I have been a Christian, follower of Christ, for going on many years and the faith of my youth is very different from that of my current state. I appreciate the world I grew up in, but it was very much a bubble. A conservative, rosy bubble that hasn’t been popped from the reality of the outside coming in, but from my own finger poking the boundaries of my traditional teachings. Questions, so many questions have been asked by my brain when I see so many inconsistencies which has led to so much searching and quiet frustration, but it is that frustration and through that searching that I find the Christ that draws my spirit to his.
I found hope… help in a spiritual memoir that I just finished called, Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint, by Nadia Bolz-Webber. At first I read it as a way to check off one of my quarterly bucket list items, but then I realized that at the heart of this book is what I have believed for several years now: faith is messy and rarely lived honestly. That means me.
One of the things I wrestle with most, is the idea of God sitting on his holy throne waiting to forgive me for the sin I am obviously going to commit. It always feels like he is waiting for me to sin. Which, hello, human here! I do. But Nadia paints a picture that is not of a God far away on his throne, but of one that is right here redefining my identity.
“I need to clarify something, however. God’s grace is not defined as God being forgiving to us even though we sin. Grace is when God is a source of wholeness, which makes up for my failings. My failings hurt me and others and even the planet, and God’s grace to me is that my brokenness is not the final word. My selfishness is not the end-all… instead, it’s that God makes beautiful things out of even my own shit. Grace isn’t about God creating humans as flawed beings and then acting all hurt when we inevitably fail and then stepping in like the hero to grant us grace– like saying “Oh, it’s OK, I’ll be a good guy and forgive you.” It’s God saying, “I love the world too much to let your sin define you and be the final word. I am a God who makes all things new.” pg. 50
Life is hard. Life is messy. But I don’t think life is about staying clean– not spiritually speaking. I feel like I have been taught over and over again to stay clean, resist sin, don’t associate with the unclean unless you are going to save their eternally damned souls (not in those words per se, but you know…), and a step more, I have said/taught those things (but you know, not with those words per se). But that is so Us Vs. Them. Right vs. Wrong. You Vs. Me. But it does nothing for the soul. No transformation, no change takes place when we seperate ourselves from whoever “They” are. Because, I am them! We are they! It isn’t about you or them, my faith deals with Jesus, my poop, and my belief in ressurection.
“Ressurection never feels like being made clean and nice and pious in those Easter pictures. I would have never agreed to work for God if I had believed God was interested in trying to make me nice or even good. Instead, what I subconsiously knew, even back then, was that God was never about making me spiffy; God was about making me new.” pg. 174
Maybe faith is like sex, you know it is good if it is messy and honest.
Now, on to my next book, If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won’t), by Betty White.