Jul 272012
 

*first published two years ago….

I write this essay with fear and trembling, and with fervent prayers that it will be accepted as merely a description of our personal faith, and not a suggestion for anyone else.

I believe that Jesus was God and also God’s son, and that every word He said is The Truth, and that He lives and loves and breathes life into the hopeless.

I don’t believe that there is another human being on Earth who is more or less worthy of His love than I.

My commitment to Jesus and His way of life does not compel me to try to convert other people, ever. I assume that others’ spiritual experiences are every bit as real and sacred to them as mine are to me. If I seem different to someone and she asks why, I tell her all about my Jesus, without agenda. If not, I just assume I’m not being different enough to cause a stir. And I continue to stay as close to Him as possible, knowing that He is the Alchemist, and that everyday He’s making me more golden.

I love my Jesus.

My love for Jesus means that every day I open myself up to becoming more gentle, generous, truthful, and compassionate. Because I love Jesus I allow myself to be constantly used up…trying never to hoard the money, time, or energy for tomorrow that is needed today. My love for Jesus means that I try to see Him in every person I encounter…even, especially, the people I don’t like. My love for Jesus means that while I look forward to a heavenly afterlife, I concern myself mainly with inviting heaven to Earth now, by loving like Jesus loved- recklessly, without reservation, without judgment. My love for and utter trust in Jesus compels me to attempt a life without guilt, pride, or fear. He gives me the courage to live out what I profess to believe…that it is always right to turn the other cheek, to avoid gossip, to tell the truth, to side with the poor, oppressed, and outcast, to give till it hurts, and to live like the only power worth having is the power that comes from service, vulnerability, and dependence on Him.

My husband and I want to live like Jesus did more than we want anything else. Not because we are good people, but because we are thrill seekers. We want to suck every drop out of life and live lives of adventure. We don’t want to settle for small dreams, like more and bigger and better stuff. We want to live out bigger dreams… life changing, world changing dreams. We want to live on the edge, to witness miracles, to align ourselves with the energy of the universe. Judging from our past experiences, we feel most alive when we live Jesus’ way. And Jesus’ way is the reckless, senseless, revolutionary love that tends to make people uncomfortable. Jesus’ way is siding with the powerless, always. Jesus’ way is subversive and countercultural and counterintuitive. And this sort of thing suits us. We fancy ourselves rebels with a cause, if you will. So we try to keep everything liquid…our hearts, our plans, our money, our opinions, even some of our beliefs …and we listen for his guidance. We pray for the patience to stay when he says stay and the courage to jump when he says jump. We prefer jumping to staying, so we notice He makes us practice staying a whole lot. And we hear from Him all the time. We feel his peace and love like mighty arms wrapped around us and we experience his guidance like lighthouse beams through stormy skies. We know what He wants from us always. And we trust Him completely.

And when we hear Christians concerning themselves publicly about anything other than poverty and disease and hunger and oppression and violence – we turn away. Because really, who has the time?

Craig and I are also committed to knowing everything we can about other spiritual practices and religions. We read about Buddha and the Koran and the Bhagavad-Gita and we are comforted to see the same truths repeated again and again throughout every great religion. We find, like we always do when we look closer, that we are all more similar than we are different. We don’t allow extremists from any faith to scare us away from that truth. We teach yoga and meditation to our children as spiritual practices. We think there are some things that Eastern religions do better than mainstream Christianity, like helping their followers find stillness and the connection between the mind, body, and spirit. So we go to them for guidance and help in areas we find lacking in our spiritual experience. We believe that the whole world is God’s and everything in it and that there is beauty to experience everywhere. We teach our children that we respect and learn about all religions, and we explain to him why we choose to worship only Jesus. We tell them that Jesus is our religion. No denomination- just Jesus. We teach and show our children how Grace changes everything. We pray, every night, that they and Jesus find each other, but we explain that whatever path they choose, they are to respect and seek to understand those on other paths. And they are to assume that other’s spiritual experiences are likely every bit as real as theirs are. We hope that this commitment to educating our children about different faiths will result in their faith decisions being based on knowledge and freedom.

And now I’ll hit the biggies, so hold on to your little hat (or Yamaka or habit or hijab or what have you).

No, we don’t think that everyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus is going to hell, and we don’t allow anyone to suggest that to our children. If you do believe that, we love you just the same.

