How Much of My Sin Can God Handle?


I first felt the fear in 2014 – there was a major, major sin I wanted, and I truly didn’t have it in me to walk away.

I remember thinking, Is this it? Is this the time when God isn’t going to hold onto me? Is He going to let me go?

By the grace of God, I did eventually walk away, but I toyed with that sin. I fantasized about it. I caressed it and fed into it. I nourished and protected an affection for it in my heart.

 

It happened to me again this semester. I longed for sin. Temptation came in the form of lies, selfishness, betrayal, arrogance, envy…

Even as I see those traits within myself, I long to indulge them. I long to have what other people have. I’ve been so good for so long, right? Don’t I deserve a break? Why doesn’t God love me enough to give me the desires of my heart?

Please, Abba. Stop doing this to me. Just hit me with an effing car the next time I go for a run. End this. Please. Your plans for me are too hard. I’m not enough. I don’t want to do this anymore. I hate this place. It would be better to die now. “To live is Christ. To die is gain.”

No, I’m not suicidal. I promise. I know it sounds like I am, but I’m not. I’m not even sad, really.

After about six weeks of caressing and guarding my sin this semester, the other thoughts hit me again: Is this it? Is God about to give up on me? Was this just a temporary grace, dependent on my ability to be a good girl?

In the Bible, there are sort of paradoxical and, dare I say it… conflicting… passages when it comes to the perseverance of the saints. The question is usually posed in the abstract: can a person really, truly be a Christian and eventually lose her salvation?

It isn’t an abstract question to me at all. It is the question that haunts me. Each time I come up against the broken and blackened parts of my heart, I ask that question.

God, is this the time when I’ve gone too far? Am I beyond Your salvation now? Don’t let me walk away. 

I am not a Christian because I want to be one. If my faith was dependent upon me to maintain it, I would have walked away long before now. I am sure of it.

There are really beautiful things about Christianity. There are parts of the Bible that are so shockingly delicate. So rich. So mysterious. So flowing and soft.

However, the beautiful is often obstructed by Fox News and the 2nd Amendment. Also, there’s that grotesque problem that Christianity is ultimately about the murder of God.

Partnering alongside the beautiful and the hideous that are both ever-present aspects of my faith, the honest truth about Christianity is that it’s the hardest thing in the world. Christianity requires me to entrust everything about who I am to a God I can never fully understand. It requires more than I have. More than I can ever give. It requires so much more than anyone can articulate or imagine. It requires the death of God. Yes, His resurrection too.

 

Coming up to the edge of myself is a humbling reminder that I am not a Christian because I have done anything to be one.

I am a Christian because I need Christ.

I am a Christian because I do not have it in me to walk away from sin.

I am a Christian because Christ intervened and intervenes on my behalf.

“Perseverance of the saints” is a nice, sanitized, and intellectual way of trying to figure out what happens when a Christian isn’t enough, within herself, to save herself… and shouldn’t the answer to that question be self-evident within a faith that’s entire canon seeks to answer that question…

 

 

School update: it’s Spring Break… my blood pressure is 142/73. My resting heart rate is 52. I’ve got a ton of reading to do. I’ve got papers to write. I have secured a summer job with the Office of Children’s Counsel (represents kids in custody battles). I continue to lose weight and have days in which I can’t make myself eat even close to a normal number of calories. I’ve admitted to myself that I can’t do all of the things I want to do, and will thus need to tell people no. Yet, I haven’t yet told anyone no. I found out I made the dean’s list last semester. I love two or three of my classes this semester. I hate one of my classes this semester. I continue to build amazing friendships with my peers. I love being surrounded by people who think about everything and engage their community with the hope of making it better.

 

 

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Theology Changes


Dear Readers,

My theology has changed.

I write that with a sense of fear, because it’s hard to let the people we love change.

About ten years ago, I fell in love with a gay Christian. I was melty for him, and I told him so… several times. He was kind to me about it. And honest. I watched him through one season of life in which he intended to remain celibate until he died. I watched him through another season, in which he hoped to someday love a woman and have a family. I believe he is now in a committed relationship with a man, although he and I don’t talk much anymore. It’s painful to stay friends with an unrequited love.

I loved him loyally for about five years. I watched him struggle. I struggled. And I did what I usually do when I can’t figure out my life.

I wrote.

In 2007, I began writing a manuscript about a character named Weston Stark who was living a heartbreaking question: If God loves me so much, why did He make me gay?

I thought it was important for Wes to simultaneously hold two truths. The first truth was that God is real. The second truth is that Wes was, and always would be, gay.

I started by doing research. I did interviews, including a gay Christian who dated men, a gay Christian undergoing Reparative Therapy, a lapsed Catholic who was gay and dating men, a bartender at the local gay bar, and a few others. Absent from my research were interviews with women. I wasn’t opposed to interviewing them, but none really popped up conveniently in my life, while it seemed like there was always another man I could ask for an interview.

Next, I dug into resources at the public library. I watched every documentary I could get my hands on, then I finished up my search with the World Wide Web. The one type of research I didn’t do was digging into the debate of whether God actually hates homosexuality. I’m not sure why I didn’t want to go there, but it was the one place I avoided in my research.

