I recently came across a verse in Romans 4 talking about Abraham's attitude regarding God's promise of children to him. He was in a pretty discouraging situation. God promised children and yet Abraham's wife was in her 90s, obviously past the child-bearing years and yet...
"No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he gee strong in his faith
as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised."
I read that and felt like a friend had given me a loving slap to the face. Then the Lord brought to mind something I read a long time ago in the Valley of Vision, "Help me honor thee by believing before I feel. For great is the sin if I make a feeling a cause of faith." For so long I have been waiting for a feeling of God's presence. And my lack of feeling causes me to doubt and have a lack of faith. I began to (begrudgingly) pray that I would boldly believe Him despite my frustrations and lack of feelings. "If this is what you are using to grow me deeper then bring it on! ...I guess. I mean I wouldn't choose this but I apparently don't get a choice and the only way to learn to trust someone is to just do it. So here we go."
This is the part when I get a little feel-y.
Weeks later I find myself on a plane on my way to a conference. There is something about being out of your comfortable bubble that allows you to hear and see things differently I think. Wouldn't you agree? I began a book that I had been excited to check out, Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey. I knew it would challenge my theology and I love reading about women empowerment so I was down for the ride. The author spoke from a place that wasn't in any of my preconceived theological "camps". She takes her readers outside the campgrounds where divisive words are slung and theological punches are thrown far too often and just chats about the women of the bible and how Jesus interacted with them.
And you know what happened? Jesus met me there. He was in those pages and I saw myself in the ancient stories. I didn't agree with every word of her theology explanations but I didn't care. Jesus was speaking to me. My far too often dry eyes were burning with the brink of tears more often than not as I quickly drank up the words. Jesus used these words to look me in the soul and say, "I value you. You are a delight to me. I look at you with adoring eyes. Come here and stop striving." It came to a head on the plane ride home. I was thinking and talking badly to myself about my body (shouldn't that tape be warped from so many plays by now?) and I all of the sudden heard Jesus in the midst of my self-condemnation. "Sarah. Stop." Umm... I'm sorry, what? Stop what? "Sarah don't you see? You are beautiful and adored by me, so far beyond your body shape. I will stand up for you if you won't. Stop bullying my daughter. I have created her for Gospel purposes, purposes that have nothing to do with outward appearance. Purposes that are so far beyond your material, applause-seeking mind. You are precious in my sight and I love you." I have never heard or felt such loving conviction. It all made sense to me in that moment. He loves me and will defend me, even from the self-condemning tapes I play far too often.
It wasn't until I got myself out of my comfortable environment and conservative Christianese jargon that I could see and hear Jesus. He called me out of the Christian sub-culture that I depend on for assurance far too often and met me where it's just me and him. He knows that I depend on affirmation from people, correct theological pride, and my reputation more than I depend on Him. I was (and am) terrified to leave those comforts, as dysfunctional and unsatisfying as they are. But I'm seeing now I can meet with Jesus outside of the campgrounds and bring him in. I can navigate people, theology, and struggle with my foundation in him. I've talked about this before and seen other people do it but am now seeing what it actually looks like for me personally. I know that he values me and wants to use me for Gospel purposes. I trust that because of that truth He will guide me in my theology, relationships, struggles, doubts, and everything in between.
I leave you with this excerpt from The Message. I think this translation is useful at times, and this is one of those times.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:21-30 MSG)