I Used to Think Faith Was Black and White

Wind River Range 204I used to think ____ but now I think _____ .

(An #OutofSortsBook synchroblog)

Sarah Bessey, my of my favorite authors and bloggers, challenged the on-line community to write a post on their own blogs based on this prompt: “I used to think ____ and now I think ____.”  To tell us a story of how you’ve changed and grown and transformed in your opinions, your theology, your preferences, your doctrine, whatever in response to the unchanging Christ. Here’s mine:
Somehow I got the message growing up that the Christian life and faith is black and white. If you studied enough, attended church, prayed and read the Bible regularly: you would find the answers. All the answers to everything. The Christian community could provide you with everything you needed to know. How to pick a spouse, what your life should look like, how you should act and all the right ways to respond to culture and society. Theology had no grey areas, you just had to come down on the right side of the hard questions.If there was any sort of grey haze or questioning or doubting, you were being…a Thomas…a Judas…a heretic.

I nodded like a good girl as the men in leadership—there were never any women—talked about submission, checking my attitude, and tried to convince me of all the right answers. The black and white answers.

I harbored the dissonance between the Jesus I knew as I cried out to him in both joy and pain—wild, passionate Jesus—and the one often presented in church, at camp and in Bible club—safe, boxed-in Jesus.

I vowed to wait for marriage and head to the mission field, the two things I knew would please God the most.

I judged and compared, just to make sure I was coming out ahead in my perfectly executed black and white faith.

But then came the suffering….

which brought questions, and a new earnestness in my seeking.

And the encounters with the Holy Spirit—

experiencing a God who could show up in worship and in prayer.

And watching the people I thought were perfect,

falling from grace. Doing things Jesus would not do. If they knew him so well, and had the answers, wouldn’t they be different?

And reading the Bible in a new light.

Not with my own spin on it. With less of my spin. And eyes a little wider open. And a heart of gratefulness, that I couldn’t contain this magnificent Lord of Creation.

And meeting God’s people.

All over the world. From sweet, wide-eyed, impoverished African children to hard-exteriorized, wordly New Yorkers. People that loved and worshiped God, just in different ways. Minute nuances that showed God was far beyond the black and white presentation I had clung to.

And He was not grey, either, which is usually the antidote to black and white answers. My faith has morphed from black and white to…color.

#outofSortsBook1

God is beyond my wildest dreams, my most creative imagination, my best logic. I can not contain him, define him in my terms or reduce him to a series of pat answers. Just like a piece of art that does you in, blows your mind, works you over….God has blown my safe, rigid faith out of its black and white framework.

I remain convinced the Bible is infallible. But I also see how a person’s training, history and values can influence interpretations of some of the parts. Not the main part, the Gospel. But other parts where people who love God disagree on issues.

I know more than ever that God is both demander of holiness and passionate lover of our greasy, black souls. He can be both angry about and forgiving of our sins. He both disciplines and provides new mercies. The dichotomy is a mystery and one that I can hold with open hands instead of trying to cleanly pry apart.

And though my faith isn’t so black and white anymore, Jesus remains unchanging.  It’s just that I continue to gain a broader perspective of who he is, the longer I walk with him. My security of that relationship comes less from pulpits and more from moments leaned over at the kitchen sink in tears.

I can love deeper, now, because perfect love casts out fear. I don’t have to worry that the black-and-whiters are casting a stink eye when I’m frollicking in the fields of color. I think they’ll get there, too, because God pursues us until we get that we don’t have all the answers. We’re just the messengers of the one who does… How are we going to paint him for the world?

Wind River Range 205

What’s your: I used to think _____but now I think _____?

This post is part of Sarah Bessey’s synchroblog to celebrate the birth of her new book Out of Sorts, which I can’t wait to read. For those who wonder, wander, question, doubt or have felt out of sorts in your faith, I think this book is for you. And me.

 

Comments

  1. Cathy Wheeler says:

    Wow- I also cannot wait to read this book. Thanks so much for letting us all know. Heidi- this could have been you by the sound of the words. I think it will be you soon.

  2. Oh MAN!! “my faith went from black and white to color” – WHOO, girl!! I love that.

  3. Amen! Such a beautiful post, Heidi – thank you for this!