Like playing God’s symphony on one string of an out-of-tune violin

011-1I got this in, and just couldn’t resist sharing it with you. I just love the spirit of this letter, don’t you? 

I’m so grateful to have found y’all! I feel like I have been holding my breath for the last twenty years.

I grew up in Waco, Texas. The fact that I can still believe in any kind of compassionate, loving creator is proof of God’s grace.

When I was ten, I made a girl cry after she told me that my Jehovah’s Witness grandfather was going to hell, by asking her who she thought she was to say that out loud; I told her she’d better go talk to God right now, because I was sure she was in big trouble.

When I was twelve, I heard a “Christian” tell a girl that her mother had gone to hell because she had committed suicide.

When I was fifteen my dad said to me, “You’d argue with a stop sign,” after I challenged an associate pastor on his casual, post-Bible study assertion that women should not be in positions of authority. After being chastised by me the pastor did not cry. I did, though: I went home and furiously cried for the wrongheaded unfairness of it all.

Most of my friends, who didn’t drink the Southern Baptist Kool-Aid, went on to become atheists, understandably. I just kept yelling, in my head mostly, that no one is teaching Christianity correctly, or embodying it correctly (myself included, because my temper and patience are short, frailties of mine that keep me aware I’m probably not the right person to advertise my beliefs).

When people have asked me about my dogged belief in Christ, I tell them that I believe because I met Christ personally—not because I’m in any way special, but because when I was fourteen I cried out for help in a frightening, hopeless-looking time, and Christ met me there. And the God I know is Love. It’s the only aspect he has ever shown me, despite my struggles. I know that hatred has absolutely no place in Christianity. Nor do thoughts of “other,” or “better than,” or “more worthy than,” or “earning it,” or threats of damnation (although I struggle with that like a frightening shadow, because I heard it so often growing up: though it never really rang true with the God I knew, it’s still scary for me to deny the existence of hell).

A counselor asked me to describe how I thought God perceived the human tendency to try to boil God down into “rules thou must abide by.” I said I thought it must sound to Him like us trying to play His rapturous symphony on one string of an out-of tune-violin. I can only see one small part of my thread, He sees the whole tapestry.

I’m so grateful for the humor, humility and love on this site. I just found you an hour ago, and I’m looking forward to being more studious in my understanding of God. I’ve mostly done it by feel, so far. Thank you!!

 

Image found at the blog Infertility Mom.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is co-founder of The NALT Christians Project and founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here). His blog is here. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Tim Northrup

    and welcome to you. I like the analogy. creative. I knew there had to be a music analogy there somewhere in the ether, but I’m so non-musical I have always missed it. thanks.

  • Lymis

    Welcome! How wonderful!

    I can relate to your story – I believe what I believe because I met God. Some of it lined up neatly with what people I respected told me to expect. Some of it didn’t. A lot of it bears no significant relationship to what people I don’t respect keep trying to tell me it’s supposed to look and feel like.

    I love the violin analogy. I hope you’ve found fellow travelers here.

  • Mary Coleman

    Yes! Welcome…. you will find this to be one of the most “uplifting” & positive places you can go to find Christians of a “like” mind. I can identify with many of your stories. From a very young age (6 or 7 years) I was a “questioner”. It nearly drove my Fundamentalist parents mad. They were more the type to say,”Christians don’t do this/ or Christians DO this just because…”. Well, needless to say, that didn’t sit well with me. I remember distinctly my parents forbiding me to play with the kids at the end of the street because they were Catholic. (my parents were VERY anti-Catholic) This Catholic family had about 10 kids & a home with acreage complete with chickens, rabbits, goats & lots of trees to climb! Nevermind, you could have a great game of softball at any time because they had enough kids for the whole team! Anyway, I thought the whole idea of not playing with someone because of their religion was stupid. (I think I was in second grade at the time) I told my parents this & said, “I am going to play with them anyway because they are fun!” And I did. I guess what I am trying to say is that I understand your “questioning”. I LOVE people who question things, rather than accept some dogma “just because”. I am thankful that God made me this way! It has made me really strong & able to not just “go with the flow” when necessary. You will find “your way” just fine. I have no doubt of that!

