Monday, June 15, 2009

A Country of My Own

Today’s Reading:
“Do not let anyone convince you that his path is the only right way. And be careful not the extol your path as superior to another’s way.”
- Jesus Calling (Sarah Young)

…and they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had the opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one…
- Hebrews 11: 13-16

What resonates with me as I write this morning is that I’m struggling to reconcile experiences in an environment of faith that I have been taught to expect of the secular world.

“Don’t let anyone convince you that his path is the only right way.” When I read this, I envision being challenged by a debate over atheism, or by having a political discussion with a strong conservative. What I don’t expect is to question that in an environment of believers that actually share a faith similar to mine.

I love the message of Amahoro, and I thoroughly enjoyed Robert’s sermon yesterday…but I’m still caught up in the evangelism – that believing in Jesus as the son of God and becoming a Christian is the only context under which we can experience change, transformation, reformation, compassion, justice, and love. I don’t want to imply that this was instilled as part of the Amahoro gathering or a key message in Robert’s sermon…there’s been no such discussion or outward implication, and Amahoro especially had a warm and welcoming “come as you are” spirit. But internally, and probably based on my upbringing, I sense a clear distinction between right and wrong, good and bad that I’m realizing has always bothered me in Christian circles.

I am passionate about love, compassion, and justice for humanity. Though I may connect to this through the message of Jesus, I find it presumptuous to expect the experience to resonate with others in the same way. That, however, doesn’t absolve me from the responsibility to be truthful and authentic about my own experience. If Jesus is where I have found it, then he has to be a part of that conversation. At my core, I believe “sharing the good news” is about wanting to share your experience of transformation because its exciting, adventurous and full of hope…because you will naturally just want to (just as you’d want to describe any life changing experience, such as kids, a fantastic vacation, a trek through the wilderness, etc.) The Christian faith, in my opinion, has distorted this into sharing with the intention of converting others to the faith. Like we’re all walking around with scorecards and the one with the most points in the end “wins”. What really disturbs me about this widely accepted Christian concept is the amount of blood that has been shed throughout history in the name of convincing other cultures that theirs is the “right” way.

So, the trick to my conversations about my own experience is how to bring up the “J” word without feeling like I’m imposing my beliefs onto others. Probably more so is how to do without them making the assumption that converting them is my intention. I’m frustrated with mainstream Christianity for robbing me of an ability to feel comfortable in my honesty.

And I do feel like a stranger and alien on the Earth. I followed a calling I believe was put on my heart by God, but here I feel even more like a stranger. It’s funny, now that I think about it, that I expected to find comfort and belonging in an environment of believers based solely on the fact that I was drawn here by faith (I have faith, they have faith, I must belong!) No, what I am coming to understand is that I was not called here for the purpose of achieving a sense of belonging or acceptance in a social group. Social acceptance has to come as a by-product of finding the “better country” I seek. In faith and in confidence I persevere to establish a truth that is mine alone. I find that truth in exploring what’s true for others, having conversations about it, and turning that inward in silence and reflection and in communion with my experiences and faith. All that’s really required is that the journey be ongoing…an evolution of faith that grows and shifts and morphs with the context of time and age.

In this personal journey, I will connect with others who share similar beliefs or, at least, similar journeys. (My deepest connections are most commonly with people who aren’t Christians...this has been true my whole life.) I have struggled with a sense belonging these last few days because I hoped building new relationships would catapult me into a deepened faith and clearer spiritual journey. But I am learning that it will be the strength and confidence in my own faith journey that will build those relationships…and there is no catapult.

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