What I often worry about, is how people perceive my faith – especially those who financially support Choices, the mission I’ve served, fought for, deconstructed and reconstructed, for more than twenty years – and taken seriously the mission of nurturing life, thereby upending some former tightly held beliefs. (And as Kathy Escobar recently captured so well, my faith hasn’t changed, only my beliefs. If you have a few minutes, take a listen to her wise guiding.) I’ve given up certainty and rightness for faith, hope, love and mystery, which, while that might make some nervous, brings me a sense of closeness to God.
Most people don’t care. Some people do. Others wonder why I even talk or write about it. My life is complex, in that, I’ve mostly not been allowed to be honest about my faith journey – it’s a risky venture when you’re in ministry. And frankly, it has been a tremendous time of loneliness, grief, depression, anxiety, stress, and sadness. Interestingly, there is a life-giving sense to letting my life speak more openly and vulnerably. Why? Because what I find is that I’m not alone, and too many hurting others are desperate to know hope beyond the circumstances of their lives. There’s a sea of people out there shamed and controlled into hiding, for fear of being cast out from their communities of faith after (re)considering and (re)experiencing their faith in new ways.
One of the greatest gifts of my life was/is to experience frustration with my faith and beliefs. To have my taught understandings not fit my life experiences – to being increasingly desperate to find a different understanding…as in, well, surely, there must be more to the story – or at least a more compassionate perspective, that would better represent the person I was created to be – and reflect back to the world.
“Learn to be humble by doing all the humble work and doing it for Jesus. You cannot learn humility from books; you learn it by accepting humiliations. Humiliations are not meant to torture us; they are gifts from God. These little humiliations—if we accept them with joy—will help us to be holy, to have a meek and humble heart like Jesus.”
— Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Thanks for the reminder Mother Teresa. I get it. But, the joy part? Maybe not so much…yet.
So, shifting gears a bit by way of metaphor – these are random musings – here’s a little something Jim and I were conversing about this morning – these are just short little insights to help us consider how we might sit with others of different beliefs – but the same faith.
Some people believe there’s only one way to parent, so if you’re doing it differently, from their perspective, you’re wrong. Now consider all the parenting articles, books, blogposts, and opinions from friends and family. I think you get this.
- Children don’t listen to what you say, they do, however, watch what you do.
- It is a lived life that speaks, and not the mouth. (Thanks for these words, beloved hubby of 22 years on Friday.)
- So many perspectives, but love shows up as the strongest factor for change.
- Even when parents abuse or neglect their children, those children will defend their parents. They will choose to be with them.
- Every parent has his/her unique gifts – it is as they live into who they are that they give their best gifts to their children. Living into infers it’s still happening, that is, the learning part – after almost 40 years of parenting. (Yes, early start, coupled with later additions, equal lengthy parenting experience.)
This morning, I made the decision to not wake my 15 year old up, because after doing so several times, and hearing his complaint, “Mom, I was just getting up – you didn’t need to come and be sure I was up,” I chose not to, even though I feared he would be late. Was it wrong? Should I have gone to be sure he was up? Some would say yes, some would say no. And that’s my point. There’s no exacting way to do it right.
These albeit somewhat random thoughts are intended to invite us to consider the unique ways in which we respond to people who come for care at Choices – we believe that the belief differences present among our volunteers, are a healthy balance in community.
Even when there’s tension. Even when our beliefs are in conflict with one another. Here’s an example of what that looks like: birth control. So, some believe that birth control prevents procreation which is their high value, others believe birth control invites more sexuality-outside-of-marriage, and others believe that if you (actually) want to curb abortion, you will most definitely be a birth control proponent.
Head spinning yet? Just try juggling these, and other tension-filled talks of best practices on a given hot topic!
And here’s where some of the fear shows up for me: depending upon where one lands in the above conversation, one might withhold critical dollars. Consequently, people will not be cared for. People will suffer. Maybe people will succumb to whatever keeps them from finding life and well-being, because having a precise and quite certain perspective implies that difference must not be supported, and by extension, neither must people – the very people we’re called to love and nurture.
Recently I had a conversation with someone who isn’t in a faith stream who uses the word saved, and her first priority isn’t to ensure that they know Jesus – at least not in the sense of reciting something they don’t yet understand. She prefers they experience what knowing Jesus feels like: compassionate, loving, generous, merciful, and grace-filled. Does that make her of no value as a volunteer in a mission where one’s faith compels one to serve? Well, duh, right? Except, I’ve lived with the reality of having your thoughts, words, actions, and life scrutinized – and truth be told, I’m not very good at being under a microscope. Frankly, it’s terrifying and dehumanizing.
And so I live in constant fear – some would say irrational, hence the meds suggestion – that the manner in which I hold my beliefs, and subsequently that which informs the processes of caring for pregnant and parenting folks is less-than sufficient, or worse (as I have been told), just plain wrong.
But it’s who I am. It’s who, after years of discerning and wrestling with ‘how then shall I live’ most honors my Creator’s createdness in me.
Is there only one way of holding faith? Given that our Creator God, (and creative God?) has shown such grand diversity among the world’s people and places, I’m going with no. I’m going with another metaphor, that of an orchestra, where each musician, in concert together with others, plays their unique part and together presents beautiful music. If everyone played the clarinet in the same manner, with the same notes, well, boring, just boring. I want to hear the cello, the viola, the double bass…and more, the percussion instruments of the cymbals, drums and maybe the gong. Each sounding a bit different – and each contributing to the wholeness of the orchestra.
Could we just agree to make beautiful music together?
Interestingly, and conveniently, my friend Jim Henderson posted this today, on his birthday – his faith work being one of the key reasons we originally moved to Seattle. If you take the time to read it, my sense is that you’ll grasp a better understanding of my approach to faith and belief, especially this, because, well, this has been on the repeat cycle for the past several years:
“My experience with most Christians and Atheists for that matter is that they cant find a way to sit in the room with difference. They can’t stop themselves from mentally comparing their best with their ideological opponents worst. They either try to re-educate them, control them or exorcise them.”
I thought exorcise was a typo, until I used an online dictionary to remind me that to exorcise is to drive out or attempt to drive out (an evil spirit) from a person or place. And sadly, that is too often what occurs with difference.