Yes, we believe that a church should not only tolerate but embrace every person who seeks refuge there…every race, background, or sexual orientation – without trying to change them. Based on our reading and research, this is what we believe Jesus would have done. We realize that there are parts of the New Testament that suggest otherwise. We have studied these scriptures. We have read them in several translations, researched different denominations interpretations, and sought insight from wise teachers. In the end we have decided to accept that there are inconsistencies in the human translations and understanding of these passages rather than accept that there are inconsistencies in our God’s perfect love. And we have decided that Jesus’ ultimate teaching was that there is no law that supersedes the law of love.

Finally, we believe that God can speak to us on our couch in our pajamas as clearly as He can speak to a group of ministers at a convention. So we read the Bible together… we’ve read every word of the Bible. Even those really long painful lists in the Old Testament. We read the Bible every day. We don’t accept secondhand information about our friends and we won’t accept it about our God. We always go to the source. And when making decisions about what scripture means we seek counsel, and then we pray, and we listen. Then we decide for ourselves what God is saying to us through the Bible. Just me, Craig, Jesus, and His Word. No other mediator is invited. We must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. And when we don’t understand a mystery of God, we say “We don’t know,” rather than accept someone else’s interpretation. I actually wish all people of faith would say “I don’t know” more.

It took us seven years and five moves to find a church that teaches the same things about Jesus’ divinity and acceptance and boundless love that we teach our children. We had to leave churches we’d settled into, people we called family, students I taught in Sunday school, families we’d grown with and cried with and loved. But when faced with teachings that didn’t match our understanding of Jesus, we had to keep moving. Because we couldn’t shake the hunch that where you worship makes a statement, to the world and to your children, about whom you worship.

We finally found our new church home, St. Anne’s Episcopal, several months ago. St. Anne’s is part of the progressive Christian Church. When I walked into the sanctuary, I saw people of all races, ages, and economic groups. There were people in African garb and Saris and Abercrombie. It seemed the only thing these people could possibly have in common was Jesus. And this realization made my heart split open immediately. Within the first five minutes of the message, the minister mentioned that he’d just returned from India where he’d been learning from the Hindus and worshipping Jesus in mosques. He spoke with love and passion and gentleness, not with the zeal and intensity that sometimes feels more like defensiveness and snobbery than love to me. He talked about things I think Jesus would have cared about, like health care for all and feeding the hungry. His eyes were so kind that they reminded me of how Jesus’ might have looked, had he been allowed to age a couple more decades.

Near the end of the service, he asked the newcomers to introduce themselves. The second I stood up I started crying and I couldn’t pull it together. I felt like I had found a path home after a long, scary walk in a very confusing forest. Everyone smiled encouragingly and compassionately, because that’s their job at church. Actually, that’s always their job. After I sat down, two women stood with their beautiful daughter and explained that they were going to make St. Anne’s their church home. Apparently they felt truly welcome and loved at St. Anne’s. I cried harder. This couple hasn’t spoken to me since that morning, understandably. I’m not concerned. I know I’ll win them over, eventually. Like Jesus and olives, I am an acquired taste.

I find that every time I keep myself open to hearing from someone else about their relationship with God, especially if it’s very different than mine, I learn something new and important. It’s almost like God designed things that way.

So anyway, that’s all…I’m a yoga loving, Koran quoting, Ghandi following, church hopping, child of Jesus.

And my sister and I are in the process of deciding which scripture to get tattooed on our wrists. We can’t decide between “Be Still” and “Here I am.” Because we like to keep our Jesusy edge.

And I vote for whichever guy or gal seems the likeliest to take the underdog in a fight. Regardless of what faith or party he or she professes.

Also I’m quite short, if you must know.



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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  170 Responses to “On Faith”

  1. […] authentic faith community, and the seeming contradictions we encounter in seeking them all, as Sam and many others have described.  I understand.  I have been among those who felt judged or worse, […]

  2. I’m having a little cry over here, reading these powerful words. What a gift it is to read the words of my heart! Dear friend – thank you. Thank you! Wish I could go to church with you!

  3. Amen! You have literally spoke the words that are in my heart. Thank you. This post will be an inspiration for me as we baptize my son in two weeks. Jesus is love. Love, love, love!

  4. Thank you so much for writing this! I grew up in an extremely conservative church. I knew no one who wasn’t the same religion as me. I went to church school as well so it was really like living in a tiny little box. It was very heavily stressed that you must be a certain way. Being an individual was not ok at all. I dreaded church every week. Every Friday afternoon I felt stressed knowing church was the next day (we worshiped on Saturday). Every Saturday afternoon I was relieved because it was a whole week till I had to go again. The pastor talked a lot about hell, I was pretty sure I’d end up there because I couldn’t seem to feel the same way about God as everyone else did. When I was about 7 my Mum found my crying and asked what was wrong. I said, “I don’t love Jesus.” I knew this meant something terrible for me. At 18 ( as soon as I dared) I stopped going to church. My parents were very upset.

