Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dear Jess

(If you're new here, the most recent posts are comprised of a conversation between myself (Heather) and a reader/friend, Jess. The conversation has grown to include a few more friends in the comments and I'm loving that. Thank you all for coming along.)

(If you'd like to start at the beginning, you can click HERE for the first post.)
Dear Jess,
Hopefully you aren't getting too overwhelmed! There's a lot being said here and I hope that as you wade through it all it's helping rather than frustrating you.

I hope it's o.k. that I speak for all of those who have responded when I say that it's tricky to find words. Because this discussion is about faith, it's hard not to speak too much Christianese. I think about that a lot in my own life. When I'm talking to someone who's not a Christian about theological stuff, I often have to laugh at how I must sound. I just wanted to let you know that I'll do my best to not use phrases and terms that don't make much sense.

After the last post, Midnight Cafe (a contributor to this blog) left a comment I want to quote here because I think it's really important.

"I'm wondering if looking for proof that God exists OR if you're more in the position of believing that there *is* a God but you're not sure how people have a relationship with that God. Maybe you're wondering about both.

And, clearly, you're wondering about the we know that Bible is really God's word, how we know it hasn't changed over time...that sort of thing."

I've gotten the impression through our email correspondence that you're asking not WHY a person would believe (since you don't think it's ridiculous), but rather HOW. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought I should help clarify.

Now on to my response to your last email (finally).

Your thoughts about the Bible are totally valid. If we're being honest it seems a bit far-fetched to trust a bunch of imperfect humans to get the Word of God written by hand and call it good. For me that's exactly why I'm blown away by it's validity. It seems impossible, but even though it was created the way it was, it speaks to my mind and heart in a way no other book can. It's not that we're dumb, I think it's that we can't wrap our minds around God's bigness (yes, that's a word.) He is perfectly capable of using men to do things that only He can do, we just like to give Him human qualities, restrictions and limitations. So when the ink was in the hands of men, God was really the one doing the writing, knowing exactly what He meant and how people would respond. I think God knew there would be a lot of disbelief and worked his book to speak at the right time to each individual as they seek it and try to understand. It's like there was a different Bible written for each of us. You know, a spiritual phenomenon if you will. We are always evolving, changing, learning...and as we do, the Bible does it with us, different parts of it speaking to us at different times. That's what I mean about the Bible coming to life for me. It's aliiiive. (: That's what makes it different than other books even on the same topics.

For example, as I went through my years of being frustrated with "the church," I kind of shut down my belief system for awhile. I needed a time of quiet, without all the doctrinal stuff floating through my head. I'm a distracted person, always have been. I've never been good at just sitting with the Bible, praying, doing Bible Studies, etc. And I always felt like that was bad, or I was wrong and should feel guilty. I needed somewhere to start, but didn't know what to do, I just get so stuck in feeling like I'm not up to this whole Christianity task.

I'm a sensitive person who is easily sad and down on myself. Since I believe God made me, I think He knows this full well. He knows therefore what my specific needs are. He knew I needed to hear that I am loved fully no matter how lame I can be. So he met me there through His word. When I was reading and learning (here and there) I was being plowed over with verses that spoke to my hurting heart. I didn't have much self-worth and finally the Bible started to act as the tool to heal that.

"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." James 1:5

For once, I didn't think something along the lines of "oh, that's nice." I was hit right in the heart, I could see that I needed to get that, to really get that He... "gives generously to ALL without finding fault..." I was blown away by this verse and so many like it because they screamed God's love to me. Instead of being a big book of do's and dont's, I started to realize that God just wanted me to read it so He could tell me as often as possible that I'm loved, just exactly as I am.

When I opened myself up to that perspective, I started to see the Bible in a new way. I recently heard a woman speak on this. She talked about how we need to start imagining ourselves IN the stories of the Bible, to be the woman at the well, to be a part of the crowds receiving the fish and the loaves, all the while coming from the idea that God is showing LOVE in every every story, even the ones that don't seem that loving.

That's enough on that for now. I do go on and on and I don't want to do that. I'll be saying much more about the Bible as I tell you my personal story in bits and pieces if that's o.k.


Your second question had to do with "praying the prayer," the feeling of getting saved and what that entails. I'll start by saying that I believe that coming to a belief in Christ is not always so black and white. I believe it can be a process. I think there is more than one way to "accept Christ," if that makes sense. Sometimes that can be kind of a slow dance, moving toward a full acceptance of all that He is. I don't necessarily think a person needs to have a date and time of the moment they suddenly believed. Some people think the Bible is saying you DO have to be that certain, that clear...but you know what? We're all different. God is the one that made us that way. Not every person is going to have a clear cut "come to Jesus" moment. I have dear friends that are good examples of that. They may have never "prayed the prayer" in the way we're taught we're supposed to, but they've been "praying the prayer" in the sense that they pray, they believe, they're growing and changing...they are Christians just like a girl like me who prayed the prayer a gazillion times, trying to fix myself. In the end, maybe it's more about coming to a fullness of peace in knowing that Jesus was who He said He was, and He loves us like crazy. Then we take it from there and ride the faith train, learning more as we go.

I'll shut up now.

As usual, I'm looking forward to more thoughts from you,


Sara@ Butterville said...

This is SO good. I love taking about faith.
I'm wishing I wasn't so long winded in my comment...

MidnightCafe said...

I LOVE the "slow dance." What a beautiful way to say that, and I've found it to be so true.

charrette said...

Heather, I LOVE the way you articulated the way the Bible manages to speak to us in different ways at different times. Absolutely true. And the way God works through imperfect men and imperfect means to give us his perfect message. You are speaking for all of us in some of these very simple, clear explanations.

I also love the "slow dance"...and coming to Jesus as a process rather than "praying the prayer" and being done. So good, so true.

I also loved Midnight Cafe's question, and your response to that. Yes! Thank you for taking this discussion public.

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