Sometimes you wake up and the faith you’ve known your whole life just doesn’t make sense anymore. Even worse, the god you’ve built your entire life around has stopped making sense as well.
I am thrilled to share an article from Jason Whittington and his ‘Grace Is Not A Cheeseburger’ site. It reflects the journey many of us have been on, and some of us may just be starting… when the god we’ve built has stopped making sense.
It’s a scary place to be. You’ve spent years trying to make it work. You’ve never fought harder for anything in your life. But now you’ve come to a point where you don’t want to ask any more questions. You don’t want to turn over and peek underneath any more rocks. You don’t want to be “that guy.” You know all of the “Sunday School” answers to life but you also realize that your faith is as much a product of where you were born as it is any movement of any particular spirit. Nevertheless, you’ve spent countless hours over the years arguing with yourself and with others for its validity. Fighting. Defending. Labeling. Judging. Agonizing. In the deepest recesses of your soul, you know that you didn’t sign up for this. You didn’t have a choice. You were raised in it.
Then something funny happens.
You begin to hate it.
God. Jesus. The Holy Spirit. Sin. Righteousness. Noah. Jonah. Adam. Eve. Peter. Paul. All of it. In an instant, you don’t want anything to do with any of it and you wish from the bottom of your heart that you had never landed in this Bible-Belt community that has indoctrinated you with such seemingly-pointless convictions.
It’s in this moment that you have finally walked away. You’re done with it and you know that you’re better for it.
But then something funny happens.
See, everything you know has changed. Everything you know has had to restart. You have no idea how to relate to the world around you without weighing every step you take against that beloved pseudo-deity sitting on your shoulder. It’s obvious that something is missing. That’s when you encounter kindness not as a means to an end but as a way of life and you feel like your eyes are beginning to open. You have possibly stumbled upon the one thing in this world that makes sense.
Unashamed. Unpretentious. Sincere. A real love that is manifested by kindness, patience, gentleness, and truth. An unselfish love that is never found wanting anything in return. The most basic of emotions. You have simply seen one person loving another person intentionally and without prejudice and it is in this moment that the unthinkable happens.
You begin to rediscover God.
But wait. Not the one you grew up with. No, this God seems to matter. This God seems to almost make sense. This God is no longer another name for your guilty fundamental-religion-scarred conscience. This God is no angry rabbi. This God is not out to get you. No, this God is real and this God is defined by love. You’re eyes open a little bit more and you discover that this God is suddenly and visibly working in you and all around you. You feel like your eyes are beginning to see some mystically bright, untapped source of something that is far beyond any beauty found on this planet.
You’re now squinting.
As you begin to rediscover God, you continue to discover that only love makes sense. Real love. Real love makes sense.
It makes more sense than a 6,000 year old universe being created in 6 days.
It makes more sense than a huge boat and a divine genocide against humanity in the form of a world-wide flood.
It makes more sense than a random fish swallowing a random man and spitting him back out on a random beach 3 days later.
It makes more sense than fighting and arguing people into taking every story in the Bible literally. Thank God you’ve already decided to stop fighting that battle. Whether you believe all of those beloved stories actually took place or not isn’t important anymore. After all, a person that will fight for Adam, Eve, Noah, and Jonah but will let another human starve and wither away a few blocks away doesn’t make sense when it’s weighed against a simple question:
Have you loved today or is it just something you say?
Then something funny happens.
In the midst of this divine rediscovery of God and love, you begin to rediscover Jesus as well.
You study the scriptures in context. You read the words that he said. You’re shocked when you find that Jesus wasn’t concerned with tithing, sexual orientation, music, health reform, illegal immigrants, or any of the things we get so bent up about here in America in the year 2014. No, Jesus wasn’t a conservative white man after all. You find that he is blatantly and unapologetically concerned with the least of the least. Adulterers. Prostitutes. Tax-collectors. Murderers. The “have-nots.” Jesus was a safe place for those that had much to fear. Jesus was a refuge to those with nowhere to go. Jesus was a calming smile for those too ashamed to look another human in the face.
Jesus was love personified.
After all of these years, you finally see that love is what Jesus was trying to communicate to a broken world. To us. Jesus tells us to simply love God, love ourselves, and love others. That’s all. Every commandment, every story, and every line in the entire Bible is a call to simply love.
This. This make sense.
Jesus wants us to love.
So you gather up all of the courage that you can muster and you take the plunge and decide to just love people.
The first person you have to love is yourself. You discover that this is tricky so you decide to take baby steps (Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. If we hate ourselves, this poses a slight problem, amirite?).
Then you’re to love others. All of a sudden, you begin to recklessly accept people. Sin, baggage, scars, and all. You begin to recklessly affirm people. You even affirm sinners. Sure, you see sin and the consequences of sin but you no longer define people by it. Nope. Not now. People are no longer simply gay, addicted, lost, etc. They are beautiful and they are worthy of every ounce of love that you can muster. Your mind is blown as you realize that every person you will ever encounter on this planet is a precious child of God. You see that the most broken person you’ll ever meet is no different than you are. No better. No worse. They are loved no more or no less than you are. Truthfully, they are just as confused as you’ve spent your entire life up to this point trying to pretend you aren’t.
We don’t stop here though. Nope. Loving others is a recklessly careless proposition. You’re even supposed to love the people that are adamant that you’re wrong.
Oh, yeah. This might be the hardest part.
WARNING: You will begin to love and affirm the “least of these” and some people, good people, will tell you that you’re wrong. They’ll tell you to “love the sinner and hate the sin” (like that’s even possible) as a gentle way of telling you to pray for but have nothing to do with certain people. They’ll tell you that there are no gray areas even though nothing seems to be black and white anymore.
All in all, they’ll tell you more of what you grew up hearing. That same old song and dance. The one that doesn’t make sense.
But you gather yourself, you show them grace, and you move forward because some important things in this world now make sense:
Love and the fact that nothing we will ever do on this planet will have any worth if we can’t love people.
The narrative ends here.
I want to encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone as it pertains to your faith. I want to encourage you to think outside of the box. I want to encourage you to ask tough questions. To poke holes. To call into question EVERYTHING that you think you believe and EVERYTHING someone else tells you is the right thing to believe. I want to encourage you to recklessly love and affirm even the most broken among us. You and I are no better or on no firmer a foundation than anyone else. We are all fragile and we all need forgiveness and love and we have to remember that Jesus died so that we may experience an abundance of both.
It’s time to own your faith. Don’t be afraid.
There is real life on the other side.
When God stops making sense.