Mustard Seeds are for the Rejects

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A couple of years ago, during a fall that I now call the very exhausting time, I walked out of my college house after one am, wrapped in my bedroom blanket, and crawled into the backyard hammock.

 

It had been a season that I was set on separating God from Christians, God from Christian Culture, God from Church, God from the- twenty years in the making- stone cold statue of anger peering down on me. I was trying to remake him. Trying to really see Him.

 

It was also a season when several pastors took to their pulpits and said really hateful things. Things that went viral in the media. And in the heat of it, my fingers slipped and that cold box of God and of Church and of Bad fell back into place again. They were completely indistinguishable from one another.

 

So I pressed God on this that night. I was angry that there were those who out there that had felt His call to ministry and yet, also felt the need to call for gays to go into concentration camps. I was confused as to how these men scattered about the nation could claim the same God that I did, the same faith that I did, it made no sense… and then, at once, I felt it. That great fear snaking it’s way through my mind, the one that hissed, God is with them, He is not with you.

 

Needing answers, I begged, and I begged and I begged for him to respond. When the silence went unbroken, I cursed him. Told him that was that. Farewell to this faith. Good Luck with things. And then I stared out at the sky, letting my mind wander distant, all the way to the moon. Letting loneliness encircle me, because I finally knew it to be true. God was not for me.

 

“I’m not like them” I heard.

 

I nearly flipped out my hammock.

 

No, it wasn’t a voice outside of myself, it wasn’t carried in the wind or written in the sky. But I heard it inside. I heard it like a foreign voice, a powerful voice, one that tore through my helplessness. One that whispered into my worn out heart. One that filled me with a light I had never felt before.  It was mystical, and holy and it stopped me from me leaving this faith forever.

 

~

 

I know why you look like that, head tilted and brow scrunched, perhaps you’ve already clicked over to a new screen, and that’s okay. It is okay to question it. The truth is, I often do so myself.

 

I take out this moment and hold it beneath the light of logic and scripture and my own recollections of the moment. I ask myself, really trying to be objective, “did it happen? Did God speak to me in an inner whisper?” If I am most honest I will say, I just don’t know. And it’s true, I don’t.

 

But what I do know is how fast I was falling, I was falling and those five words dropped down like a rope. Like a breaking in of the cosmos. Like words I had been waiting my whole life to hear.

 

~

 

Choosing to live part of your life in the Christian blogging world brings on the burden of existing in both the light and the dark of it. Sometimes, it can be too much for me. It can become impossible to separate God from Unkind Christians.

 

I read Mark Driscoll as he clubs away at an entire group of people, as he draws Jesus with a sword and an unquenchable thirst for blood; I see John Piper tweeting comments that my faith isn’t actually real, that I should not be part of the body. I am acutely aware of how large the audience is, millions of devoted followers, and the pall of their persuasive rhetoric makes the target on my back feel all the larger.

 

Too often, instead of agreeing to disagree, calmly remembering that their interpretation is only one of God, that their followers are critical thinkers and the Spirit speaks to them too, instead of being rational- I write off the faith altogether. I close myself off from the body and unfairly cast God amongst the worst of it. I drift away.

 

Last week, when Sarah Bessey wrote a post about what gives her hope in the faith, it struck me deeply, in such a profound way. It made me think not so much about what gives me hope, but what keeps my faith surviving in a Church that is often cold to anyone atypical.

 

I recalled the words of Jesus when he said to his followers, individuals exhausted in their efforts to hold faith in a world of cold, that belief could be scarce, small as a mustard seed, and yet- powerful enough to move mountains.

 

And it’s that middle way of God. The nature of the personal connection to him. We come small, short of hope, and he grows us into something large, despite the world around us.

 

I am learning that my faith is enough. I am learning that some fleeting moments are resilient enough, strong enough to grow into a strong tree, defiant to the sharp climate that is sometimes Christianity. And it starts with those small seeds of faith.

 

My pouch of seeds includes the mystical moment in which God told me he was not like them, because I have hard time believing in a loving God when I see Christians who behave as if he doesn’t. Act as if I am too much for God.

 

I keep a seed of my freshmen night in college: I am sitting on the floor in the central lobby while the RA’s and RD’s act out the dorm rules in skits, talk about things like “everybody poops” and keeping the door ajar when the opposite sex is present, and then RD got serious. Looked out at all of us and said, “Gay doesn’t mean stupid. It doesn’t mean ugly or less than or bad. I have zero tolerance for Christians throwing around that word as an insult.” And it was the first time in a setting with my peers that I felt safe.

