August 2, 2017
For me, the Bible has always been more than words of guidance or a historical document. It has been a way which God has spoken to me; a place to run when I have been sad or worried or just plain weary from life.
The Church taught me that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. I learned from an early age that the Bible is always right, that it always has the answers to our questions – tied up with a neat little bow on top.
It was the final-say, the last-word, the end-all. What the Bible says goes, regardless of the interpretation being presented: women are to be submissive to men, homosexuality is just the devil trying to keep me from Heaven, children are to honor their parents regardless of the reason or methods being used to prove authority.
I couldn’t question the Bible because it was the truest display of who God is – and who can question God?
So, here I am, a lifetime of being force-fed what the Bible is and who God is, finally cautiously stepping out of the shadows to put my questions into words.
Despite being taught that the role of the Bible is to teach the rules of God, it has not been the place where God and I have done our most serious work. During the times in my life where I have been the most stubborn, the most unwilling to learn and to change was in a very real, very intimate and personal way. During the times the only way God was going to get me where I needed to be was by gently pushing me down the path, all the while me kicking and screaming, He did not ask me to read confusing passages. He did not ask me to sit in silence and know He is God while awaiting an answer. He did not make it ambiguous.
He showed up as a Friend in holy conversation.
You know that dream you’ve been cultivating since you were 8? It’s time to talk about that: Write a book.
“I don’t want to. I’m unqualified. I don’t have the time. People won’t read it anyway.”
Okay, then get ready for all of the pieces to start falling into place so much so that you cannot ignore Me.
“I’m so exhausted, God. Why am I so tired all of the time?”
Because I never called you to all of this. You kept saying yes to so much more.
“But I have to do all of this right now. I can rest later.”
No, you need this now and I’m plucking you up out of this situation. Here, rest.
“I feel so isolated and alone. God, why do I feel this way, even with all of these people in my life?”
You have been unanchored for so long. You have forgotten how to invest in people, how to cultivate relationships. You are always searching for the next thing – to move forward, to grow – and you never stay put long enough to put down roots. It’s time to learn the hard and holy work of staying put.
“Well, that’s because I don’t know where I want to settle down and stay for a long period of time.”
Well, you need to learn this, so here’s a family who loves you, a church who needs you, and a job who values you. Stay put.
I have heard God in these very real conversations reveal things to me not necessarily recorded in the Bible. He has shown me a better way forward than the ways the flawed human beings in the stories and who transcribed the stories that are preached to us. He has affirmed things in my heart and mind still up for debate (or off the table for debate altogether) in communities of people who always read the Bible literally.
I’m not ready to completely abandon literalism, and maybe I’ll never be.
But maybe it isn’t necessary either. Maybe the Bible isn’t the Word of God; maybe Jesus really is the Word that was there in the beginning with God. Maybe the last-say, the end-all is Jesus instead of a collection of Spirit-inspired (but not quite inerrant) ancient stories. Maybe the Bible is a lens through which we see God, but not the only way to find Him. Maybe we put God in a box when we limit Him to a Book.
And maybe tomorrow I’ll have a different answer – and that’s okay.
Sorting Time: This summer, I will be sorting through my own faith – keeping what I love, discarding what no longer serves me – as I journey from Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism into progressive Christianity.