Torn Between Two Sides

I LOVE to be inspired.

Good recipes, great decorating, creative parenting or insights to the Scriptures all move me closer to how I crave my life to feel.

I flip through magazines, read books and scour the internet looking for scraps of connection. I want to connect to the hope of better through seeing great things in others.

Then I get distracted, wondering why my jeans are so tight (again), forlornly wrapped in the mundane.

Eventually, I go back and pursue more ideas. My life is a cycle of being pulled between my ideal and my real.

Sometimes I love what I see. One one side there are people doing UH-mazing things. They are feeding the hungry and articulating the plight of the oppressed. They post pictures of fabulous and funny times with their families. There is no talk of perfection. They make me realize people with bad tempers and mental illnesses lead fulfilling lives that dig in to hard places.

It thrills me.

And then they start talking about the Bible and what their opinions of what it means to be a Christian are, and the air from my emotional balloon escapes.

On the other “side” are women whose Biblical exegesis calls me to deeper understanding and love for God’s word. They help me realize what a difference the principles in 2 Kings can make in my life, and want to share it.

But it sometimes feels like their primary ministry is to criticize others. Even though I often agree, I am uninspired. Their lives look sterile and unapproachable.

Once on a video study the teacher talked about sin that sneaks in our lives. I was totally on board with that. Sin sneaks in our lives all the time.

Her transparent moment of sharing? Unintentionally collecting pens from businesses in the bottom of her purse. What a thief. I wanted to get up and walk out.

Let’s be clear. The sins that sneak into my life are far more dramatic than that. I convince myself that winning the lottery will solve all my problems (because God’s provision is not enough). Laziness is a plague that consumes me. My temper is so, so much better than it used to be, but I still have some weak moments.

In the small group after the video I complained about the pen-sin and was immediately chastised. Someone pretended to be repenting for her own previous grumble, but then quoted me directly as the example of what we should not be doing. It was silly and cowardly.

Apparently, in her world, Bible study is only for people who love every word of every study ever done. We can just check our brains at the door and nod our heads in pious bobble-head agreement.

Have you met me? Like that’s gonna happen.

I once read a blog by someone whose theology and lifestyle are SO far away from what I believe. But as I read the blog I could totally understand why women loved her. Several times I brought a paper copy of the blog to circles of women who I am on the same side with and asked, “What is great about what she is saying?”

You might have thought I was asking people off the street to explain the theory of Quantum Physics. It was nuts. Woman after woman was unable or unwilling to see what was being offered by this person as praise-worthy. They were all willing to dissect the theological points they know are wrong and assume the very worst about intentions. In spite of my pleas not to focus on the Biblical disagreements and discover what we could learn from her, the conversation always turned to what the Bible really says or that she was looking for money and attention. I was apparently asking too much.

I regularly find myself torn. This group of women over here, who I could not disagree with more politically and Biblically, have lives I admire and walks with Jesus that compel me to think about others more. They seem like they are parenting with passion and facing hard things boldly.

But the Jesus they refer to is not necessarily who I see when I read the Bible.

On the other side my brain can engage in conversations about hermeneutics. After time together I love my Bible more and am invigorated to study; but the lack of transparency in their lives leaves me hollowed and wanting. I am not certain I have any desire to be as polished as they look. They assure me they are doing the work of the Lord outside of sharing their discernment but I have no idea what that means. Their sticky sweet language can leave me shaking my head and asking, “What does that look like in real life?”

And I find myself wondering, if knowing and loving the God they are teaching me about does not compel me love others more, what is the point? Furthermore, if they talk in a language that has no practical understanding, how can I share with others?

Years and years into this faith journey, I am yet to hear someone explain what it actually mean to die to yourself.

This summer I hopped on a plane to meet a gaggle of friends in Austin, Texas. Brought together by the mission of launching books, this rag-tag group of widely varying ideas, priorities and beliefs, has enriched my life immensely–even though I disagree with many (if not most) on some pretty big things. My life is bigger and more vibrant because of them. Couldn’t that be the work of the Lord?

Does God move in spite of, or because of, differing views?

In some things I am achingly black and white. In others, not so much.

Once, in a Women’s Ministry leadership meeting, a woman on the team took a book I recommended and threw it on the ground. Then she stomped on it. Then she looked at me with hate in her eyes and said, “Nothing we do will matter until we get the anti-Christ out of this ministry.”

It was a book on time management.

I clearly told everyone it was not a Christian book. I simply thought that it could help us get organized so we could serve with greater efficiency and excellence. Guess what?

I still love that book.

Recently, I decided to leave a book launch team because the divide between beliefs was too much for me to navigate with clarity and integrity. I posted in the Facebook page what I was doing and why. While it would have been easier to slip away, I believe in the power of conversation. 

The author was gracious and engaging. The women in the group covered the spectrum of agreeing and understanding, trying to talk me into believing a different way, and disagreeing but understanding. It was the kind of conversation we should be having more of. Restoring civil conversation has to become a priority.

Ultimately, I do believe that Biblical truth matters more than anything.

The women with the lives are leading people in their Biblical direction, which I disagree with. They have Christian audiences, speak at churches, regularly talk about God and have book contracts to build followers and share ideas. I don’t dispute that. I have tremendous concerns about it. This highlights real questions that should be wrestled with.

  • God created the Bible. Do we believe that or not?
  • There is a consequence for sin. Do we believe that or not?
  • The Bible clearly calls many things sin. Do we believe that or not?

I concede the arguments from other viewpoints are boring to me. They claim the Bible was written in a different time. It was for a different culture. We have progressed beyond that. Seriously, if one more person talks about putting God in a box, I may vomit.

As if we can. If God is not omniscient then He is not the God of my understanding. God knew about 2017, when the Bible was written before the birth of Christ. Do we believe that, or not?

However, I see the women with the theology repelling people. Not all people, but some people. The people who love the discerning voices (those people who are warning against the loose beliefs of others) often already agree with the pointer-outers. Confirmation bias makes the words comforting to those already in line, but not effectively convicting to those who are not.

Is that the point?

 

From where I sit it looks like in order to reach the people who don’t already love God’s word and crave its truth we must live lives that matter.

  • Can we talk about your faults? Can you tell me which Bible verses helped you with that? Will you share when you believed God was moving you to change and to grow so that thing maybe wasn’t so dark in your day to day life?
  • Does loving God and His word draw you in to serving and helping? How and where and why?
  • Will you help me to understand how the words on that page apply to my life?
  • Will you share with me enough of you that walking with God can feel real AND vibrant AND hard AND beautiful?

It is easy to pick apart other people. It is easy to say how other people are failing and doing things all wrong. It is my second nature. I believe it is Andy Stanley who says flaws are much easier to see looking out a window at other people than they are looking in a mirror at one’s self. I live that truth daily.

Balancing that with a passion for Biblical truth is gentle ground. I want to gather a group of women who are willing to sit in the discomfort of differing opinions and examine them closely in the light of Scripture. It thrills me to unpack how Korah’s rebellion or 1 Kings Chapter 22 speak directly to some of the biggest issues that divide the church today. I want people to stop rolling their eyes when I say, “I know I disagree. I don’t believe that is true, but I absolutely believe they love and serve Jesus.”

This is going to be tough. The divide is wide and getting wider. There are moments when it feels like all hope is lost, but GOD IS STILL GOD. His word is still good and true. His people are still here. I am one. Please, Lord, let me live this life for You with excellence and passion with and alongside people I agree and disagree with equal love and respect.

 

 

 

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