Culture

July 28 2011
19

'IMG_7617' photo (c) 2006, Clemson - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Progress.

That’s what we often call changes in our faith.

It’s a recognition that spiritually, emotionally, even theologically, we are growing, changing, and hopefully maturing.

We look back and acknowledge that, for many of us, the person we were ten years ago would be surprised (and at times even upset) by positions we’ve come to hold. Like this Baptist boy who was raised to believe the Bible stated unequivocally that women in ministry was crossing an important line, and now is vocal in his support of egalitarianism.

We look back, see our stories, and we try to extend a little grace to our younger selves. And well we should.

Yet we often fail to extend that grace to others.

With sad consistency, we rail against others because of the ridiculously naïve and impatient idea that – whatever progress we’ve made – everyone else should be there now.

That friend who holds a complementarian position, the same position I held half a dozen years ago, is now expected to make a change all at once. That it took years of Biblical study and long conversations for me to get there suddenly becomes inconsequential.

I wonder if part of that impatience with others is in fact a hint that we have not made peace with our own journey?

Looking back we are frustrated, embarrassed, even angry that we once held certain beliefs or acted certain ways. So, when we see those same traits in others, we are the first to pounce.

We want to fix them, or rather we want to fix us, all at once. We want to pretend we’ve never been there. Our façade of perfection has no room for having once held that view.

And so, like the parent who resents seeing their own failings manifest in their children, we push our baggage on another and all too often make the situation worse.

Never mind that it doesn’t work like that, for anyone.

We all make progress in fits and starts. Our life-giving new discoveries come hand in hand with errors and falsehoods we don’t see at the time.

The journey is messy, but it’s what shapes us – and we need to honor that story.

Chances are that in ten or twenty years I will look back on where I am today and shake my head, marveling at all that changed. But hopefully I’ll also be able to extend some grace to myself, and some patience towards those making the journey with me.

 

19 comments

  1. It is funny how we often try to project our own experiences, mistakes, and education onto someone else. I am so guilty of expecting someone to take what I tell them as truth and to just accept my experiences as not only my knowledge but their own knowledge. My thinking is; why don’t you just listen to me, I’ve already made those mistakes, you don’t have to.
    I often forget that the mistakes I made were part of the process and the grace that I received was fully experienced in the wake of the mistakes. Grace is incredibly complex and all encompassing. Grace is manifesting yet we rarely recognize it and often misinterpret it.
    Mason, you are so correct, the journey is messy. The mistakes, experiences, and lessons learned are what makes us who we are. The grace that we receive is what tells the story.

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  2. I do this all the time. I look back and feel uncomfortable with how relatively short a period of time has passed since I believed in (fill in the blank. creationism, complementarianism, Calvinism, etc) and I desperately want that time gap to widen. So I rail against those things to distance myself from them further emotionally if not chronologically. I need to own the fact that I’ve believed things I now denounce, and relatively recently. There’s a little bit of Shakespeare’s great line from (I think) Macbeth in this – “Methings the lady doth protest too much.” The sign of peace with my convictions will me when I don’t defend them so strongly.

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  3. It is so hard to look back and think “if someone had told me…” but in reality your right…it is the journey that shapes us, and each uniquely.

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  4. Excellent post. Thank you so much for sharing. So true in so many ways.

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  5. Wow! Thanks so much for sharing. This is definitely really helpful (and insightful.)

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  6. Really enjoyed this post.

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  7. Am I the only one out there who took a step “back”? I didn’t grow up Reformed but discovered this branch of the Christian faith when my husband went to seminary. It’s the most grace-filled, intellectually rich theology I’ve ever experienced.

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  8. Mason, the timing of this post is perfect to my own journey.

    For the sake of space, I will not share the entire thing, I’m not even sure there’s enough space online for that. But, I do not go to church right now. Which does not mean, for those of you who may not understand, that I reject Jesus.

    I went to a job interview this past Wednesday at a rescue mission here in my city. I was not aware, first of all, that the position would be that of a solicitor/telemarketer, nor that I would be required to be a member or regular attendee of a church to be employed. If I knew those things, I would not have gone.

    The interview got off on the wrong foot after I read the job description with that pre-requisite above and stated that I do not attend a church. It was then that the interrogation began and I was not prepared. This is a job interview not an interrogation room of faith. Or maybe it was? I handled it wrong, my old self came back in great form. I was dissapointed in the whole thing, including myself.

    The next morning the woman would call me to say that she too had a similar experience and had walked away from God and the church for 10 years, but was now part of a healthy and encouraging church, of which her husband was one of the pastors (of course he was, I had to laugh at that!). She wanted to encourage me to seek a healthy church out for healing and mending of the brokenness within. As if, I might add, Jesus Christ can’t do it. But that my friends is a whole other ball of wax, as to why some seem to idolize and worship the church.

    Anyway, I was flabbergasted that she has walked a similar path and reacted to me the way she did. I seem to come up against many people who show me what I don’t want to be. I most certainly do not want to find myself on the other side of my church issue/baggage in 10 years and condemn someone who’s walking a similar path. It’s shallow, and prideful and totally belittles the journey and the pace God handles each of us.