Don’t get me wrong; I knew the verses. For a few years of his life, Weston kept a note card taped to the bottom of his sock drawer, where he didn’t think his parents would find it. On it, was Leviticus 18:22. “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”

I promise, I knew and still know the verses.

Ultimately, my research led me to the ending of Weston’s story: suicide.

I won’t recount the stats or reasoning behind that ending, but suffice it to say that I didn’t believe I could tell his story honestly with any other ending. I tried.

So, I wrote my manuscript. It was mostly completed by year five, but I’ve tinkered with it off-and-on ever since.

Flash forward to 2017.

At the beginning of the year, I felt really torn about homosexuality. After ten years of writing about it, after loving someone for whom it was often the central struggle of his life, and after researching it to death, I was no closer to harmonizing my own heart with what I believed to be the obligatory Christian stance.

My own stance went something like this: nothing in my heart condemns homosexuality. Nothing in my heart believes it’s sinful. I don’t feel any sense of ick about it. No anger or hatred. I have always had lots of gay friends and I adore them. But when I disagree with something I find in the Bible, I yield to God. Because He gets to decide right and wrong. I don’t get to decide.

Then, I started law school.

I met a friend who asked me all of the hard questions, repeatedly.

I started intensely studying the law and how to interpret and understand it, which has an awful lot in common with studying the Bible and how to interpret and understand it.

I decided it was time for me to go where I hadn’t been willing to go previously : Biblical interpretation.

I’ve been reading a lot. Obviously, I have to read for class, which is particularly interesting this semester because I have my first Constitutional Law class… basically I have a class that’s all about interpreting a text written a long time ago, but which we have to apply today. I have also not lost diligence with my Bible, and I’ve read a few Christian non-fiction books about homosexuality, the history of the Bible, and a memoir of a lesbian who converted to Christianity.

And the thing is, the nagging question isn’t whether homosexuality is a sin. It’s a question that’s important. It’s a question that’s relevant. It’s a question for which my answer has changed: I don’t think it’s a sin.

However, the bigger question really is: how do I read the Bible and get out of it what God wants me to get out of it?

I write all of this because I’m afraid that some of you will look on me with eyes of judgment because I no longer see what you see.

I’m still a Christian. I still rely solely on the mercy of a crucified Savior. I still read my Bible and pray on a near-daily basis.

I just think we’ve been reading the Bible wrong.

Here and now doesn’t seem like the time to go into why I think we’ve been reading it wrong. Mostly what I want to do here and now is be lazy. I could wait and have all of these conversations in due time, as they arise with each of you naturally, but it’s far easier for me to just put it out there and let you bring it up if it’s something you want to discuss.

I didn’t intend to change, nor did I change as abruptly as it probably looks like I’ve changed. I’ve been intensely arguing with myself and God for the past few months, but I’ve also been studying and thinking and praying and worrying for years. I’ve worked it out (and will continue to work it out) with much fear and trembling, and I’ve come to a clearing where I think I’m going to land for awhile.

That’s not to say that my theology won’t change again tomorrow. Sometimes that happens. It’s also not to say that I understand Biblical interpretation. I don’t. It’s a big issue and something I’m going to be actively seeking to understand for the foreseeable future.

In addition to my lazy purposes in writing this post, I guess I’m writing this in the hopes that you won’t assume. It’s easy to assume that all Christians hate gays. It’s easy to assume that the only right way to read the Bible is the way you read it.

But the truth of living a life committed to Christ is so much messier than that. The truth of Christianity is a decade of struggle followed by a realization that what I believe is not what I’m “supposed” to believe. What I believe is the kind of thing that makes lots of Christians really mad.

It’s cool if you’re mad… but I honestly doubt I’ll change my mind if you try to persuade me that I’m wrong. I might be wrong… or maybe you’re wrong. We’ll have to wait to find out for sure.

Peace out, friends.

 

 

The Protection of the Cross


While reading John Stott’s The Cross of Christ, I came across something that subtly knocked me on my ass.

Thus from Christian birth to Christian death, as we might put it, the church seeks to identify and protect us with a cross.

This statement was interesting to me, because the cross should probably a symbol of protection to us. After all, it is the spot where Christ took the punishment we deserved. And yet, when I think of the iconic symbol of that substitutionary atonement, I’m ashamed to admit that I see a target rather than a shield.

“Thank God I’m Not the One”


In Phoenix this weekend, I enjoyed getting to be a part of an authentic Johnson bday celebration of great magnitude. It made me smile to see whipped cream on people’s faces and three generations of Johnson trying to dance. I was a little on the outside (my own doing) because the Johnson sense of family is rather foreign to me, so I often don’t know how to participate without feeling super self-conscious. Regardless, it was a joy and an honor to be included.

In the evenings, Dave, Lisa and I quieted down and watched TV, but, true to form, my Phoenix parents didn’t let me leave without giving me much to think about.

That boy has been rather a heavy thought to me for the past few weeks. Mostly, I’ve been preparing my heart and mind to move on from him.

