I never realized how badly the desire to be understood rested dormant in my heart until waterworks poured from eyes sitting down at a newcomer’s meeting one Sunday morning this past spring. I drove forty minutes southbound to a church I’ve always wanted to go to whose founder has authored writings that have put words to all that I feel in my heart, allowing me to sigh, wow. Someone else who thinks like me. Someone with whom my questions are not only safe, but welcomed, encouraged. So when the woman giving the newcomers’ overview asked me for my name and I burst out crying, I realized that for one of the first times in a very long time, I knew I was in a safe place where I could be understood. Where no daggers would be thrown at me. Where I could grow in my faith without being chastised for asking difficult questions. Where I would be met by other people, walking in faith, who aren’t afraid to acknowledge wounds that the Church has caused, and offer an opportunity to start anew, welcomed with however little or however much faith you possess. I can’t explain to you the peace I felt to be present in a community in which I knew I was welcomed, genuinely welcomed, to explore the Ancient of Days knowing that I was not in a room full of Bible-quoting, finger pointing Evangelicals. Instead, I felt like I had literally been ushered into the arms of Jesus himself.
I knew that that rainy Sunday in April was the start to a new beginning in my journey of faith; one in which I officially surrendered trying to be someone I’m not, letting go of my college Evangelical days in which I sat uncomfortably in my seat, cringing each time I heard that anyone who didn’t accept Jesus into their heart would spend eternity burning in Hell, but too afraid to speak up and say politely that I really didn’t want to pass tracts around campus after class on Friday. Ever.
I now know that I don’t fit in many Christian circles but I can’t let go of this incessant longing for the Divine. My heart is with the thirsty, for those who yearn for something more but don’t necessarily know what it looks like.
I do know that part of it looks like letting so of stringent views about theology. I am frustrated with the walls I’ve seen so many in the church put up. Holding signs that say, “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” doesn’t exactly help a fellow hungry human being feel closer to God, much less change their sexual identity, if that’s the “agenda’” you’re after. Writing books about Hell, emphasizing that “we can’t get it wrong” doesn’t exactly help the person with questions looking for hope feel welcomed.
But besides all of that, I am tired of wasted time spent on arguing over theological debates instead of fostering loving relationships. I don’t want to lose any more friends; I also don’t care if you think I’m a heretic; and above all, I really just want to be your friend. I don’t care if you believe in eternal punishment for those who don’t profess Jesus or if you do believe that Jesus did it once and for all to “save” everybody.
I don’t care anymore.
All that I’m concerned about is if you are finding God in this journey. That you are finding freedom and joy and peace and some mess and some conflict and some yes-es and some no-s and questions, LOTS of them. I hope that you can find peace in your storms, comfort in your sadness, grace for every time you fall. I hope your journey is about feeling appropriately small when gazing upwards at the Heavens, in awe of so glorious a Maker. I hope your journey finds God in unexpected places, far from steeples and tracts, like in the smile of the poor, in the playfulness of a child. I pray your faith encourages you to spend time with those who are different from you and challenges you to find the image of God in all you come in contact with. I pray your hurts get healed, and that you would come to realize that God is kinder, that God is warmer, that God is more loving than you have ever dared to imagine. I pray you find your hands holding God’s and that your shoulders will be squeezed in a heavenly embrace and that you won’t want to let go of this moment because this moment is exactly what you have been longing to experience all this time. I pray you never go parched, but oh, that you would still maintain your hunger and your thirst and may it draw you straight into the arms of your Creator, beyond understanding, until your soul is dancing, on fire, ignited by a flame that will never burn out.