangest places, and there is nothing more beautiful.
And I’m going to place my bet on this…
in a mirror dimly: Unmet expectations -
As a young teenage Christian I had absorbed the message that if I do what is right, God will bless me with happiness and success.
Through my late teens I spiraled into a depression which clouded my days and nights with fear, hopelessness and desperation.
Many times I felt God’s compassion…
God's mercy and forgiveness -
God gives us his mercy and forgiveness whether we want it or not, whether we repent or not. But if we repent and we want it, then that mercy is just glory and happiness and a blessed life. But if we resist it… it’s Hell! In fact, the fire of Hell is not God punishing people. The fire of Hell is the presence of God’s love, His mercy and His compassion on people who don’t want it, don’t accept it, don’t think they need it and don’t even care about it.
- From an interview of Fr. Thomas Hopko
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been taught or heard the phrase that “sin separates us from God” ?
Yeah me too.
Like many other things, I was also told how to understand this saying.
Who am I?
Who are we?
Slaves to self. Slaves set free?
Sometimes weary, sometimes weak.
But hope sustains me.
Hope sustains me.
Hope in a love
that makes all things new,
that guides the way to what is true.
Hope in a love,
that’s hard to do.
Hope in love,
hope in you…
…But the dangers of believing in a God whom we cannot but regard as evil, and then, in mere terrified flattery calling Him ‘good’ and worshiping Him, is still greater danger. The ultimate question is whether the doctrine of the goodness of God or that of the inerrancy of Scriptures is to prevail when they conflict. I think the doctrine of the goodness of God is the more certain of the two. Indeed, only that doctrine renders this worship of Him obligatory or even permissible.
To this some will reply ‘ah, but we are fallen and don’t recognize good when we see it.’ But God Himself does not say that we are as fallen at all that. He constantly, in Scripture, appeals to our conscience: ‘Why do ye not of yourselves judge what is right?’ — ‘What fault hath my people found in me?’ And so on.
Socrates’ answer to Euthyphro is used in Christian form by Hooker. Things are not good because God commands them; God commands certain things because he sees them to be good. (In other words, the Divine Will is the obedient servant to the Divine Reason.) The opposite view (Ockham’s, Paley’s) leads to an absurdity. If ‘good’ means ‘what God wills’ then to say ‘God is good’ can mean only ‘God wills what he wills.’ Which is equally true of you or me or Judas or Satan. —
C.S. Lewis’s in a letter to ‘Mr. Beversluis’
“Some things which seem bad to us may be good. But we must not corrupt our consciences by trying to feel a thing as good when it seems totally evil.”*
*from The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis: volume 3, 1436-37
In June my husband and I took our first trip across the atlantic to Scotland. I’ve begun to look at my photos properly on the computer (we uploaded many directly from our phone while on the go) and edit a few .
Here’s a couple so far from Lochgoilhead and the areas in the vicinity, our favourite spot on the trip.
“Rest and Be Thankful”
Our lack of compassion, hardness of heart, and mercilessness towards orthers form an impenetrable curtain between ourselves and God. It is as if we had covered a plant with a black hood, and then complained because it died from lack of sunlight.
- Fr. Alexander Elchaninov
The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life, seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another. Avarice over-rates the difference between poverty and riches: ambition, that between a private and a public station: vain-glory, that between obscurity and extensive reputation. The person under the influence of any of those extravagant passions, is not only miserable in his actual situation, but is often disposed to disturb the peace of society, in order to arrive at that which he so foolishly admires. The slightest observation, however, might satisfy him, that, in all the ordinary situations of human life, a well-disposed mind may be equally calm, equally cheerful, and equally contented. Some of those situations may, no doubt, deserve to be preferred to others: but none of them can deserve to be pursued with that passionate ardour which drives us to violate the rules either of prudence or of justice; or to corrupt the future tranquillity of our minds, either by shame from the remembrance of our own folly, or by remorse from the horror of our own injustice. — ― Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments
Let no man think lightly of good, saying in his heart, It will not come nigh unto me. Even by the falling of water-drops a water-pot is filled; the wise man becomes full of good, even if he gather it little by little. — Buddha
(Source: thelittlephilosopher, via thelittlephilosopher)