If you’ve been reading my writing or had any in-depth conversations with me lately, you know that I am in the wilderness territory of deconstructing and decolonizing my faith. This can mean different things to different people. For now, I’ll just say that I am trying to learn how to separate out my culture from my faith and am re-examining long-held beliefs. I feel so assured of Jesus and His love for me because of the undeniable ways He has broken into my life, but everything else is up for re-examination. I have thoughts and opinions, but I’m learning to hold them all loosely in order to leave room for growth and transformation.
At first, it felt like the bottom fell out. Feeling unsure of things I thought I knew for so long was a bit unsettling. I felt like I shouldn’t let go until I knew I had something else to hold onto. However, I don’t feel anxious about being in this place anymore because even in the middle of it, I see the richness of the treasures that can only be found in the intimacy of a God who condescends to wrestle with us. He is my solid ground when everything else is shifting. Sometimes it’s a lonely place to be, though. It feels like I woke up one morning and all the furniture was suddenly the wrong size. Nothing quite fits anymore, but everyone else around me carries on as though nothing has changed. Though God has provided people along the way to serve as oases in this desert of not belonging, I still struggle sometimes to know where I fit.
All of these feelings were particularly strong one Sunday at church. After the service, instead of going to Sunday school, I found a place to sit by myself. After a meditative sit (centering prayer), I came away with the question, “What DO I know?” When things feel uncertain or challenging, sometimes it helps to start with what I do know.
After journaling on one side of a little card I had found to write on, I flipped it over to the back. I asked God, “What do You know about me?” Immediately the answer came to me: “You are Mine.”
I asked myself, “What does it mean to belong to God?” The first thing that came to mind was this passage from one of my very favorite books, The Little Prince. In this passage, a fox is speaking to the little prince:
“But if you tame me, my life will be filled with sunshine. I’ll know the sound of
footsteps that will be different from all the rest. Other footsteps send me back
underground. Yours will call me out of my burrow like music. And then, look! You see
the wheat fields over there? I don’t eat bread. For me wheat is of no use whatever.
Wheat fields say nothing to me. Which is sad. But you have hair the color of gold. So
it will be wonderful, once you’ve tamed me! The wheat, which is golden, will remind
me of you. And I’ll love the sound of the wind in the wheat…”
I thought about God loving me like that. In the book The Creator Revealed, physicist Michael G. Strauss explains how, despite the vast size of the universe, “our universe is about the smallest a universe could be and support life.” God created all of it—the planets and stars and sun and moon, all of it— to prepare a home for us, like a mother who is nesting in joyful anticipation just before the birth of her baby. He is so taken with us, with me. I felt as though He were enfolding me in His embrace as He showed me that everything reminds Him of me.
This made me think about how many times the Bible uses the word “remember.” I researched and found from Bible scholar Chad Bird, who says that the Hebrew word for remember, “zakar is to employ your hands and feet and lips to engage in whatever action that remembrance requires.” The concept of remembering in the Bible is a body activity, not just a head trip. Bird goes on to give example after example in the Bible when “God remembered” someone and then immediately followed the remembering with a saving action on behalf of that person or community. Bird says, “We are those remembered by God. We are the object of His active, saving, incarnating, remembering mercy in Christ.”
So many issues in the Bible are more complex than I used to think. Gone are the days of comfortable, easy faith. Sometimes I grieve those days when I thought I could just read the Bible and come to an immediate, clear understanding of something nuanced. A responsible interpretation of scripture requires an understanding of the cultural context and language, as well as an awareness of the cultural lens with which I am reading the passage.
The not-knowing can be overwhelming, but this is what I do know: God is absolutely smitten with us. He can’t get us out of His mind, and for Him, remembering employs a perfect balance of mind, body, and heart. His affection, thoughts, and actions toward us are in perfect alignment with His great love for us. In a world that seems so topsy-turvy, that truth is something I can hang my hat on. I feel at peace not knowing where I land on all all the hot topics up for biblical debate when I am centered in the truth of His love for me. This peace opens me up to hear from Him more clearly about the things He wants me to know. I must trust my own experience of God before I can tackle the other issues, and He is faithful to show up and be to me exactly what I need.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”