Becoming Christian has it’s challenges. It’s not like joining AA where there’s an easily discernible program to follow and everyone is pretty much on the same page. Becoming Christian means wading into a morass of strong opinions and varying interpretations. The people and leaders and doctrines are often conflicted within the breadth of the Christian spectrum. Trying to find my place is, at times, confusing and frustrating and hard. I’m grappling with some tough questions straight out of the gate.
Here’s a case in point. One reason Christ calling me has been exciting is because, after a life time of agonizing over why I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to do, I’ve been given my calling. I want to pastor others and go into ministry.
Pastoring is a well fitted vocation for me and the absolute best utilization for the gifts God has given. Thinking of using my life to pastor fills me with inspiration and a joyful dedication to servitude. It’s a match made (literally) in heaven. It’s perfect… except for the fact that I don’t have a penis.
It’s amazing how quickly verses from Timothy & Corinthians were brought to my attention when I began to share my new found aspiration with others. According to Paul (who was given the lion’s share of copy space in the Bible) women must live quietly, submit to our husbands and never speak out in church. We certainly are not to exercise any type of spiritual or teaching authority over a man.
What to do? What to do? I feel called to teach and minister in spite of the fact that I’m a woman. Furthermore, I’m a dyed in the wool sinner with the past to prove it. Does that mean I’ve got to throw in the towel on this dream?
Many people argue that women leaders are not recognized by God because that’s what Paul wrote. Others build the case that it’s perfectly fine for women to lead, citing the lives of various women throughout the bible and making allowances for the times in which the scriptures were written. Can I follow my calling and still be a good Christian? Some say yes, some say no. It’s a tough question.
Next is the issue of homosexuality. ‘Leviticus Leviticus Leviticus’ is the chant on the conservative side. The more liberal Christians get so far as ‘love the sinner but hate the sin’. I don’t fall in line with either of those.
I have homosexual friends and family members so it’s a personal subject for me. I’ve always been one to stand up for equality and advocate for human and civil rights for the LGBT community. Am I now to begin judging my homosexual friends and family as sinful? Is that why Christ chased me down?
The truth is, after much prayer and earnest contemplation, I don’t believe homosexuality is a sin any more than I believe skin color is. Gay people are born gay. It isn’t a choice. How do I know? Because that’s what my gay friends and family tell me and they’re the experts. Can I still stand with my friends and family, advocate for equality, and be a good Christian? A few say yes, many say no. It’s a tough question.
Since entering the Christian community I’ve been confronted with conflict surrounding my tolerance and support of women, gay people, yoga, muslims, all other religions, AA, vegetarianism, the environment, and various other beliefs. At the risk of settling for a blanket statement predicated on perceptions slightly askew, I could surmise that tolerance (or at least tolerance without conditions) is a very unchristian trait. Luckily, I’m learning not to make blanket statements about entire segments of society.
The larger part of the story is that most of the Christian people I’ve met have opened their arms wide to me with kindness, service and enthusiasm.The relationships I’m building, opportunities being presented, acceptance, and care I’m receiving from the community are truly remarkable.
I’ve found a group wherein I can openly worship God and deepen my relationship to Him. I’ve found a place that gives me hope in the raising of my children. I’ve found purpose, belonging, and growing support within a good community. My gratitude is beyond what words can convey for the consideration I’ve been shown since becoming Christian.
My predicament is found here. In almost all Christian churches and educational institutions doctrine states that we believe the bible is the incontrovertible word of God. After reading the bible, I believe that to be true. The question for me lies in how God intends for us to use his word.
In my view the bible is a living text and more akin to a language or a musical instrument than a ‘how to’ or an owners manual. The bible has the ability to speak to us individually, personally. It’s the tome God uses to convey what he wants us to hear when the roar of the world obscures his whisper in our hearts. I love spending time with scripture and using that medium to communicate with the Lord.
However, to take the bible at face value is something I think we can all agree isn’t possible. We aren’t going to stone each other and we don’t sacrifice animals and take eyes for eyes and teeth for teeth. We also don’t sell all of our worldly possessions in order to give to the poor and live communally, solely praying and ministering to those less fortunate, and spreading the good news day in and day out. Facts are, we’ve relaxed the bulk of the mandates found in both the old and the new testaments.
So where is the line? Which precepts are to be kept and which are to be tossed out? Why are homosexuality and women in ministry hot button issues, but divorce and GMO foods taken in stride? Are these lines in the sand really based upon defending the word of God? Or do they have more to do with personal and cultural preference and mores? These are tough questions.
For now, I’ve decided I feel more comfortable asking Christ to forgive me for pastoring others than for living a life in silence after I know about His goodness and grace. I’m more comfortable asking Christ to forgive me for loving and supporting my gay brothers and sisters than for being hurtful to people who really don’t need any more hurt in their lives. I’m hedging my bets that Christ will be OK with this stuff and I really hope I’m right. My eternal soul is riding on it.
In answer to these tough questions, I’m going to do my very best to live out the life that God created me to live. I’m going to follow my dreams. I’m going to stand up for tolerance. Most of all, I’m going to love God with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my strength and trust that He will love me right back.