So I've had a couple really good conversations with a few friends over the last day or two. They've given me a little perspective. I've been thinking a lot recently on faith, on what faith means and what all it entails. But now I'm getting ahead of myself.
I had a great conversation with a friend the other night. Very down to earth, very real. We talked about all kinds of things. God, childhood, innocence, faith, sex, mercy and justice, God's presentation in the Bible, lifestyle choices. He and I agree on probably none of these things, and it was one of the most encouraging conversations I've had in a long time. He said something at one point that really struck me. We were discussing my beliefs, and I was saying that I'm very open to being questioned about and challenged on my faith, because if I can't question it, I can never be sure of it. It's only if my beliefs can stand up to doubt that they can really be real.
Anyway, right after that, he told me that be that as it may, he couldn't ask me the same types of things he would ask a normal friend. The kinds of things "the faithful don't talk about." I think he was expressing a really common stereotype (a stereotype that's far too often the truth) about Christians that I really have a problem with.
My faith encompasses all of my life. There are no parts of it where it's like, "Hold on, this subject makes God uncomfortable. Let's not talk about it ever." My faith doesn't fit in a little box that I take out whenever it seems relevant to my current situation. Too many people pick out the parts of their faith that they can share in every day life and then just don't ever go near the parts that might seem awkward or uncomfortable. But God doesn't work like that. You can't out-awkward God. There's no question you can ask Him that's going to make Him blush and stammer. A faith that only pertains to some parts of your life and not others is not a faith worth having.
Every lifestyle choice I make is a direct result of God's love for me. It's not because of some arbitrary rule or some law that the Church preaches. My faith is real - I've questioned it, I've doubted it, I've really looked at it so that I'm not believing anything blindly but really understanding what I believe and why. It doesn't shy away from the hard things about life. It's not poetic little sayings that I can throw out when the going gets tough. The world is messed up, and terrible things happen every day. My friend I was talking to was telling me stories of things he'd gone through that absolutely broke my heart.
God sees, and God knows. He sees our pain and He grieves right alongside us. He doesn't ever sit idly by and watch us struggle and hurt. He is always actively working in our lives. His goal for us is not to punish us for our wrongdoings; it's for us to come back to Him and see the absolute love, acceptance, and joy that comes through - and only through - a personal relationship with Him.
That's radical. It's life-changing. Once you have experienced the love of God, you can't live the same way anymore.
I feel kind of like I'm in a little faith bubble here. And in a way, it's been good. I've got a fantastic group of friends that are a solid foundation for me. God has blessed me with an absolutely amazing church whose goal is the Gospel and nothing else. I've been trained here. And I know I have a lot of training left, a lot of the world yet to see and understand. But I'm getting anxious. I'm ready to be out of my bubble. I want to be somewhere where I can share Christ with people and watch Him change their lives. I know that He can do it. I've heard other people's stories. And I want to experience it for myself.
The Gospel isn't quiet. It's aggressive, and it's offensive. It makes people uncomfortable. And shouldn't it? It challenges everything they believe and cling to. If we weren't made uncomfortable, we would never see that something was amiss. And if we never saw anything was amiss, we would never start to look for a solution for it. Fortunately for us, God already provided a solution. And the power of the resurrection is unstoppable. It'll change your life if you let it. I did, and I ain't never turning back. :)