I woke up yesterday morning, pulled out my husband’s giant commentary of Matthew, and began reading Chapter One. I want to read scripture again. In new ways. Life-giving ways.
Bible studies used me up a few years ago. I couldn’t fill out any more blanks. I couldn’t give answers anymore because I was too aware of what the answers were supposed to be. I studied scripture with guilt and an excess amount of (mostly) unhealthy skepticism. My spirit felt cold and tired and I needed to be revived.
That’s when I discovered contemplative prayer and began to free myself from a guilt-stricken sense that the only way I could meet with God was to study one book of the Bible at a time, transitioning smoothly from New Testament to Old Testament every so often. I’ve since spent the past few of years reading only the Psalms, and dipping into other books of the Bible only when life took me to them for brief spells.
This past weekend Chris and the boys and I joined our church on an Epiphany retreat, studying the humanity of Christ. It was rich, hard, good teaching. And I was blown away by Cherith Fee Nordling, our speaker, whose knowledge of scripture and passion for theology left me giddy. After all these years of blogging and feeling like the Internet is stuck in a never-ending bitter theological punch-fest, I felt this deep sense of possibility: Theology is not just for hurting one another.
Yes. I thought that.
Theology can be kind and joy-filled.
Maybe you knew that already, but I didn’t. In fact, my heart pumps wild with dread when friends pull out their Calvinism/Arminian, Reformed/Neo-Reformed blah blah blah cards. It all sounds mean to me. It all sounds like a scary place where I don’t want to be invited.
So I avoid those conversations. I’ve avoided a lot of theological online chatter simply because I’ve come to dread the arguments the way I came to dread the prescriptions of Bible study.
This weekend I discovered a new invitation: An invitation to joy-filled theology, an invitation to faith-joy. I watched Cherith Fee Nordling hop up and down with sweet, earnest energy as she talked about the full humanity of Jesus, how Jesus was the first True Human, how God is breaking into to this very moment in this specific day, bringing us closer to the Real Humanity we were always meant to be: whole, healed. As I listened to her teaching, I not only wanted to know more of Jesus the True Human, I wanted to feel earnest again. I wanted to hop up and down when I talk about God’s momentum in this world.
This morning, I’ll open the book of Matthew again. I won’t go backward to the days I filled out workbooks out of fear and obligation. I will move forward into the richness of belief that comes not from fear, not from guilt, but from deep-rooted joy. I will choose to open the Bible today (unless one of my kids wakes up too early…let’s tell the truth here) because I want to find inside it an unfathomable richness in this life of faith in the Trinity. And I want to walk boldly—with all my uncertainties, with all my fear—into that joy.
I am invited to wake up this morning and choose to believe that Jesus is good and here-with-us. You are invited too. We, all of us, walking forward into a life of Spirit, where we not only choose Jesus, but we choose the whole wild Trinity: a Father, a Son, and an untamable Spirit moving loudly within our broken, healing selves.