Late this afternoon I stopped at a coffee shop to finish up my work day. It seems that a lot of Christians like to meet a coffee shops to discuss and discover deeper aspects of their faith. Today was no exception. It’s not that I was trying to overhear their conversation, because I wasn’t. I was trying to concentrate on my work, but their voices kept breaking into my reality. In fact, their conversation was inescapable for anyone in the shop — including those of us seated on the other side of the room.
Two men met up just as I was arriving. One appeared to be a recent college graduate who was looking for a job. The other appeared to be around 30. There was a bit of banter about C.S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia as they stood in line — even the barista joined in with commentary of her own. They continued to discuss Lewis as they sat down but soon branched out to cover other authors of religious writings. From there they moved to Scripture and theology. There were three things about their interaction that I found interesting. Early on I noticed the role that each individual took. The older took on the role of wise
mentor guardian to the younger. The younger implicitly accepted anything and everything that fell from the lips of the guardian. Second, any author whose writings fell outside outside of the guardian’s fairly narrow evangelical view was deeply suspect and to be avoided. Third, the guardian was very sure of his Biblical interpretation and his theology. From time to time he would wax eloquent with great passion correcting and then instructing his young charge on how he should believe. There was no doubt or question, he knew the truth — and the truth is seen in black and white.
I remember when I was that sure. When it was all so simple, when I had all the answers and the truth was black and white. A time when I parroted the truths I learned from my guardians to the proteges that were under my tutelage. A time before I really began to wrestle with God, with life, with the harshness of the world within which we live. A time when I thought I was living by faith, but truth be told, was more likely living by someone else’s faith. A time when I shied away from authors who were not aligned closely enough with my faith for fear that their influence might somehow “corrupt” my belief system and turn me away from God. A time when my God was too small. A time when my God was hemmed in by the boundaries of a specific theology of a specific subset of a subset within the universal Church.
But life broke my theological boundaries and God escaped. And when I went to find him, I found riches untold outside the borders that I had constructed. I found that instead of providing protection, those boundaries had stunted my spiritual growth. That God had endowed men and women from other faith traditions with a wealth of wisdom, knowledge and insight through which I could draw into closer relationship with him. I also learned to not be so sure of myself, of my answers, of my understanding. And I learned to be patient in the pursuit of truth. To allow time for God to speak, to lead, to guide.
I am glad I now live in a world of uncertainty, for it is a world where God can be God. A world where God can go exceedingly and abundantly beyond anything I could ever ask, hope, wish or think. A world where he can work in me and through me in ways that I could never imagine. All I have to do is say “yes” to the journey.
On to the journey.