I find it difficult to move on from anyone ever because it seems like just a breath away from the not-able-to-bring-myself-to talk-with-you or the you-don’t-live-up-to-our-standards that were both said and done to me. I don’t want to abandon him. I don’t want to dismiss or give up on him. So I kept theologizing myself into being the gospel to him.

Which, I think, is good and right in some ways.

If we have a chance to love the unlovable or grant unmerited grace, I believe we should usually do it. That’s a part of being an image bearer, intended to reflect the Almighty. It’s a chance to show someone who has never known God what He is like.

However, there’s a fine line between the necessary endeavor of constantly becoming more and more conformed to the image of the Son (Romans 8:29) and trying to be the Son in someone’s life.

I don’t know if I’ve crossed that line or not, but I do know that not moving on now would be a willful step over that line. In prayer, I’ve been convicted that he belongs to God and not to me.

I’ve tried to be a friend to him. I’ve done everything I could think of to help, to rebuke, to encourage, to correct, to love, to point back to the Father, and none of it has worked, and thus I hand him over to the Creator, knowing that he wasn’t ever truly mine.

The idea of not being able to save another is intellectually easy enough. It’s painfully obvious that I’m hardly capable of making right choices on a good day, and it’s even more obvious that I’m generally sinful and therefore inadequate to save myself, much less to make substitutionary atonement for another.

And yet, the intellect isn’t always what guides us.

My heart would rescue him if I could. My heart would give anything – short of nothing – to see him thrive. My heart seeks his good, often at great cost to itself.

So, though I’d love for it to be right to continue that seeking – for God to command me to chase after that boy – I have been given no such command and I will leave it up to the Lord, Who holds that boy in the palm of His hands.

And I leave you with some lyrics. I’ve been into a band called The Afters, of late, and one of their songs seems pretty appropriate here, for its message and because that boy is the one who taught me to close my eyes and enjoy music.

“Thank God I’m Not The One”

How could You walk when You went down that dusty street
How could You speak when all your friends checked out
How could You love after the great betrayal
How could You reach out when they nailed You down
[Chorus:]
True as true can be
That’s what they say You are to me when I’m so fake
Does Your heart ache
If I had been the one I would not have been that strong
If I had been the one, yeah, I’d have been long gone
How could You hang on with Your mama crying
How could You keep on breathing in and out
How could You watch while Your whole world was dying
Did it all happen cause we let You down[Repeat Chorus]

And all the things we think of as eternal would come undone
All I have to say when I’m praying
Is “Thank God I’m not the One”

You Thought I Was Going to Forget the Fourth Post This Week!


“What I need is a sense that God accepts me, owns me, holds me, affirms me, and will never let me go even if he is not too impressed with what he has on his hands.”

Lewis B. Smedes, Shame and Grace, page 80

* Even though this is from that book I just cited, I found it on page 74 of Justin and Lindsey Holcomb’s Rid of My Disgrace.

Film and Theology


Inception-movie-poster

I just happened across the COOLEST thing ever!

I’ve been following the Mars Hill Church blog for quite awhile now. I listen to a few sermons from Mars Hill every month, and I learn a lot from all of the free resources they make available online. If you haven’t checked them out, I recommend that you do.

…especially since I just found a super-cool resource they offer that I previously didn’t know about: their film and theology resources.

Mars Hill evidently has these awesome event things where they get together, watch a movie, and talk about how the story in the movie mirrors emotions, hopes, truths, and other aspects that go along with the gospel.

SO COOL!

The only installment I’ve listened to goes along with the movie INCEPTION, which is one of my favorite movies ever.

And you know what I love about the idea of film and theology?

I love the joy you hear and even feel in the background of the audio, I love what it communicates about joy in God, and I love how this resource combines joy and  intellect that I, personally, struggle to combine in my relationship with God. I also love how it respects story. As a writer and reader, I understand my entire world through story, and I think, to some degree, so does everyone. There’s something inside of us that reaches out, empathizes, and lives vicariously through story. If not, why did God fill the Bible with stories?

🙂

Meet the Family…


Roommate Amy once told me about a guy she knew, who wanted to marry Julian of Norwich’s theology.

Which made me smile.

And it made me think, “Huh. Whose theology would I marry?”

And I always come back to the same conclusion:

If I could marry any man’s theology, it would be A.W. Tozer’s.

Only the Spirit can save us from the numbing unreality of Spiritless Christianity.Only the Spirit can show us the Father and the Son. Only the inworking of the Spirit’s power can discover to us the solemn majesty and the heart ravishing mystery of the Triune God.”

~God’s Pursuit of Man pg. 94

And if our theologies had babies, they would be called Rose and Skit:

We would raise Rose and Skit on a healthy diet of Daddy’s books for wisdom, and Mama’s books for joy.

And J.K. Rowling’s, J.R.R. Tolkien’s, George Orwell’s, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s, Joseph Heller’s… okay, they’ll be raised on a lot of books. 🙂

And every night before they go to bed, we’ll play J.J.Heller’s “Boat Song”

Because RUNAWAY BUNNY is a brilliant children’s book that everyone should read, and J.J. couldn’t have turned it into a better song. Maybe we’d read the book to them every night too 🙂