Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Issue of Questioning

It should be no secret to those of you who have followed this blog from the adoption days that I identify as a Christian.  It might be a secret how much I've struggled with that identity over the past 8 years.

I've often felt shut down in my questioning of the Bible, of God, of the various denominations I've been in over my 44 years.  I thought the types of questions I was asking were evidence that my faith wasn't solid, that I should "always be prepared to give an answer" for why I believed what I did.

I just finished the recently departed Rachel Held Evans' book Faith Unraveled, previously titled Evolving in Monkey Town.  I identified with her so much, as I know many other readers have for many years.

She mentions often being told "God's ways are higher than our ways" when she asked difficult questions.  For me, I think of this verse, which has been used by Christians to dissuade other Christians for choosing to err on the side of grace, acceptance, and affirmation.
"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Romans 12:2
But the "do not conform to the world" part is often a response to my lean toward compassion and celebration of other people who are created by God himself.

Side note, my mind goes here when I continue to read Romans 12:
If you keep reading that verse, and even the rest of that book, you see a charge to "test and approve what God's will is."  If the Bible lays out exactly how every single Christian on earth should live, one singular "Christian worldview," then why would I need to renew my mind and test and approve what God's will is?  I've done apologetics. I know what our American Christian culture has taught me about the Bible and God.  I've been led to believe the Americanized evangelical way is The Way, The Truth, and The Light. But what about people born in completely different places? How can there be one way to be a Christian?


This side-track is an example of why the past years have been so difficult.  My thoughts jump from one thing to another constantly, always believing in God, but then doubting my own perspective of who God is...questioning the errancy of scripture and how we interpret scripture through our limited lens.

I remember jumping on the "literal seven-day creation" bandwagon with many of my fellow homeschoolers back when Ken Ham was knee deep in construction of his Creation Museum.  One reason I clung so strongly to defending the literal account of creation as it's written in Genesis is that, if I conceded that that story was metaphor, myth, symbolism, even that the "day" actually equaled a long period of time, I would have to come to the conclusion that all of the Bible was up for debate as to its meaning.  The thought of having to figure it all out was overwhelming.  But I couldn't keep ignoring it.  (Scholars have debated about how to organize and decide which scripture is what type of writing, but scholars have never agreed about it, so how am I supposed to know?)

Why were "my people" fighting so hard against the LGBT rights movement, but said not one peep to women who were divorced and remarried?  Why were women supposed to "remain silent" in the church, not preaching or leading when men were present, but it was okay that we wore earrings, makeup, and didn't cover our head?  How could Christians claim to have the "right" model of marriage when Biblical marriage often included the horrific treatment of women.  (Daughters sold by their fathers, men allowed to have many wives and concubines while women were stoned for engaging in sex outside of marriage.)  Conversely, I could find a host of Bible verses and stories that honored women in ways that were unheard of at the time.

The structure of my faith was easy to define during certain times of my life, but when we adopted the boys, I found myself thanking God for his blessing over our adoption process while simultaneously wondering why he didn't bless their birth families with the ability to keep them?  I thanked God for sparing Ken when he was in the horrible wreck, while simultaneously wondering why the other guy died.  I wondered why a good God would allow my child to hate herself so much.  Why another child was victimized in ways that forever changed her life.  Why vile things happened to some people without reason.  I didn't think those ways seemed very "high" at all.

Then as social media grew, I grew more and more embarrassed to be affiliated with many Christians. The hate, self-righteousness, condescension, ego, and hypocrisy were painful to watch (I can only imagine how those on the receiving end felt).  It also put a mirror to my own face and I hated what I saw.  I had held that same self-righteousness in my own attitudes about my worldview.

This post won't tie up in a neat bow what I believe right now. If you really want to understand where my head is, read Rachel's book.  I have strong thoughts about my belief in God (yes, I believe in God, love God, and don't fully understand him...and I'm using "him" because that's the tradition, but we know God is genderless.)

The fact that I have this love and compassion for others is proof of God.  The love I see my parents show for us and our kids, even when we've completely made choices that are contrary to my parents' beliefs, is just one of many ways I see God in my parents.  I see God in nature and in relationships with others.  I absolutely cannot deny God or the truth of Jesus.  I just don't fully understand.

A few lines from Faith Unraveled that hit home for me. Actually, I'd highlight the entire book, so just read the whole thing:

"Most [people] weren't looking for a faith that provided all the answers; they were looking for one in which they were free to ask questions."

"We'd [my generation] gone from a world in which the United States was the only big player to one in which multiple countries were contributing to a colorful and vibrant marketplace of ideas. The assumption that God belongs to a certain country, political party, denomination, or religion seemed absurd."