    But, what do I know? Maybe I should just get my butt in a pew and I’d be better and those around me would be more comfortable too.

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    • This is one of the reasons I love your heart…. such raw honesty… .. now lets see if I can get mine down too below… Love you, friend…

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    • You and Julie have this way of telling your stories that pulls me deeper into the heart of what the author is trying to convey.

      Thank-you for sharing.

      Love,
      Erika

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  9. Yay! An easy, simple thing to say in response to this great piece of your mind.

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  10. I attended church faithfully for 52 of my 53 years, then the church we were attending ended. The pastor decided he was not called to be a pastor anymore. The dwindling church closed it’s doors because the elders too decided they were done. My husband had been an elder. He and I had come to a place where quite honestly we were sick of the rat race that had become the church gathering. I’ve been walking with God for 32 years…. these last 9 have become the most precious of all as God has been pulling me away from a religious lifestyle into an intimate relationship where His heart is being revealed more deeply than I’ve known.

    When I hear the religious jargon I cringe… Quite honestly it’s a challenge to see past what I’m hearing and see the person. I hate the religious jargon. It held me captive for years, telling me to work harder, be better, try more, to be perfect as He is perfect… How does one make themselves perfect anyways? I couldn’t figure it out but God knows I tried. It kept me from entering into the reality of what Christ finished when He walked out of that grave. It kept me on a gerbil wheel of performance and striving where I could not be still and know He is God.

    When I hear the words that held me in captivity spoken out of the mouths of others it angers me. It’s a challenge to remember that the heart of the person is to know God, truthfully it is. It was mine. I wanted to know Him with every fiber of my being… I wanted to please Him. I didn’t know that He was already pleased with me. I didn’t know that He saw me not in my sin but as Christ in me. I didn’t know that even on my worst day that I was the righteousness of Christ, already godly, holy, pure because He made me so. I wrote about it on my blog this past week. I used an event my daughter had with a copperhead to put it all into words. My mind didn’t grasp my reality. You can check it out here if you like: http://mylongandwindingroad.wordpress.com/

    Truthfully it’s really hard not to get angry when I hear words that I heard under the veil of religion. It sickens me to the core. Yet I know that to live Christ in me is to live His heart… to love as He loves, to see as He sees. It is one of the challenges I face. Will I live my identity, Christ in Julie? That is my invitation.

    Great post… thanks!

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    • I always love reading your post reflections Julie. Your story is so rich.

      Thank-you,
      Erika

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    • Such words. Such Honesty. Such truth.

      You know my mother tells me that I express myself well, but when it comes to this religion, this church thing, I get stoopid. Really, I do. And then I can read a sentence someone else wrote, based on their own experience and say, “Oooohhhh that’s IT!” And Julie……you my dear hit the nail on the head with this doozie…..

      “When I hear the words that held me in captivity spoken out of the mouths of others it angers me”

      That sums up my emotional week and the reaction to my interview. However, those still in captive or those who have made progress and have selective memory wouldn’t understand. The line I heard in a Hoarder’s program that I watched last night also sums me up…….”she’s really just fighting to be heard.”

      Julie…..You are awesome! And God’s mighty work in you has helped me immensely, I think you might know that!

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  11. Thank you for this thoughtful post! You are so right1 I recently wrote about how so many of us have habits, hurts, and hang ups, yet we are intolerant of them in others. This is a lacking in us, as it reveals pride and impatience.

    I became a Christian a few years ago and have been completely remade by Him! As I started my journey, I demanded that my husband join me in my fervor and dedication to Jesus. I would then become resentful when his commitment didn’t match mine. It caused resentment in our relationship.

    One day, God laid on my heart that, although I was eagerly seeking Him in all things, I wasn’t being the example of His love and grace to my own husband. He reminded me that I should focus on my own relationship with Him, and let Him worry about my husband.

    Guess what! As soon as I backed off and released it to Him, my husband starting WILLINGLY coming to church and is growing in the Lord everyday!

    Praise Jesus!

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  12. Jeremy

    Thank you for the post. I had to chuckle a few times while reading it because I do the same bit of judging so much.

    Several years ago, I remember talking to someone about homosexuality and how evil I thought it was. I said something like, “Well, that’s why God burned up Sodom and Gomorrah.”

    Now, I’m ashamed at my attitude I had back then as I currently do ministry with homosexuals and to homosexual people who have been hated and rejected by the church, but are looking for love from God and others.

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  13. the tricky thing is that progress is a little different than growth. we grow in varying directions and may come to different conclusions altogether, even after deep prayer and examination. my path isn’t necessarily more or less evolved than someone who thinks differently or the way i used to.

    grace is certainly our common path, and you are so right that we need to better extend it to one another. thanks for laying it out here:)

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  14. Jennifer

    This post… and the comments that have followed… like a cold glass of water on a hot day. It’s so refreshing. God, help me to extend grace to others on their journey… and like a previous commenter stated, to get my butt in a pew. :)

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