Telling the Truth in Provence

There are only two ways to live your life,” Einstein said. “One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is.”

Impfondo, Congo

Moonlight swim. Congo. Photo Credit: Martha Rodriguez

Last weekend, I was drinking wine in a beautiful French farmhouse chatting with two secular humanists about Jesus. Both of them believe that a historical Jesus was probably a fabrication, definitely an institutionalized myth, an opiate for the masses and certainly not the Christ.

It was jarring, especially after spending so much time recently on a big, white ship in West Africa, surrounded by some of the world’s most radical Christians.

And yet this is where I live now – sacred and secular all tangled up together, confusing the territory, demanding that I answer the question: Why bother with Jesus? Can’t one do good work without all that? I’m learning to respond in a way that loves people regardless of my opinion on their faith. Because really, who cares what I think about their faith?

But in Provence, I was on the ropes, taking a few punches, without any big, smart Christians around to defend me and why I live like I do now.  It’s one thing to hang out with people who think just like you do, it’s another to talk openly about Jesus to a couple very shrewd, uber-rational atheists.

Hello rubber. Meet road.

So, do I trust Jesus to help me speak with clarity and kindness, no matter the audience? Can I articulate what I’m doing with Mercy Ships and why? Can I talk about Jesus honestly, like he’s in the room? How do I explain, without hysteria, what he did for me to people who think he is a myth?

I don’t know. So I just told them the truth – mine.

It didn’t take long for the “Jesus is a crutch for you” comment to drop like a bomb. Considering it afresh I thought:

Jesus isn’t crutch for me. He’s a stretcher upon which I collapsed and wearily admitted that I don’t know how to quit being selfish and to do work that matters in Africa or anywhere else.  That, as it turns out, was a great place to start.

But the woman knowing what had happened to her came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. And he said to her “Daughter your faith as made you well, go in peace and be healed of your disease.” Mark 5:33-34

IMG_8504So it doesn’t matter where I am now, Congo, France, Texas, if you ask, I’m just going to tell you the truth, and frankly, it’s kind of messy. Sorry. Other Christians are doing the same. Meet Glennon. Meet Shauna. Meet Sarah.

Yes, it’s terrifying to lay yourself bare for others to inspect and challenge, because they do. Yes, I hear the enemy calling me a self-aggrandizing jerk and I squirm with fear and self-doubt. But every time I simply answer the question, every time I just tell the truth, inevitably a young woman will pull me aside afterward and say:

“Thank you for saying that out loud.”

And that to me is work that matters.

Welcome Atheists.

Lately, I’ve been reading atheist blogs because I am fascinated by faith in all its forms.

I’m not interested in shouting over who’s right or wrong – there are enough people doing that. Rather, I’m interested in how people decide what to believe.

An avid rejection of church behavior (Christian in particular) seems to fuel many of the blogs. The Crusades, the antics of Westboro Baptist Church, the flaming mess that is the homosexuality debate in America, all seem foremost in the minds of a lot of bloggers.

I get it. My conscience recoils at that behavior too, and for years, it helped me rationalize my rejection of God. But had I shut out the noise and read what Jesus and his disciples actually said, I might have seen things like this:

You my brothers and sisters were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh, rather serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself. Galatians 5:13-14

The Bible has a lot to say about love, but I’m not sure you’d know that by casually observing the church. Where in scripture does it say, Christians must deliver a constant public service announcement about the justice of God?

Yes, I believe in the God of justice before whom we will all stand and explain ourselves, but I also believe in the God of love and mercy. And if, as the Apostle Paul says, it’s the kindness of God that leads men to repent, and we’re so concerned about the repentance of others,

why aren’t we kinder?

So, my intention with this space is to highlight people living the freedom, kindness and love of God, whether they call it that or not – the sort of love that makes the world more fragrant and beautiful, like orange blossoms do in spring.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Foster

Look at this cop giving socks and shoes to a homeless guy. Is he a Christian? I don’t know, but he is doing what Jesus said: Love your brother. Clothe him.

Yes, the Bible is controversial and demanding, it always has been. Of course there are things in it I wish were not, but conventional wisdom is overrated. I love that Jesus is still defying conventional wisdom:

  • Stop grumbling.
  • Forgive your enemies.
  • Don’t be proud.
  • Pray for people who persecute you.
  • Trust Me.
  • Give money away.
  • Feed the poor.
  • Worship God.
  • Serve one another.

It could take the rest of my life just to get that right, so I really don’t have time to get that splinter out of your eye. I’ve got a big log in my own.

Ultimately, holiness is always an inside job, and when it’s done well, it’s illuminating. God willing, those are the people you’ll find here.

So welcome to a conversation about freedom and love. I follow Jesus Christ but I welcome atheists, Buddhists, Jews and Muslims to the conversation. Welcome gays and lesbians. Welcome hunters and PETA activists, left-wing, right-wing and whatever the Tea Party is. Welcome all you who are heavy laden and weary.

Let’s go find some rest.