  • Kate

    Love this letter for sure. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Donald Rappe

    Welcome! I’m the one who can never be quite sure if a one string violin can be out of tune, but I love your letter. My own Jehovah’s Witness grandfather was one of the best men I’ve ever known. Love never ends!

  • skip johnston

    Welcome! Most of the great theologians that have influenced me were under 14 years old. What a wonderful young spirit you are! Although age-wise, people on this site are all over the map, you’ll find ancient wisdom (that is, eon-tested good stuff) from young minds (that is, open, questioning, and playful). Hope to hear more from you.

  • Barbara Fiedler

    I love your story! I also met Jesus! When I was twelve. But I’ve never told anyone but my husband. I was afraid to. Then I told another woman who was telling me a similar story. I began to realize that my experience wasn’t so unique. Just that peoplel don’t talk about it! But I love how you put it, I met Jesus! Thank you for sharing. I too question. Everything! Early in my marriage to a cradle Catholic, I would sit all night and discuss things with him. He had these pre-conceived notions that I just couldn’t latch onto. So we’d talk and talk. My family was very mixed. My parents had absolutely no interest in church and never talked about God. Same with my maternal Grandparents. Lots of Gospel singing, but no talk. No Church. My paternal Grandparents were Church goers, but seperately. Grandpa was devout Catholic. I went every Sunday with him in the summer when I visited them. Grandma would get in a taxi and go to whichever Church struck her fancy that Sunday! I went with friends every chance I got during school years. So I had a very varied upbringing. Now that I am an old lady, I realize that this was actually good for me!! I have no prejudcies. (sorry, my spell-check is messed up)

    Sorry to go on and on. Welcome. I loved your piece!

    Barbara

  • http://www.susanirenefox.com Susan Irene Fox

    Simply, authentically, lovingly in praise of God.

    Thank you.

  • Robert

    I need this today- thank you :)

  • http://www.Facebook.com/SeeingGod Kristina Skepton

    I needed this today too! After spending time yesterday with 2 of my Christian friends I am pretty certain one has called a “prayer meeting to intervene for Krissie” since I actually was asking some questions about basic Christian concepts – hell, etc. I have been a “believer” for 15 years and all of a sudden, rather recently, I am not comfortable with easy answers. One of my sweet friends even asked yesterday if I had come under the “spirit of confusion.” I know she means well but “NO” I am just being the thinking person I am. I actually have been more ignited and passionate since I started allowing myself to be comfortable in the questions. I am still not comfortable talking to a lot of my Christian friends about these questions because I suspect I will be immediately dissed as “backsliding” for even questioning the “answers” many of them have. Thanks for creating a safe space!!!

    Kristina Skepton

    Founder, SeeingGod Ministries

    http://www.Facebook.com/SeeingGod

    • http://fordswords.net David S

      I’ve SO Been there! If you morph into “heretic” know you are on an authentic journey. Keep the faith.

      All my best to you.

  • harrisco

    Dear Writer:

    Welcome indeed!

    “I cried out for help in a frightening, hopeless-looking time, and Christ met me there.” That is Christ’s way, isn’t it?–showing up in places of hurt and heartbreak, caring for the frightened and vulnerable.

    Thanks for hanging in after a sideways start–and for wanting compassion and humility to be your offering to God. Your letter was wonderful to read today.

  • Jen Henley

    Welcome! I’m not too big on the rules people ascribe to God, either.

  • Matt

    I’ll pull up a chair with the others and say, yup, I met God too. I was 16. All I can say is that though He was exceptionally gentle with my being (and always is), I can see why the angels in the Bible tend to say “Be not afraid!”

    Letter Writer, I love your style. And talk about resilience! Looks like we’ve caught another happily cast-out Christian character. Welcome to the pool hall.

  • Janet

    Awesome.

  • Jan G

    “I grew up in Waco, Texas. The fact that I can still believe in any kind of compassionate, loving creator is proof of God’s grace.”

    Too able to relate!

    Thank you for sharing this letter that represents how and why so many of us came to your site, John.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      What a lovely thing to say. Thanks, Jan.

  • Michelle P.

    Preach it! I love this! And thanks, Mr. Shore for sharing it.