Thursday, May 15, 2008

Nothing but the truth

One of my favorite parts of Facebook is reconnecting with people from our past. Because Keith and I have moved so much each, stop on our way has felt like a "past life" of sorts. I know that each time we move we change, and morph and grow - so many times we look very little like the people that we used to be.

Reconnecting with friends from college has been fun, but at times it is also difficult. We went to a very conservative, Plymouth Brethren Bible college - and one of the hardest parts about that is that there have been some who have written us off as heretics because we're no longer a part of "the fold". It's incredible though to me because back then my relationship with God was so one-dimensional and mostly just show - now that we've been written off my relationship with God is real, 3-d and dynamic.

Another difficulty happens because many times we don't bridge the conversation with others because of our own fear of rejection. We'll never know that they might be a lot closer to us in their own journey than we imagine them to be - but because of the fundamental "in and out", "black and white"-ness of that denomination it can make conversations awkward.

One of our friends has crossed the divide with enough friendship and courage to ask some questions though and that means so much to me. I have been trying to articulate some real answers, but because they are so foundational putting answers into words isn't as easy as I'd like it to be. I'd much prefer to sit over a cup of coffee and interact with a face, eyes and another's story than to place something in black and white here on my blog. But this is the medium of the day and Texas is just too far away right now, so this will have to do.

He saw my quotes on my Facebook profile and my sidebar here on my blog and asked me some deep questions about truth and what it means to be a "storyteller of redemptive truth". I think if I could/can articulate this I'd be a happy woman - so taking a first pass at this might help me in this reconstructing process.

Here is the quote he asked about:

"You should always follow the one who seeks truth
and run away from the one who has found it".
Andre Gide

I have NO idea who Andre Gide is, and I could look him up - but that would defeat the process of me actually putting my thoughts down, so I will save that for a later date.

This quote articulated for me my much of my deconstruction process. I didn't kick things all apart so that everything would be destroyed. I deconstructed my beliefs and theology because I realized that the very FOUNDATION of what I was taught had fatal flaws and if I didn't get to the roots the regrowth would always have tainted leaves.

This quote gave words to the idea that I have bristled against for so long. I left bible college with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biblical Studies - I spent four years of my life learning everything I could about God, the Bible and theology and left convinced that I had all of the answers, surety and knowledge that would help me face every problem, answer every question and root me into a life of growth that would draw others to it. What actually happened though was the exact opposite.

A decade of trials, loss, depression, addictions, infertility and closed doors that devastated us and left us without community, deep scars from churches who believed these same things, and more questions than we ever had.

Why were the "fields ripe for harvest" and we weren't in ministry? Why were the teenagers we were volunteering with getting pregnant and we were unfit to bear children? Why do people learn when I teach but because I'm a woman I'm unfit? Why is God silent? Why did God ordain all of this mess? Why didn't God stop the violence that happened to me as a child? Why do I have all of this knowledge and so little wisdom? Why is this all in my head and not in my heart? Why, why, why, why?

I began to suspect that the things that I had been told all of my life were "THE TRUTH" might not be the "whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so HELP ME GOD!"

The thing about hitting bottom is that it strips away everything. All I knew is that Jesus said that I could know the truth, and that it would set me free. So the first stone I kept for my new foundation was freedom. Not a wanton "I can do anything I want" carte blanch, but the inner freedom where I actually had solid ground beneath my feet to stand on.

The only way I can articulate what that quote means to me is with story. I have asked God for an image or metaphor to explain what this means to me because my words are so inadequate. So far this is what's come to me.

For me truth is like water - catching it is nearly impossible - the best water, the most life giving water flows free. What so many of the modern theologians and teachers try to do is FREEZE the water into little cubes that can be studied, kept in a safe place and carried out at times as if to say "HERE IS THE TRUTH", see, we found it, it's right here, we can see it, touch it, taste it, KNOW IT because right here we have THE TRUTH.

Those little ice cubes leave me cold. They no more represented the ocean than saying the word "blue" tells you what color the sky is after a storm. I began to realize that the fluidity that truth is, the kind that sets me free cannot be found in those little ice cubes - parts of it might be there, but so much is lost in the specimen. Truth, I found, is to be experienced on the great, grand scale like the Bay of Fundy, not in the little trays I keep in my freezer.

So in keeping with my metaphor I would translate the quote like this:

"You should always follow those who can take you to where the living water runs
and run away from those who trap it in their kitchens."

Heidi Turner :)

My favorite author, Parker Palmer, uses a phrase in "A Hidden Wholeness" that I like, he says "Tell the truth, but tell it slant" He doesn't mean anything shifty by that - what he is talking about is using stories to articulate the truth. Metaphor and images can many times express a thought far more rich and true than our feeble words are able.

This is why Jesus told stories. They're portable. Each hearer throughout the centuries has heard them told again and again - and they are alive and rich and full of life giving water. The first time I hear it I take away something rich and life giving. The next time I am blessed by something fresh and new - each time the story is alive and breathing, not frozen like a specimen in a lab. It's like speaking in italics - making room for the spirit to breathe life into the words.

That is why I run from those who claim they have it all right, figured out and encapsulated for my easy consumption. Those ice cubes freeze my soul.


Heidi said...

love the water analogy! love it! a very heart-felt and thought provoking post.

paul maurice martin said...

I agree. If it isn't first hand, it isn't real.

Anonymous said...

Jesus used parables to communicate Truth.

Speaking of parables... I've often wondered why He chose the obscure to point to the inevitable Truth that many of His listeners would experience (His parables were often about judgment, missing the mark, falling short and getting booted out of heaven. Stuff I would *not* want handed to me).

In fact, He was deliberately obscure:
At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.
(Mat 11:25-26)

And I'm thinking..... huh?

(I'd be glad to have some insight on this)


Northwest said...

I read this beautiful post twice, and am struck by the similarities between my faith journey and yours. Which seems odd given the dissimilar personas we have.

I, too, have extensive experience with having my eternal status called into question because I severed with my inerrantist evangelical Christian roots and seek a more complete "truth".

"Called into question" is actually a giant understatement, since the sad truth is that I have been called a pervert, demon, sick individual and probably a communist by the very people I broke bread with ten years ago. All because I no longer share their religious beliefs.

Of course, for me, the chasm was inevitable once I came to understand that my theological moorings and the innate sexuality I had finally stopped denying were incompatible.

Being from a fundamentalist background, imagine coming to realize that you really are gay (and not just a backslider). You can imagine the ensuing theological conundrum, which presents itself as a black and white choice no matter how you slice and dice it.

Rev. Shelby Spong and a kindly Presbyterian minister named Rusty Lynn helped me jump the chasm, even though at the time I did not land in a religious sphere.

But even that has now come full circle, and I find myself overflowing with joy at God having come into my life again. Truly, He/She makes all things whole for the willing heart.

But one can be sure my newfound spirituality only further irritates those whose beliefs are crouched in fear more than graced by enlightened freedom.

I am glad I found you on the blogosphere; you connect me to my past by way of analogy, and your obvious tenderheartedness helps me to have hope for those who like we were, are still trapped in narrowmindedness.