Growing up in the Bible Belt, life seemed fairly simple – you were either “sinner” or “saint”, Alabama or Auburn, Republican or Democrat – Christian or not. But these days, I’m not so sure. Nothing is certain. And that isn’t just the biggest part of my church struggle, it’s the biggest part of my faith struggle. My walking-away-from-everything-I-was-raised-on-into-the-vast-unknown struggle. At the moment, my biggest frustration is that when it comes to Christianity: my ‘but’ always gets in the way.
I love Jesus, but I’m not a big fan of the church. I love the Gospels, but I could do without the rest of the Bible. I love America, but I can’t stand the asshole in the White House. I like watching football with friends, but it’s not about sports. I love Alabama, but I’d kill to get out of here. I want to raise my children to be whole, healthy, happy, well-adjusted, positive adults, but I’m not sure I can do that in the evangelical church. My but always gets in the way.
The truth is: I don’t know how this ends. And yet, I’m not giving up. I’m not walking away. I’m not foreclosing on my faith. Somehow, I still have the tiniest glimmer of hope that this digging, this wrestling, this pulling-my-hair-out-and-screaming-at-the-sky piece of the journey is taking me deeper into faith and closer to God.
The most important thing in the world – more important than football, politics, or dogma – is people. And many of the people I know are scared. Scared of church and scared of church people. And the only antidote to fear is love. Love always wins. And in the beginning, love looks a lot like kindness.[clickToTweet tweet=”#MessyGraceMeans the most important thing in the world is people.” quote=”The most important thing in the world is people.” theme=”style3″]
As a Christian writer, the list blogs with “21 Secrets to a Powerful Christian Life” do much better than articles titled, “My Name is Steve and I Don’t Know What I Believe”. People like answers. Certainty. Black and white. Darkness or Light. Angels or Demons. Alabama or Auburn. People want Christian authors to have faith that comes with a plan of action, not to be barely holding onto Jesus by a thread.
But I don’t have that luxury. I have tough questions. And in the midst of the struggle, I find comfort in Hebrews 11:1:
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
So I have to be honest when I say what my faith has become. It has become this knowing that everything is going to be alright in the end. It is this confident hope that Love is the Source of everything, but not being able to intellectually prove, explain, or even understand it. Hebrews 11:1 makes more sense to me now than ever before. Because it gives me permission to let my mind and heart marry, even if they don’t always get along.
As thankful as I am for my personal faithful journey, I still get tired of constantly being asked where I’m going to church. I have to rend my garments and go into this long, drawn out soliloquy on why this church didn’t work, or that one. I’m worn out from explaining that I’m too liberal in theology for some, too left in my politics for others, and too uncertain for most.
I believe people matter more than dogma. My friends and I don’t always fit neatly into the American Christian box, and I want to sit with my friends at the table. If there isn’t room for all of us, there isn’t room for me.
“Let it not be said of us that we closed the table to keep the establishment happy. That is not a legacy worthy of Jesus who bid us all come.” –Jen Hatmaker
Thankfully, I have kindhearted friends across the globe who have just as many questions as I do. Because of the internet, I’m connecting with others who also love the teachings of Jesus, but still have doubts. It’s so nice to know I’m not the only one, but I’m not willing to give up searching just yet.
When we find ourselves at a crossroads with someone on matters of dogma, politics, or any of the other things we’ve been told really matter, it’s time to step back and remember the one thing that unites us all is our shared humanity.
I don’t know how this ends. But I do know that when I reach my final destination, I want to have treated everyone with loving kindness.
What about you? If you’re anything like me, you’re not ready to burn the church down just yet. Maybe you’re still clinging to this wild hope that, together, we can make our shared faith experience more beautiful.
If you’re determined to make more space at the table, I’d love to connect!
Do you have a place for me to speak? A church, school, civic organization, or small group? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s get something on the calendar! I love talking to people who are ready for respectfully raw dialogue around the messiness of church and the wideness of grace.
This post is part of the #ConfessYourChurchMess series. Share your story on Twitter today, using the hashtag![clickToTweet tweet=”Christians: Stop tripping over my ‘but’! #ConfessYourChurchMess #MondayBlogs #graceismessy” quote=”Christians: Stop tripping over my ‘but’! ” theme=”style3″]
Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.
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