"It seems that a whole lot of people, both Christians and non-Christians, are under the impression that you can’t be a Christian and vote for a Democrat, you can’t be a Christian and believe in evolution, you can’t be a Christian and be gay, you can’t be a Christian and have questions about the Bible, you can’t be a Christian and be tolerant of other religions, you can’t be a Christian and be a feminist, you can’t be a Christian and drink or smoke, you can’t be a Christian and read the New York Times, you can’t be a Christian and support gay rights, you can’t be a Christian and get depressed, you can’t be a Christian and doubt. In fact, I am convinced that what drives most people away from Christianity is not the cost of discipleship but rather the cost of false fundamentals. False fundamentals make it impossible for faith to adapt to change. The longer the list of requirements and contingencies and prerequisites, the more vulnerable faith becomes to shifting environments and the more likely it is to fade slowly into extinction. When the gospel gets all entangled with extras, dangerous ultimatums threaten to take it down with them. The yoke gets too heavy and we stumble beneath it.” 
I find it excessively difficult to write about my thoughts about God.  I'll read scripture, listen to a podcast, watch a talk on YouTube, or read a book that makes so much sense, but then have a lot of trouble putting it into my own words.

This post will end abruptly because that's where I am at this point. In the middle of questioning, where I will likely be, on some level, for the rest of my life.  I'd like to hope I could reach some level of enlightenment about God, but am not sure what that would even look like.

Now, instead of being fearful that my seeking enlightenment means I'm "lost," I actually know God is right here with me in my seeking.



8 comments:

  1. There’s a great old song by the OC Supertones where the chorus goes: “Have you ever held in doubt what this life is all about? Have you questioned all these things that seem important to us? Do you really want to know, or are you a little scared? Are you afraid that God is not exactly what you’d have him be? What should I hold to? What should I do? How can I know if anything’s true? I’m somewhere in between Canaan and Egypt in a place called the wilderness.” That’s been my life for like 20 years.

    I think it’s easy to define your faith and live by it when your life and the people you love fit neatly into the socially-prevalent homogenous view of what “righteousness” looks like: When you’re happily married and only sexing up your spouse. When your kids do what grownups tell them to do. When it’s just not a temptation to get drunk. Why question what you believe when it is so simple? I think for a lot of people it does take knowing a gay person or realizing someone you care about cannot stay in a marriage all the other “holy” people are insisting god wants them in, etc. and seeing the hurt this kind of blind belief system causes to shake things up.

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    1. Yes, for Rahcel, it was a woman she saw on the news that spurred her to see people as individuals instead of groups of "others."

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  2. I am so sorry for the confusion you have struggled with. You are not alone. There are answers to your questions - don't be afraid to ask them. Check out www.lifehopeandtruth.com.

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    1. I'm not at all sorry for my confusion. I hope this posts expresses the freedom I feel now embracing my confusion rather than feeling ashamed for it. I see my confusion as an opportunity to seek God more authentically. Also, I don't believe yes another Christian denomination is the answer for me at all. That's exactly what I'm moving away from. I understand your desire to share what you believe to be "the way," but pointing me to a denominational website is the very opposite of where I'm headed at this point. Maybe that wasn't clear in my blog or maybe this is just a bot that picked out some key words and posted this reply, who knows?

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  3. Hi Sarah,
    I can understand the journey of deconstruction, as that is definitely something Dan and I have done, and continue to do, many times over, having lived overseas these past 11 years. Living in a different culture, seeing so many other places, meeting so many other people who are nothing like you definitely makes the view wider and more varied than you ever thought possible. When we are back in the US, we are aware of how much we have learned/are learning and are faced with the challenge of how to share these things with friends and family we love in a way that can be heard and maybe even open discussions on topics that seemed so cut and dry in the past. Anyway, I just want to encourage you on your journey. God is big enough to handle anything you through at Him :o)

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    1. Hi, Darla!! (hug) Thank you for your encouragement! I can only imagine what you've seen and experienced living overseas for so long. It's been SO difficult to parse out what God is doing, some of things in the Bible, and what is Americanized Protestant Christian doctrine and not God's Word. I'm glad I've known God long enough to know He will show me more of his heart. It's just at a point where everything seems so bogged down, it feels like it will take a lifetime to peel the layers. I'm okay with that.
      I love you and think of you SO very often!

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  4. "throw at Him"

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  5. Hang in there Sarah and enjoy the journey. God is so much more complex than we can imagine. Sometimes I think we feel better if we can have him all figured out. But then He wouldn't be God. :o)

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