    At 21 I picked up a camera and heard God say quite clearly, “This is how I will reveal myself to you.” I learned about faith through art because art is all about faith in my opinion. You are always having faithless moments where you worry all your good ideas have been used up and nothing else is coming. But the tide always ebbs and flows and that’s ok. I am now almost 36 and I still don’t go to ‘church’ except that I do because God is everywhere. And finally I know He loves me because at the worst time of my life He told me so, so clearly that I couldn’t deny it.

    I love the sound of your new Church. I never experienced a church that let you be you. That idea is incredible to me! I honestly didn’t think it existed. I LOVE knowing that it does. I wish I could meet you there. Thank you so much for your honesty and beautiful real writing. You kind of saved me today x x

  5. LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE this.

  6. Love does win! I so agree with that. I wish I could say all people are going to heaven. I struggle with the fact that God loves everyone and created everyone, so why isn’t everyone going to heaven? God’s word is clear that Jesus is the way (period). I like to know about other religions. I would not encourage my children to make Buddha their God. They would have no eternal security. Jesus is the only way. I did not design salvation, God did. By faith and God’s rich grace an mercy , I get it, I don’t like the fact that there is a heaven and hell, but I choose to believe.
    2 Timothy 4:3
    For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
    My prayer:
    Holy Spirit help us to interpret your word so that we can accurately proclaim your word.

    • Well said, Elaine. I heartily agree with you that the scriptures are clear that Jesus is the only way, truth and life and that all who believe in Him are going to heaven. I love the way you put it, “I did not design salvation, God did.”
      The topic of why not all people believe and therefore are not going to heaven is an often debated and struggled with topic, simply because it is emotionally difficult to accept. Here is an excerpt that may help with your understanding of it, the following states it better than I could:

      Many hearers of the Word indeed remain unconverted and are not
      saved, not because God does not earnestly desire their conversion and salvation, but solely because they stubbornly resist the gracious operation of the Holy Ghost, as Scripture teaches, Acts 7:51; Matt. 23:37; Acts 13:46.

      As to the question why not all men are converted and saved, seeing that God’s grace is universal and all men are equally and utterly corrupt, we confess that we cannot answer it. From Scripture we know only this: A man owes his conversion and salvation, not to any lesser guilt or better conduct on his part, but solely to the grace of God. But any man’s nonconversion
      is due to himself alone; it is the result of his obstinate resistance against the
      converting operation of the Holy Ghost. Hos. 13:9.

  7. You make some good points in this essay, such as the fact that there are a lot of things we don’t know or don’t have answers for, which we simply must leave to God, trusting in His wisdom that He has not shown us that knowledge for some good reason.

    The issue I take is with the idea that God would allow inconsistencies in his Word, the Bible, to occur over time. God is not restrained by time as we humans are, and so I don’t believe He would allow His Word to be affected by the damages of time either. I don’t believe in taking parts out of the Bible that you don’t want to believe because they are hard to accept or understand, or in taking verses out of context either. I believe Timothy when he writes “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” I simply don’t doubt God’s power and His ability to protect his Word through divine inspiration and centuries of interpretations. It takes a childlike faith in a world full of skeptics to believe He would not allow that to happen, and that He doesn’t expect us to make up our own truths or ideas, and figure out what is correct in His Word and what is not, but that He provides His Word as an inerrant, divinely inspired truth. There are varying interpretations, but none so major that they would affect the clear truths shown in the law and gospels, and would negatively affect how people are led to God by faith. Even if a person reading misunderstands, if they don’t fully understand, they can come to God in prayer asking for an understanding, and trusting His truth, even if it hurts to hear it.
    Also, while Jesus was a revolutionary in His time, that doesn’t make all revolutionary ideas and actions ok, because there are still false prophets out there twisting the Word of God and misleading Christians. I believe that He meant what He said when He said that “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:18) and “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinth. 4:4) I know people do not like to hear things about religious rules and discipline, but I believe God is a God of order, and brings commandments and rules to us for our own benefit, so that we can serve Him better, an idea which ironically causes chaos and disagreements among family and people throughout the world, but he has called us to walk a narrow path, turning our back on the ways of the world, putting Him above everyone else, family, friends, and even our own emotional feelings towards people. We are called to serve Him and be courageous in doing so. Sometimes we serve people best simply by providing their basic needs, and other times we serve people best by not giving them what they want, but what is best for them, like God does for us so often-although we don’t always realize it at the time. There is a spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-20) that we cannot pretend to ignore simply because the idea might make us uncomfortable. We are called to joy, love, and peace, not as we define them, but as God defines them. We are also called to have patience, kindness, and forgiveness in our sharing of Christ and to endure suffering and persecution that we face in order serve Christ, even while enduring temptation or sadness.
    He came to bring light to a dark world, and give us the truth. And now that we have heard that truth we have no excuse not to follow it, all people who have heard this truth are responsible to receive the consequences if we choose to reject God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness, not allowing Him to lead us in a new way of life, bringing about good actions through faith in His strength. If we reject Him, He is not the one sending us to condemnation, but we send ourselves. He alone is responsible for our salvation, but we alone are responsible for our condemnation and the consequences for our sin. There cannot be good without bad, and we cannot ignore the fact that there is sin out there. God doesn’t ask us to save ourselves, He just wants us. But nevertheless, because we were created in His image, we do have free will, and because of that we have the ability to sin (even though we shouldn’t even consider it an option), and therefore evil came into the world. Jesus died so that we don’t have to face eternal punishment for our sins, but as Jesus says in John 15:22, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin.” He died to save us from our sin, so that we would be forgiven and dead to sin. But this does not mean that we should continue living the way we want or did before:

