Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Reading the Bible with my Glasses Off

i feel my{self} disengaging  #365days #365daysof31 #tajselfie #tajmagic

I am starting to read the Bible again.

I'm not sure if I told you that I'd stopped.  But I did.  Every time I'd open those gold-trimmed pages, I'd come across a string of words that would make my stomach swoop with nausea.  The kinds of words that abusers use to excuse their abusive actions.  I couldn't read God's word without it pouring salt into my deepest wounds.  Which made me think a lot of scary thoughts about God.

So I closed my Bible.  Walked away.  Looking for the holy in other texts, with other ways of seeing.  It hasn't even been that long of a sojourn.  But to my soul it's felt deep and far.

And now . . . I find myself staring at those Words again.

The abusive-sounding words?  They are still there.  They are still knife-edged, still grinding salt into pulverized flesh. 

But something is changing in me, I think.  I think.  (i hope.) 

I used to come at the Bible hard, looking for absolutes.  But now . . . it's all feeling a lot more fluid.   Less about the bottom line, or the party line.

deep inhale... #365days #365daysof31

I used to squint and frown and peer at the wispy pages, and now it's more of a letting go.  I try to let my eyes unfocus and read what's in between each line, what images shimmer beneath the garish and clumsy Sunday school pictures that my brain has paired with the verses.

I am mining for mysticism, for the divine not-knowing.  Scouring the familiar text for the sacred mystery that is the holy trinity.

Because if we are talking about the God who made everything -- our sticky innards and infinite glimmering galaxies and the Moeraki Boulders and my sweet son's eyelashes -- the pat answers and biblical cartoons painted in limited colors are soul-killingly wrong.  If we are talking about the God who made all life, uncountable everyday miracles, then the safe and santized way we (I) approach faith in the American church is cutting off our air.  If this is the God that we're talking about, if this master creator of a God is real . . . then the banal, Caucasian Jesus that I've constructed from my Bible reading and church going and do-gooding is devastatingly wrong.


I've been worshiping a Jesus of cardboard and glue, when really he is cosmic and wild and tastes of metal and smoke and wood.  He smells of sweat and dirt, lilacs and rain -- but that's not what I read in the Bible.

I really love having ink on my skin. it feels like a map. #365days #365daysof31  

I'm starting to think that maybe the Bible got some things wrong.  It's written by people, after all, and so the Word of God is filtering through ancient patriarchal synapses and styluses and two thousand swirling years of translation and opinion and editing.  But the heart of the message is as the sun's filigree warming my skin and the night doming wide and deep above me -- solid and great and majestic and mysterious.  It's in there, in the Bible, but it's paired with a whole lot of humanity.

So I let my vision go a bit blurry so that I can see Jesus through my baggage, through the writers' baggage.  And I am beginning to make out the edges of a form that is visceral and ecstatic and muscled and bright.   

This is Jesus at last, I think.  This is Who I have been seeking.  This is the Jesus I can and want to love and honor and talk with and worship and and ask forgiveness from and bow before and give my whole self to.  

He's not safe.  He won't live in my boxes.  But he is good.  I believe this. 

The questions are leading me Home.

I miss God. #iamthrashing #365days #365daysof31 #tajselfie

* * * 

If you are interested in exploring the dark places of faith, God, and mysticism, this upcoming new ecourse might be just what your soul is crying out for:

I may have just died of happiness. #thewildmystics

17 comments:

  1. i'm gutted.

    i sat with these words for a long while before I came to comment here. I sat with your bravery, your admittance that you don;t know everything, that you're taking slow steps back to where you once were. I'm drawn to something Brandy said -- the girls we once were are coming back to us. and in a way, that's what you're doing here. you're bringing that She-self back and you're setting her free.

    you're admitting that Jesus has wild things. and you're letting yourself BE ONE.

    i love you. i see you. you are my treasured and dearest friend, and i am holding your hand.

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    1. I love you.

      "the girls we once were are coming back to us." <~ I'm not sure how I feel about this. I think it's good...I think.

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  2. "So I let my vision go a bit blurry so that I can see Jesus through my baggage, through the writers' baggage.  And I am beginning to make out the edges of a form that is visceral and ecstatic and muscled and bright.   This is Jesus at last, I think.  This is Who I have been seeking.  This is the Jesus I can and want to love and honor and talk with and worship and and ask forgiveness from and bow before and give my whole self to.  He's not safe.  He won't live in my boxes.  But he is good.  I believe this.  The questions are leading me Home."

    This had me smiling with so much joy!! The bible was written by imperfect people like us-beautiful messes.

