it’s been a wild and sad week around here. i’ve been around some pretty amazing open broken hearts and i am grateful. thanks, too, for all your love & prayers for our little community; they mean more than you know. sometimes what happens when it comes to blogging is that i get an idea, know exactly what i want to say about it, never take the time to write it down, and then some kind of crazy thing happens and it gives the whole thing new perspective. a few weeks ago we finished up our walking wounded: hope for those hurt by the church class. it’s always such an amazing experience, to have a safe place to process grief and loss and find a way to move forward and a lot happens in those 4 weeks.
a big topic for so many of us is how hard it is to untangle our experiences with people & the system from our experiences with God. they are so enmeshed with each other that as we separate from church-as-we-knew-it, we often don’t know how to still hold on to God.
the same thing can happen with belief and faith.
beliefs become so tangled up based on our church experiences and what we’ve been taught for so many years that we are supposed to “believe as a true-blue Christian” that as we shed, unravel, deconstruct certain beliefs, we wonder if we’re actually losing all of our faith. wondering if the last belief falls to the ground, any other last shred of faith will dissolve into the air and we’ll be left with absolutely nothing.
oh, how many times i have wondered this! especially when i look at doctrinal statements or “what we believes” for certain ministries that i can no longer fully align with and keep my integrity. as a pastor who really is passionate about Jesus and healing and transformation, it can feel really scary and i wonder “is what’s still left enough?”
i keep finding it is.
faith is different from beliefs or dogma.
in so many ways, faith is what’s left when everything else is stripped away.
it’s that enduring crazy unexplainable thing that sustains when nothing else can.
it’s more powerful & stronger & more enduring than a list of beliefs and boxes to check or initial.
it supersedes language.
i keep remembering that doctrinal statements don’t save people or draw people to God–faith does.
i think of how many times in the gospels Jesus tells people “your faith has saved you” in some shape or form. not “your belief in all the right things has saved you”
to the “sinful” woman who busts into simon the pharisees house, “your faith has saved you” (luke 7:50)
to the hemorrhaging woman who desperately touches his robe for healing and blind bartimaeus who wanted to see, you faith has healed you” (mark 5:34 & 10:52).
to one leper out of ten who went back to thank Jesus for healing, “your faith has made you well” (luke 17:19)
for each of these versions (saved, healed, made you well), the greek word is sozo, which means “to save, to keep safe and sound, to make whole, to heal, to restore to health.” sozo comes from the root word soaz which means “safe.”
i love this imagery. our faith helps us be made more whole, more safe, restored to greater health.
these people knew nothing, really, except a belief that maybe Jesus could help them. they had a humility, a desperation, a desire, a hope. that’s all they needed.
our systems have set up so many hoops for people to have to jump through, so many bullet points to memorize, so many belief statements to commit to, so many barriers to a free & wonder-filled faith.
after a week like this past week, when someone you love and care about takes their life, a long list of beliefs doesn’t really seem to bring any relief, healing, or wholeness. what does, though, is a crazy enduring faith that God is with us no matter what, that emmanuel-ness can never be shaken, that God shows up despite different theologies or doctrinal statements or words that even make sense. that Jesus loved her deeply, fully, madly, and somehow knew the depth of her suffering. that love covers a multitude of sins. that in some bizarre and unexplainable ways light always creeps out of the darkness, reminding us of what’s really important and it’s a very short list.
so many times i am in conversations with such dear and amazing people whose beliefs are unraveling and they think they’re losing all of their faith. when really maybe it’s actually just the opposite.
as the list of “i’ve got to believe this to belong and keep God happy” decreases, a faith that is less list-driven and more heart-driven, less good-behavior-focused and more freedom-focused, less fear-based and more love-based slowly & surely increases.
yeah, Jesus said a mustard-seed was pretty darn powerful.
we can shed all kinds of beliefs and still have a strong faith.
this week, doctrinal statements didn’t help me. all the things i used to hold on to so tightly out of fear didn’t save me.
but my faith in a God who is in the darkest of the dark with us and cares very little about a long list of beliefs, yet cares very deeply about our hearts sure did.