Tag Archives: Friends

the blessing of wrestling

This morning I was having breakfast with a few dear friends at Chick-fil-a.

Have you ever heard a more delicious beginning to a story?

We were sitting there communing over spicy chicken biscuits, frosted coffee (it’s ice cream you can have for breakfast!), and other delicious cuisine when we began discussing something that we mutually decided that we didn’t fully understand.  Apparently we must’ve not been too quiet because a man came up to our table and began to “explain” the topic that we had been wrestling with together.  He was speaking very confidently and using large hand gestures to reinforce his point.

In that moment, we did what people do when someone gives them unwanted explanation.  We waited until he was finished and nodded saying “that’s interesting, thanks.”  As he began to walk away, he looked back and said, “I’m a minister to men.”  I guess what he probably didn’t realize was that the four guys he was talking to are also identified as ministers by church title.  Of course, all followers of Jesus are called to be ministers to others.  Stating that he was a minister as he was walking away seemed to be his way of expressing that he was some sort of authority on the matter.  It was frustrating to me, but I couldn’t really understand why in the moment.

Whether or not this man was correct in his explanation is beside the point.  I guess I was bothered because sometimes we, especially those of us who are referred to as ministers, pastors, or teachers, can try and explain away the mystery of God.

Growing up in church is different than growing up outside the church and coming to faith later.  For me, growing up in church was an exercise in knowing about God.  I believed that I could know everything about God.  I believed that there was someone out there in the world who knew more about God than anyone else, some sort of super Christian or God’s right hand man.  In a way I believed that God delighted in people knowing his stats much like how I can recite the names and numbers of obscure former Tennessee Titans players.  I looked at my dad and thought, “He probably knows more about God than most anyone else, after all, he has a couple degrees in the Bible.  He carries around a Bible with an ancient language in it.”  I looked at my youth minister and thought, “He must know a lot about God, he teaches us twice a week!”

So going to a Bible college myself to study the Bible seemed like a great way to fill my brain with knowledge about God.  Surely that was pleasing to God.  A few years in to my studies in college, I had a harsh, semi-painful realization.  More study of the Bible was not answering all my questions, it was providing more difficult questions that were not as easy to answer.  There is a difference between knowing about God and knowing God.

Looking back, I can identify this as a period of some faith “deconstruction.”  Deconstruction is a word that I had never heard used as a healthy thing regarding faith.  Wouldn’t you want your faith to be constantly constructing!?  Always building taller and taller so that it may reach new heights?  I think this period of deconstruction is natural and happens to all of us in one way or another.  Luckily for me, I did then and still do find myself in communities that are affirming of my questions.

Think about all the times people asked questions of Jesus.  Time and time again people come to Jesus asking questions.  These questions have all kinds of motives, some seeking, some to trap him, and some rhetorical.  Time and time again, Jesus does not answer these questions with a concrete answer that removes the mystery, but instead Jesus answers with another question, tells a story, or remains silent.  Jesus was not a cookie cutter, fill-in-the-blank teacher.  Jesus was a teacher who asked probing questions with which His followers wrestled.

As a community of Christ followers, we must give both ourselves and each other space to have questions and not have answers.  Naturally this is terrifying because we are an anxious people who need to know everything all the time.  That’s why Google is a thing, right?  So we can just Google anything that we don’t know.  And even more than in other realms of our life, our churches can seem like groups of people with whom we are uncomfortable expressing doubt or posing a tough question.  Here’s the thing about that: people will wrestle with doubt and questions regardless, but will they do that in the context of a people who believe that God is big enough for our questions, or will they have to leave our faith communities to ask their questions? 

We cannot place God in a box.  I am a minister who works in a church, and guess what?  I don’t have all the answers.  I went and got that degree in “Theology and Ministry” and guess what?  I am right there wrestling with everyone else.

So let’s try something.  And I’ll try and do this as well.  Next time someone expresses a question or doubt, let’s not be so quick to answer.  Life following God is a mystery.  Let’s spend some time in awe of the mystery of the Almighty God.  I think we will find that there is a blessing in wrestling with God.

-Michael

 

 

 

 

AN ASIDE:

What is it with Chick-fil-a and people trying to explain deep mysteries of God with lackingly short and easy quips?  I once overheard a man at Chick-fil-a attempt to explain the Holy Trinity to a 12-year-old using the metaphor of a buffalo sauce packet.  Don’t get me wrong, I love buffalo sauce, but I think even buffalo sauce in all of its splendor pales in comparison to the Holy Trinity.

Advertisements

COMMUNITY. WE NEED IT.

So this summer, I’ve learned a lot. A lot about youth ministry, about life on the inside of a church, and a whole lot about myself. I’ve learned some of my strengths, that some things that I thought were strengths of mine are not quite to strength level, and I’ve discovered a lot about how I interact with people. I’ve also learned a lot about doing things on my own. Being away from home for a few months will do that. The more I have been on my own, the more I have realized that is not what God intended. God made us to be relational beings. From the beginning of time on this Earth, that has been evident.

 Genesis 2:18: “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”

In Genesis 2, God was talking about a woman, but I think this rule applies in every case. Not just that every man needs a woman, or wife (in fact, I really feel like the church does a terrible job with singleness, but that sounds like a different thought for a different time), but that every person needs another person. AT LEAST ONE. Some people need more than that.

Luckily, I have found people here in the area with whom I have gotten to share in community with. Everyone, wherever they are, needs people who care about them, and people that they care about. I have been fortunate to find that here in California, and I am even more fortunate to have the awesome support system that I have back in Nashville. That is what I look forward to most about returning to my homeland in a week. If you ask, I would tell you that I’m excited for the fall semester to start. That doesn’t mean that I’m excited for the 8 am classes, the tests, the papers, and the absurd amount of books I’m supposed to read (which reminds me, I still need to purchase those). What I’m excited for is the opportunity to build on the relationships that have already begun and to form the relationships still to be created.

Acts chapter 4 lays the blueprint for the life of a church.

32 All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. 33 The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. 34 There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them 35 and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.

36 For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. 37 He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles.”

What we have is not our own. Living in community with others helps us realize that. It’s one thing to hold on to your possessions when you don’t have any friends who go without. We (speaking to myself here) need to be in conversation and in life with those who are in need. It’s easy to help our friends, not as easy to help those we don’t know.

Over the weekend, I got to hang out with an awesome group of guys. On Friday we hit up Santa Cruz and San Francisco on Saturday. These guys are like me – they’re not perfect. It was great being around 4 other guys for those two days. Yes, we were seeing awesome sights and experiencing amazing places, but I would’ve still had a great time if we had just sat in the living room and hung out for two days. The constant good-natured teasing and joking, the conversations only a group of college age guys have, and the comradery among us was just what I needed.

In conclusion, we need community. We need other people to care about. We need other people to care about us. But above all, we desperately need Jesus, or none of this matters.

ALSO.

I have a great friend, Drue, who authored a beautiful piece on his blog regarding this same topic. You should check it out if you’ve got the time. “I was created to… COMMUNE

Also, I have grown quite fond of the band Rend Collective.  On their 2013 album, Campfire, they filmed a video on the making of their album and the community brought on by a campfire. It’s about six minutes long, so you should watch it if you haven’t. “The Campfire Story