Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Shrinking lists

I was chuckling about this all day. One of my "regulars" was making his way through the line during a lull and said he was doing some shopping for a class he had this evening.

"Oh? What class?" I asked.

"A class at my church," he replied, fiddling with a straw to slide into his latte. I remembered him talking about how he attends an Episcopal church down the street from here and felt a growing curiosity to know what he was studying.

"What's the class about?"

"Finding God's will," he released a light-hearted chuckle that seemed to communicate it felt like a hopeless cause. "But I think our teacher is a little discouraged with our progress - she thought we'd be further along by now!"

The humorous irony of that statement made me laugh right along with him. "Isn't that true of us all," I wondered aloud. "We all thought we'd have made more progress on that matter by now."

In fact, I remember stressing out about how to answer that seemingly illusive question for many years, particularly in my late teens, early twenties. I can't say I don't wonder about God's will anymore, that I've found some way to transcend or satisfactorily answer that question once-and-for-all, because it still pops up every now and then, lately in the form of, "Is my life acceptable to God?" In other words, "Are You ok with who I am, God?"

I know and respect people who might disagree with my theology on this answer, but I'm ok with that. I'm not saying this is right, but it's where I've landed for now: The more I grow up, the smaller my list of things I know to be absolutely true shrinks. The list may be shorter, but it's also stronger. It's not that different from the old saying, "The more you learn, the less you realize you know."

[On a side note, this includes my "list" of characteristics I would desire in a husband. The list started off years ago as something staggeringly long and specific, but it's been whittled down through the years to the bare essentials. I used to fear this was cynicism or pessimism or compromise. Instead, I've grown to see, it's none of the above. It's me recognizing the precious few things that matter most to me and being open to accepting someone's differences in the others].

There are fewer and fewer things I can state with certainty about many points of theology and doctrine, about the diversity of ways in which God appears to reveal Himself to us and the diversity of ways in which we respond to Him. I know some (again, whom I hold great respect for) might wave a yellow flag of caution about my ambivalence, perhaps citing our relativistic culture as having too great an influence in matters of faith. That may be so. However, I'm quite comfortable stating some beliefs with great passion and conviction and holding fast to them; but many, I hold with open hands. It doesn't frighten me to shake my head and confess about many things, "I just don't know."

Is Christianity really about knowing all the answers, or knowing and trusting the One who is the answer to these cries from the soul?

I don't believe that means following God is destined to be confusing. I think there can be peace and confidence in an attitude of humility that confesses there's much more I don't understand than I do, and the principle things I do hold fast to are enough to anchor me in the lack of clarity. I may not be able to wrap my mind around God, but I can wrap my hand in His and walk with Him. It sounds so simple, that being in God's will, perhaps, is just that. Wrapping our hands in His and continuing to walk.

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