My mom told me she misses my writing.
Sometimes I wonder if she is the only one reading. You know how it is when you create something? A poem, a blog post, a song, a photograph…whatever it is, you can keep it to yourself or you can put it “out there”. But once you let it go, once you invite people in, everything changes. Because as human beings, we like to be liked. We enjoy admiration. Some of us, like me, put a lot of stock in what people think. Mostly I like to not upset anyone. My love language is Words of Affirmation.
But here’s the catch. If you are creating, speaking, writing, sharing, and everyone loves you that seems kind of boring right? And if art doesn’t compel us to think or dream or imagine or discuss or change or grow, then what do we need it for? Beauty… yes, I get that… but even beauty is subjective.
More than anything right now in my life I feel I feel compelled to speak and write and pray about and wrestle with the questions. I used to be afraid of the questions because they meant I didn’t know. And early on I made knowledge an idol. But now I know I don’t know. You guys, we don’t know. None of us know. So to pretend we do is silly and all of us pretending has led us to this place. Two sides, both digging their heels in, declaring themselves the smarter, better, more righteous side. Pick any topic and that’s where we are…divided.
Yet, I stand in the middle. Literally. I’m such a contradiction. But aren’t we all really? We are not the caricatures portrayed on the evening news. I feel so frustrated being defined by other people. I will say who I am, what I think, what I believe but you don’t have that right. Stop making assumptions. You think you know everything about me because I love Jesus? Please. And because I’m a woman? Heck, I know lots of women and none of us agree on everything. Because I’m a wife, a mother, a yogi? Because I’m white? Because I went to college? Yes, all of these things are factors in my experience but you guys…honestly, we have to stop pigeonholing people.
Listening is key here. I hope on the podcasts to bring stories to you from people who are willing to be vulnerable and wrestle with the questions too. Sometimes our “YES!” is a surrender. Which is weird, right? We think of our “YES!” being active and goal oriented and sometimes it is but before we can write the book, start the ministry, open the business, begin the non-profit…we must do the hard work. We are invited to the still small voice…the tender whisper in the dead of night. The biggest “YES!” is often humble and quiet and not what you want at the time. It’s the “YES!” that begins the transformation. The willingness to open your heart and mind to something new. You becoming the YOU that you are meant to be.
I have so many things I wrestle with…I’m going to start with the toughest one for me right now. When I say tough, I mean shedding tears tough. Because I’m wired this way, when I am struggling with something, I read and listen and dig in like it’s my job. I’m prepared to say this one is the one that has never gone away for me. It feels like my life’s work. Internally and maybe externally too. It feels like the thing I need to write about and talk about and struggle with because it matters. It’s never resolved and never will be resolved and that’s where my angst lies. I don’t even know how to word it. It’s going to be messy. Here goes…I love Jesus but I don’t like religion. I have been frustrated and disappointed and angry and disgusted by church. I see hypocrisy and it makes my stomach churn. I have decided I can say, “I’m a Jesus follower and not a religious person” and I’ve felt good about that in some ways but not completely satisfied. Because I have a heart for church. I love community. I love people. Following Jesus isn’t something we should do alone. We are not wired that way. We all want and need a place to belong.
My favorite stories in the Bible are when Jesus acts the opposite of what the religious leaders think and expect. He’s constantly telling them they are way off. I love Him so much. He showed us the way to love the outcast. But with religion oftentimes we only allow the people in who look and act and think like us. Forgive us Lord.
I love the quote that says that church is, “A hospital for the sick, not a museum for saints”. And when I say the sick, check yourself…I mean you. And me. Not just the other guy. We are all sick and in need of a Savior. Yet, sometimes people don’t feel welcome in church so they sit it out and we all miss out on knowing them and growing from their presence. What does community look like for Jesus follower?
A pastor at our church told us that helping the refugee (called the foreigner in the Scriptures) is not “a Liberal agenda item”…it’s the Gospel. He said that right in the middle of the election season. At that moment, I was pretty excited about church. (It ebbs and flows) Because I felt conviction in my heart. I felt like God was looking into my heart and saying…”Hey you…this matters…listen up!” The truth is I’m scared of refugees and I’m afraid of the unknown. I like rules and order and predictable outcomes. But Jesus asks me to be open to the messy and unpredictable because that’s where the growth and beauty and truth can be found. He keeps asking me if I’m willing to let my world be rocked and my thinking be challenged and my boundaries to expand. Am I ready and willing to be uncomfortable?
Following Jesus is uncomfortable. It’s not all cute quotes on Instagram (although I love those!) and pretty outfits and beautiful music on Sundays. When someone calls me religious, I cringe. Even the word, “Christian” drudges up some baggage that I’m not willing to claim.
I claim Jesus. I follow Him. And I’m asking Him…what would you have me say to the refugee? How do I love the LGBTQ friend? How am I called to minister to the poor? How can I participate in healing this broken world? How does being a Jesus follower play out in the political arena? What does love look like in 2017? Can I forgive churches for not being what we want and need them to be? Can God reconcile all my contradictions? Do they need to be reconciled? How can we be the church?
So I guess I’m asking…will you be messy with me? Can we talk about the tough stuff?
My pastor said the other day, “The answer to racism is the Gospel”. And I agree. Because the Gospel brings transformation of heart and mind. When we know Jesus, we see the world and people through the lens of sameness. I mean that in the best way. The Namaste way. The light in me sees the light in you. No masks, no fear, no difference. Our insides recognizing each other…the recognition of God within us.
I’m excited about these conversations. I hope you are too. “Do not be afraid”, I hear Him saying. We can handle this. And it’s time.
©2017 Sue Bidstrup, All Rights Reserved, Great Big YES™