It’s frustrating thinking you have the world figured out only to have it be turned upside down. In my last post I mentioned that I had spent years trying to fit into an Evangelical mold. This wasn’t anyone’s fault. I grew up in an Evangelical church, and gravitated towards a similar church as a young adult. I thought Evangelical meant Christian: If one wasn’t Evangelical then they were missing the gospel. (The funny part is, I wasn’t even quiet sure what Evangelical meant.) It wasn’t that I thought God only loved Evangelicals…I just thought that the Evangelicals had a “more right” relationship with God—like somehow my/our human choices could make the relationship more right. We had it figured out.
Oh, how pride goes before a fall, little one.
So understandably when I started moving away from an Evangelical tradition, I encountered a crisis of faith. If I didn’t believe this anymore, was I still a Christian? And I know some people walking on the fringes of my life wonder(ed) the same thing.
I made it through. Or, more precisely, I am making it through. I am clinging to Jesus and giving a little more space for him to sort things out. I know a whole hell of a lot less—and I care less about clinging to my “right” answers.
A friend recommended Richard Foster’s Streams of Living Water. I held it in my hands and turned it around. I opened the book and didn’t put it down—the words were new and refreshing. It painted a picture of a rich tradition of faith with many different streams: Contemplative, Holiness, Charismatic, Social Justice, Evangelical, and Incarnational. He showed how people connect to God in many different ways, but all were of one body, coming from One source.
I didn’t know that all of these different streams could simultaneously be sacred and holy and good. Foster taught me that as a diverse people we are all going to relate to God in different ways. Each tradition has it’s own strengths—things we can garner and learn and practice—as well as it’s own perils and pit-falls.We are invited to learn from one another, care for one another, serve one another while being gracious and kind.This takes an extra dose of humility—it’s hard when you understand something and think you’re “right,” to hold space for someone else at the table. And I couldn’t/wouldn’t do it when I was younger. My way was the best way, and there was little compassion for another way.
But through Foster’s book about the different streams, I began to appreciate the rich heritage that has gone before me. That at each moment in time, each of these streams has leant itself to the world as the way forward, a light in the darkness. It’s a beautiful picture of what we, the Church, can be.
A few things came about from my time with this book. One, is that I learned that the stream I am most drawn to is the Incarnational. Some of that is because it’s less about doing and more about being. It’s because my mundane, small existence can still be beautiful and wrapped in Jesus. Folding laundry, cooking dinner, baking bread, teaching my kids and drinking coffee with friends become sacraments. Or rather, they are sacraments because I am doing them. I can cease striving to be something I’m not and just live as Christ invites. I find peace and strength in that. The second thing that came about is for the first time in about three years, I felt an invitation to crawl back into Scripture—I could start reading it again. I could sit with my Bible open on my lap and read the words. Instead of obligation I was reminded to appreciate my own Evangelical tradition—this book is holy and sacred and to be taken seriously (thanks to Sarah Bessey for her teaching on this). I wanted to read it again.
And I began to notice and appreciate the way I saw and experienced others wrapping flesh around their faith. Recently, the Pope had the chance to go before some world leaders. Thanks to social media I saw some who were frustrated with him and questioning his love for God because he didn’t share the gospel. The beauty of seeing our faith tradition as different streams all coming from One source, is that we can trust the way God is moving in and around our fellow believers. I don’t have to questions my brother’s faith because he’s not “preaching the gospel.” Instead, I get to appreciate that he’s showing the world how Jesus loves through his own hands and feet—through his compassion.
There is space for all of us at the table, space for our histories, our streams, and our stories. I want to be quick to hear and slow to speak. Quick to hear your experiences and your stories and your practices and how God has met and moved you and slow to offer my own platitudes and judgments. This is hard work. It is holy work, but hard.
 Bessey, Sarah. Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith. New York: Howard, 2015. Print.