 

I have a seed that sings Song of Songs 2, the intimate, immortal lines of “arise my darling, my beautiful one, come away with me. See the Winter has past, the rains are over and gone, flowers appear over the earth, the season of singing has come.” Time and time again these words have been the wall that keeps the titanic darkness from crashing in. I cannot read them aloud without crying.

 

These are the things that keep the heart of my faith beating, thriving, defiant in an often inhospitable Christian climate. These seeds quiet the world. They  wash away the dirtied up God until I can finally see his eyes. Until I feel his safety.

 

And in this time of extreme conditions for the Christian community, these moments are becoming my makeshift sanctuary, set up way out here in the wilderness. A place where God and I can sit together, growing this faith one holy moment to the next.

 

what keeps your faith alive?

  • I wish I could take your hand right now, as an act of worship, and we could raise them to the God who loves as we are.

  • Olivia Faix

    Ben,
    Thank you for these beautiful words. Thank you for sharing how God has reached out to you during times of crisis. I want to drive out to Minnesota just to give you a hug. We could go out to the wilderness, away from all the voices like clanging symbols, and let Him remind us how beloved we are. We could sing songs of hope, like this one here. I hope you are well, friend.
    Hugs from your sister in Christ.

  • SurvivorGirl

    Dearest RR/Ben (but always RR to me!): When I first happened upon your blog, I’m pretty sure I read the story of God’s whispering this to you, and it made ALL the difference in my hanging in there with God AND with my son (in tandem). ALL THE DIFFERENCE. I’m so thankful that you’ve blogged about it again; my soul needed to see those words. 🙂

  • Carol Vinson

    I too have been holding onto those verses from Song of Songs. Such hope and beauty there… Again, your words move me. Thank you for showing beauty in the hard things.

  • “God from the- twenty years in the making- stone cold statue of anger peering down on me. I was trying to remake him. Trying to really see Him.”

    These words friend. These are beautiful. Walking with you through this place.

  • timblok

    This reminded me of one of my favorite Christmas carols, Elizabeth Poston’s “Jesus Christ The Apple Tree” (http://youtu.be/iPJBFYuUWvY). The last verse especially: “His fruit doth make my soul to thrive / It keeps my dying faith alive.” Thank you for writing this – sometimes it feels like I’ve only got a few seeds at my disposal, and it’s good to think back on those moments when my confusion fell away.

  • Greta

    As one who tries to humbly follow Christ, it can be a challenge to separate the one I love from those who also follow Him. Christ is a message of love and those who spew hatred “in the name of Christ” must practice the art of holding up a mirror before casting stones. It saddens me that their voice is often louder and stronger than the voice of truth. Love is love, no matter the shade. When I take time to self reflect I quickly realize all that needs to be worked on from within first. It’s then that tiny little seed of faith can take in good soil. When we hear the voice of the Almighty speaking in the still of quiet. Thank you for your honesty, your seed is blooming and moving mountains! I so appreciate your voice!

  • Aidan Bird

    This is beautiful and heart-warming.

    There’s been so many times where I would walk outside and walk in the forest near where I lived (or was living at that time) or walked by a lake and just pore out my soul to God, hoping desperately for an answer. Hoping that God is different from the hatred I so often see in those that claim to follow God. My faith is tenuous to the point of fracturing, and I can no longer say with confidence that I do believe. Because in all actuality, a part of me has nearly given up. I’m tired of the fight. People are too eager to go to battle, to fight until no one but them is left standing, and so many are hurt and cast aside because of it. If I stand up I will be beaten down with stones until I just don’t have the energy to stand anymore.

    This reminds me of Firefly. Don’t know if you’ve seen it, but there’s a quote that stuck with me and helped remind me of how important it is to have a community. It’s in an episode where they find an old friend, Tracy was his name, from the war, and the kid recites something Captain Mal and Zoey had said to him many times: “When you can’t run, you crawl. And when you can’t crawl, when you can’t do that, you find someone to carry you.” And it’s so true. Sometimes in life you reach a point where you can’t run anymore, then you can’t walk anymore, and so you just start to crawl forward, trying hard to just keep going with what little to have, and then, sometimes, there reaches a point where you just can’t even do that. My Christian friend always tells me that God will provide, and I don’t know about that anymore. I just know that when you’re at your lowest point, when your suffering is at your greatest, that’s when you discover your real friends. The loyal ones that actually care. Those are the people who are willing to help carry you until you can walk again, and that’s the person I try to be when I’m in a place where I can stand on my own. Sadly, in my life, the majority of those people weren’t Christians.

    So when I read your words it gives me hope and it gives me an important reminder. Hope that maybe God isn’t like those Christians that spend more time condemning with hatred and anger then they do reaching out with love. And a reminder that there is Christians out there like you. People who try to live a life of love, and are willing to help carry those who can’t crawl anymore. Thank you for that.

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