    “We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done. For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”
    ~Romans 3:22-23

    “God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful kindness became more
    abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful kindness rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
    ~ Romans 5:20-21

    “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more kindness and forgiveness? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?…Our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.” ~ Romans 6:1-2, 6

    “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord…” ~ Romans 7:25

    • “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” Matthew 7:13

    • In Revelation 22:19 it says
      “And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” The question is, how can we be sure that this hasn’t already happened? What if someone messed it up along the way? We can’t prove the truths of Christianity with evidence, we can only know the truth by faith.
      We trust in God and know by faith that He hasn’t allowed His true Word to fall into the wrong hands, and hasn’t allowed anyone to change the Bible drastically from the original translation without it being known that it was an “annotated” version of the Bible. We all have eternity and truth written on our hearts and conscience. God’s Will speaks to us with a quiet whisper, but if we train ourselves to listen, we can hear it…but we must be alert and wary of the devil who also sneaks around trying to put other voices into people’s thoughts.

      Like Matthew says in 5:18: “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” That is God’s promise to us that we can trust EVERYTHING His Word says without doubt, because if we can’t trust even one verse of it, why trust any of it? It’s all or nothing.

  8. Glennon. You are a true gem and I cannot even begin to thank you for this post. In light of all the “religious” turmoil over chicken, gymnasts, and elections in the last few weeks, I feel so lighted and blessed to read your words as if they were my own.

    I’m a cradle Episcopalian and am so glad you’ve found a home in my denomination. We are a crazy fun bunch. If you go to St. Anne’s in Reston, I’d love to invite you some Sunday to St. John’s in Bethesda, 5pm, for our weekly informal service, you’d fit right in.

    (Btw-My boyfriend read your post and asked if we could have lunch with you because you are just so amazing.)

    Thank you for your gifts and for the commentators of the blog who have lovely, thoughtful, theoglogically hard discussions. It is great to be in a community of love.

    LOVE WINS.

  9. […] I need to put down the electronics in front of my kiddo).  Anyways, I stumbled across a post from Momastery.com.  A wonderfully inspiring woman named Glennon writes this blog, and her particular post that day […]

  10. I love this! Thank You!

  11. It seems like the long version of: No one has perfect understanding but God is the one who knows our hearts and how it seeks him. But I appreciate your explanation of your beliefs which I share.

    I can only hope that your one line “He talked about things I think Jesus would have cared about, like health care for all and feeding the hungry” doesn’t mean you support those who want to force us all to care about this through a wasteful government approach. We have always believed in caring for others through the charity of OUR choice, not yours or anyone else’s, and especially not through a government that shouldn’t be deciding who is truly needy. Governments waste all that money through administrative costs. I prefer not for profits who have many volunteers and are funded strictly by CHOICE. Food for the Poor, Smile Train, Doctors without Borders Etc… I can only hope your CHOICE isn’t through forced government programs since government is NOT a charity and shouldn’t be in that business. That would be just as bad as forcing a particular religion down someone’s throat. Any church that would teach otherwise is just plain wrong and completely un-biblical.

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