    PS- I linked to your post on my blog post published yesterday

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    1. I'm with you Jo. Those paragraphs had me smiling too! Beth, I understand all too well the pain that comes from picking up the Bible. From the starkness of the black on white with no gray in between. I take breaks when I know I'm not emotionally strong enough to read it. And I believe you have encapsulated exactly how many of us feel about the church, the Word, the writers and Jesus. Thank you for sharing in such a raw way.

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    2. Oh Paula. This: "From the starkness of the black on white with no gray in between. I take breaks when I know I'm not emotionally strong enough to read it." Yes.

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  3. Amen. I love that the Holy Spirit is chasing you. The more I learn about the Lord the more I realize He doesn't operate, so much, in laws like we may have been taught. He touched my friend's husband through a sitcom episode that some very good Christians might find wildly offensive, and restored their family. So random, but it is undeniable.

    I'm thankful for your honesty. Thankful even more for the God who isn't afraid of our big questions and wrestlings <3

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    1. I love that God works like that! Random, maybe, but relevant. Thanks, Sarah!

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  5. This statement... beautiful, raw, powerful: "I've been worshiping a Jesus of cardboard and glue, when really he is cosmic and wild and tastes of metal and smoke and wood. He smells of sweat and dirt, lilacs and rain" Yes, we would do well to remember this. "He is not safe... but he is good," is such an insightful conclusion. It is in this statement that our true freedom lies. I am uncomfortable with, "I'm starting to think that maybe the Bible got some things wrong. It's written by people, after all, and so the Word of God is filtering through ancient patriarchal synapses and styluses and two thousand swirling years of translation and opinion and editing. " I respectfully disagree with these words because I know that you can come to the same conclusions about the God that you have elegantly portrayed without questioning the authenticity of the Word that you are digging into to mine those images. If this is a God that can do all you listed, is he not a God who can ensure the accuracy of his Word. It is the same God that has given you new eyes to see those Words in their fullness. Is not questioning the validity of the Bible once again creating a box that you would like to put God in? A box whose sides perhaps encompass only the scriptures you are comfortable accepting? Then the question would beg to be asked, are you perhaps in danger of worshiping another Jesus because you are no longer worshiping the Jesus in the Word? I pray we can all consider these questions as we seek the Lord in his fullness of power, grace and glory.

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    1. Thank you so much, Karin! I love that the church is so diverse that we can disagree on some things and still worship and love and follow the same God.

      You posed the question: "If this is a God that can do all you listed, is he not a God who can ensure the accuracy of his Word?"

      I think that yes, if God can do all that I mentioned (and more), that He is absolutely is a God who can ensure the accuracy of His Word.

      But I know that even when I embraced the Bible as unadulterated, a direct-download-from-God, I did not live out that belief that the Word is 100% accurate. Because if I did, I think that I would have to embrace slavery. I'd have to embrace corporal punishment. I'd have to dress and wear my hair in very specific ways. And I didn't, because I didn't deem those things "relevant" any more. And I see a lot of Christians doing the same thing.

      I think that we all pick and choose from the Bible, whether we know it or not. I wasn't as aware of it before, and I don't think that was a good thing (for me). But now I am, and I am aware that I am currently reading the Word in a fairly unconventional way.

      I think you might find Rachel Held Evans' attempt to truly live out the Bible as literally as possible as described in her book A Year of Biblical Womanhood interesting. So grateful for you entering the conversation! <3

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    2. Thank you for your explanation. If I understand correctly, I hear you saying that your pursuit of understanding the scripture is through mystical and experiential processes rather than through scholarly approaches to interpreting the Word. I find it difficult to simply agree to disagree without offering a fair warning. A person should should not pursue a practice because it seems "desirable for gaining wisdom," (Gen. 3:6) without taking time to discern the spirit behind it, lest they fall into the deception of Eve. As you post your insight found while "reading the Word in a fairly unconventional way," on a Christian link-up, it seems you are offering a strange fire of belief in Jesus mixed with mysticism and possibly magick (which you kept fairly veiled). I believe that you misrepresented the host of this link-up by doing so.

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    3. I'm so sorry that you found my participation to be inappropriate and deceptive, Karin. It was not my intention to offend or scintillate, but to offer my imperfect prose on where I am in my fight for faith as well as to engage in the vital questions we as God-followers encounter about our Father and various facets our faith and the church. As far as labels, I do define myself as a Christian, a Jesus-lover, and a Christian mystic. I appreciate your willingness at engage with me.

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  6. LOVE this. I think I can relate a bit to what you say about God and have had some big transitions in my life and new discoveries. I do love One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I cried and felt inspired into my own way of believing. That being said, I've been led to other beliefs as well and I am now feeling strong enough in my Self to know it's okay to meld these beliefs together that feel so right and so real!

    Into the Mystics sounds wonderful and magickal. I will check it out.

    You're creations are inspirational and your words are alive!

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"I am glad you are here with me."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King