Tag Archives: faith

The Party

A couple of weeks ago, my best friend and I were hanging out at her apartment, as we often do. While chatting away, our attention was broke by a sweet melody coming from outside. The music wafted through the open windows, interrupting our thoughts. It was so distracting and beautiful that we lost track of conversation.

We peaked over the lot to a small party gathered, shiny balloons pushed by wind, cans of beer held to smiling lips. Children ran wild, ducking in and out of hiding places, hyper from too many sweets.

Though it was a rather modest party, there was a full mariachi band in costume, playing as if to thousands. We sat on the couch in the dimly lit apartment, wondering whether we should crash the party. After a few minutes, the music and laughter forced us down the stairs.

Now, we are normally very reserved. We spend our evenings together clad in sweatpants, bra-less, with unpainted faces. These nights are intended to be utterly free from all artifice and pretending, with no expectations. We usually spend the evening chatting, pouring wine, and laughing over jokes only the best of friends share.

We were entirely unfit to join a party of strangers, but the music was too hypnotic. We approached the group cautiously, giggling at our uncharacteristic boldness.  Standing in the lot with our arms wrapped around ourselves, we swayed, unable to keep from smiling. The music was pure joy.

People began to notice us standing there, the only white people at the party. A man with a smile that took up most of his face came up to us. He welcomed us to join the party, to come closer. It didn’t matter at all that they had never seen us before. To him, we were just as welcomed as if we’d been invited.  Before we could even protest, cold Mexican beer was in our hands.

I felt honored to be invited closer, but shame too. I thought about all the people who burn with hatred at immigrants, believing they are the cause of all that is wrong with our society. There has been a lot of talk about building a wall, but these stranger’s kindness knocked out a few bricks to make a door. I see the love of God in inclusion, in acceptance, in making a bit more room. I don’t see it in walls, in labeling some people legal and others not.

It’s not my intent to preach a point here; I simply wish to relate a sweet experience that reminded me of our collective humanity. It’s so easy in this day and age to remove our hearts from the matters of people, to make people into issues, and issues into something that doesn’t have anything to do with us.

Jesus talked a lot about loving the stranger. These strangers showed my friend and I a lot of love, and in that love, I saw Jesus. They didn’t fear us or show suspicion, and they didn’t request anything of us, except to join in on the fun. I realize issues of citizenship, immigration, and borders are complex issues, so I won’t attempt to simplify them.

What I will state simply is this: Jesus has called everyone to join the party. Everyone. He has called us to love the stranger, to open up heart and home to them. My experience reminded me how urgently we are called to do this, without exception, without fear.

Let’s love the stranger and invite them to the party.

 

 

 

A Poem on Faith & Doubt

I wrote this little poem several years ago, based upon James 1:6, a passage from Scripture. I have always struggled with doubt–in God, myself, in other people. Over the years, my doubts have been met and transformed by truth. I am discovering that doubt is only a barrier if you allow it to be. Doubt, when accepted as a path, can lead one to new places and deeper understanding. Ultimately, I believe holding God’s hand on this path leads not to annihilation of relationship, but a greater capacity for it. Allowing doubt to be helpful requires faith, rather than the denial of it.

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“Uproot and plant yourself in the sea,” said the man of mustard seeds. “You’ve held belief in small things, but greater yet is what will be.”

The mulberry tree duly replied, “Surely my roots will never be dry. The fishes will dance among my leaves, for your faith, I’ll do as you please.”

Another man out and lost at sea, drowning in doubt with prayerful pleas. But oh, how should you receive? Marked with doubt, anxiety.

Faithless man, take hold the seed.

Bad Believer

I’ve struggled in my Christian faith. I’ve doubted, backslid, crawled forward, and failed. Growing up, I would recite the sinner’s prayer every day, just to “make sure” I was really saved. While away at college (a Bible college, mind you) I nearly walked away from the faith completely. But by God’s grace, I shakily remain His.

When I am alone with God, I feel secure in my relationship with Him. Being around His other kids is what trips me up. I compare myself to other Christians, deciding that God must like them better because they seem happier, more faithful, or better than me. I am in therapy and swear like a sailor when I am angry. I laugh at double-entendres, vote Democrat, and am a proud feminist. I am not an ideal Proverbs 31 Woman.

But Jesus loves me, this I know.

He knows my heart. He sees my efforts to change, and He knows I try to follow Him each day, in every area of my life. He didn’t make me His to be like other Christians. I follow Jesus, not religiosity! Though I may feel like I am on shaky ground in my faith, the truth is, I can’t lose Him. And He can’t lose me. His word confirms and promises this:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. -Romans 8: 35-39

What can separate me from the love of Christ? N O T H I N G.

Shame may tell me that I am not good enough, and that’s true. But that was never the point. I am being saved as much as I am saved, and it’s a life-long process. God is far more patient than I am with myself, and the only thing that keeps Him distant is me. When I choose shame over grace, I push Him away.

I’ve always related to the disciple Thomas–infamously known as Doubting Thomas. Growing up in church, Thomas was often made an example of how we shouldn’t be as believers. But he always gave me hope, because even though he was one of Jesus’ most intimate friends, he still struggled with doubt. He could have allowed shame and doubt to destroy his faith, but he didn’t. Instead he cried, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” And as Flannery O’Connor once wrote, that is “…the most natural and most human and most agonizing prayer in the gospels, and I think it is the foundation prayer of faith.”

I used to be afraid of my doubts, but I’m not anymore. Doubting has caused me to explore the faith, to make it truly my own. A fear of doubt shows a lack of faith that God can withstand questions and apparent contradictions. Some people are so afraid to acknowledge their doubts because they are afraid of what they may discover. I think we’re all afraid of being bad believers, but the truth is, He doesn’t see it that way.

If prostitutes, murders, thieves, doubters, and the ordinary can be celebrated in the family of God, that gives us all hope! Doubt doesn’t exile us from God, nor do our sins. We can boldly and confidently approach Him as we are, because forgiveness and acceptance is assured.

So whether you’re rough around the edges, or plagued with doubt, you are still His. There’s such a comfort for us in the consistency and faithfulness of God. We don’t need to waste time comparing ourselves to each other, or being afraid of what our doubts reveal about us.

Let’s all give each other freedom to pursue Him as we are, and leave all the judgment to Him.