In Response to Obstacles and Why I Keep Believing

Yesterday Peter Enns wrote on his Patheos blog a post entitled "Why Do I Keep Believing?" The Obstacles to Staying Christian. Please read that post first before continuing below to my personal response and reflection on this post. I found the post to be very thoughtful, and felt it a good exercise to be open and honest with myself in formulating a response.

Warning: Today's post is personal. It is an expression of how I feel, and the wrestling with God and life, with particular emphasis on my current place in life. It is not meant to be definitive or theologically, biblically, or spiritually researched (although it has been, for months now). I once heard regarding writing in a journal that you cannot hold back in fear of other's reading it. Rather, in writing and revealing yourself, you are becoming vulnerable and any who choose to read the journal are entering into that person's story and life. Their reaction to what they read is revealing, in that they can react in any way that they choose. They can choose to be encouraging, empathetic, condescending, hurtful or immature. Essentially, they can choose to be either a protagonist or an antagonist in author's story. Does the reader wish to connect with, to know, and to foster a relationship with the author of a journal, or do they wish to prove a point, correct, fix, or otherwise change the author without entering into their lives? I post this blog today much in the same manner as a journal. I'm choosing to put myself out there a bit, in hopes that others can be encouraged in their struggles, just as I desire to be encouraged. As Tim Keller wrote,
To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.
On to my response

At this point in my walk, the largest struggle that I have is a discord between experience and belief that being Christian is to be relational. With God and with others. Love precipitates relationship, and the promises of God we find are relational. What I struggle with at this point is the fact that relationship requires response and interaction by both parties, and a mutual understanding and valuing of each other in working through life's doubts, joys, struggles, and callings. Even the idea of a Missio Dei (or the purposes/reign of God - his "redemptive work in the world") rests on relationship. 

My struggle is the lack of experience to back up this relationship. Other Christians, particularly those who at one time were close or even family, are quick to discount questions or ideas that do not line up with their personal statement of faith, and so approach each interaction as if somehow I need "saving" from thinking something else (or just wrestling with the question or circumstances). True accepting, loving, faithful communities that welcome and grow together (even with discipline or rebuke) require trust and vulnerability - a "getting to know" the other person and understanding prior to being able to provide wise counsel. I struggle with not finding such a people who have accepted me in this journey together. Certainty is desired, not wrestling with a way forward. And so when I embrace doubt or uncertainty in various theology (like understanding multiple views of the atonement, etc. without having to believe one is right and all the others wrong) this excludes me as being a genuine participant in community. The belief is placed above the relationship. (It has happened time and again...too numerous to count).

Even more, if it is about my personal relationship with Jesus, then there should be an active component of his speaking which I can experience. When this is expressed, I simply get cliches, platitudes, or the idea of praying more, reading the Bible more, or having more faith. Yet, a personal relationship requires personal interaction of some sort that is tangible and active...and not what I hope is the case (like overlooking signs of disinterest by someone simply because you have a middle school crush).

What is interesting is that in spite of these struggles, the "why" for me is that faith has a grasp in the deeper parts of me that someone cannot just let go. What is the alternative to love and relationships? So in a way, my faith and trust in Jesus grows yet my discontent and struggle with statements of faith or belief is stripped away as false idols, while also knowing that somehow God's revelation (then & now) comes through these exercises as well...some aspect of my life that gets a blending of reason, tradition, scripture, and experience that holds each skeptically yet hopefully that God Is and accounts can be reliable in spite of lack of experience. I know I don't need to have it all figured out (accepting all or throwing everything away) yet where and how are the people of God doing this genuinely, without agenda. I once heard it said that you cannot fully know yourself without knowing God, or fully knowing God without knowing yourself. In a sense, I think this is the struggle AND the promise, yet I find that each community I have participated in has been more interested in "arriving" at a place than being a "journeying" community.

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