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i've been thinking lately about how faith affects -- and/or should ideally affect -- my life. an excerpt from an email i recently wrote:

since becoming a christian i think i've swung from ultra-conservative borderline-fundamentalist, to ultra-relaxed borderline-weirdo, and now i'm finally finding a good balance as to what it means to be a christian without being ultra-anything. the older i get the more balanced i become in terms of theology, faith, love... and just good old-fashioned real life.

some days i start to wonder if what i dub "balance" and "normal christianity" is really just a disguise for laziness... blending in... not being true to my faith. and then some days ... i am reminded that faith has many different ways of showing its face... and that open-minded-but-grounded is just as valid a face as many others.

in my college parachurch circles, "sharing your faith in Jesus" was synonymous [in my cynical opinion and observation] with "spelling out the gospel message clearly and thoroughly and quite often without solicitation."

not that there's anything wrong with that.

it's just not my style.

i read a quote years ago that said something like, "don't let everyone know you're a christian, but when they find out, don't let them be surprised." and then there's ol' saint francis of assisi -- "preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words." now, THESE are the sorts of things that inspire me. which is not to say that i am the poster child for practical christian witnessing by ANY stretch of the imagination. but, you know? that's just some good stuff right there.

i believe i tried the Persuade Convince Share The Gospel Using All The Right Words in a Not At All Naturally Flowing Conversation once in college. as you can imagine, it didn't go very well. at the time i thought it was what i really needed to do, you know, advancing the kingdom of God and all that. now i look back and wonder, "what the hell was i thinking?"

this whole Jesus thing, i'm finding, is kind of hard to figure out. it's not shiny and neat. it's not packaged in a beautiful box with a gorgeous bow. unless you think wood, nails and blood are neat and beautiful, in which case i know several friends who happen to be counselors.

i was talking with a friend last night about an internal paradox of mine. an accountant by day, i am in many ways exactly what you would expect: neat. orderly. plan-centric. i like things to have answers, clear processes, a beginning and an end. but it has struck me lately how this flies in the face of my attitude towards christianity: i have reached the point where i've had just about enough of the illusion that everything is black and white. i'm a big believer in the gray. i'm a big believer in questions. i'm a big believer in doubt. [what?] i am comfortable with, and dare i say an advocate of, admitting I DON'T KNOW ABOUT  (insert biblical issue of the day here)  . see, that's not so hard, is it? say it with me now.

for clarification lest you worry: i believe Christ came to earth, fully man, fully divine, died on a cross, took away the sins of the world, and has offered that gift to jews and gentiles alike, an open invitation for those who choose to accept. this is the foundation of my faith.

after that, though, it seems most everything is an open debate. and, for whatever reason, I'M TOTALLY OKAY WITH THAT.

so this has spun off into a What's Wrong With Having Questions post as opposed to a What Does It Mean To Be In The World But Not Of The World post. which is what i originally set out to do. it's been on my mind that i don't really know if the way i'm walking my walk is the way i should be walking it. i don't really know if my light is shining as it should. i don't really know how others view my faith, believers and non-believers alike. i don't really know what i'm supposed to be doing most of the time.

and i suppose if i take my own advice, it follows that i should be okay with that.

Posted on Thursday, February 2, 2006 at 10:53AM by Registered Commentermdog | Comments6 Comments

Reader Comments (6)

As I have told you a few times before, when I started writing online, I was working through some serious issues with regard to my feelings toward Christianity. I was struggling to find peace with my decision to remain spiritual while turning away from organized religion and still keep an open mind toward those who find peace and strength in their religious faith.
You have done a lot to help me get there. I admire you and your beliefs and also the fact that you se clearly are able to appreciate the shades of gray. Continuing to ask questions,is all any of us can really do, in the end.
Feb 3, 2006 at 12:29PM | Unregistered CommenterTB

Amazing post. "this whole Jesus thing, i'm finding, is kind of hard to figure out. it's not shiny and neat. it's not packaged in a beautiful box with a gorgeous bow. unless you think wood, nails and blood are neat and beautiful..." is, perhaps, one of the most astounding quotes I have heard all year.

I love your heart on this issue... and I stand with you as a lover of gray, who is okay with paradox, believes in truth, loves Jesus, but dosn't have all of it figured out and to be honest, doesn't want to. God is so much bigger than my mere mind.
Feb 3, 2006 at 03:18PM | Unregistered Commenterpaul
Well, I don't know what's wrong with the rest of you, but I've got it all figured out. Okay, jokes over. I think the very worst place we can be is to think we know it all and we're living out all we know to perfection. I've met people like this, and they scare me. You know them - the judgmental types - not the types that call sin what it is - but the types that point out your sin while going about flaunting their own holiness. It's a good thing to know that I, like you and the rest of us, don't have it all figured out. It puts us on even footing and lets us appreciate each others' struggles and triumphs.
Feb 4, 2006 at 09:25AM | Unregistered CommenterJared
speaking of walking, my daughter took her first step today. :O)
Feb 4, 2006 at 06:07PM | Unregistered Commenterpaul
maria, I'm really glad to read this post. there have been times when I have worried about you, but I always knew that you just needed to work things out. God uses you, and your words and thoughts, in extremely mighty ways. the process (of getting there, or of [i]unleashing[/i]) is so necessary to salty, sassy, articulate faithfulness.
Feb 5, 2006 at 04:01PM | Unregistered Commenterrachel
Really nice post, Maria. I wholeheartedly agree.

It's times like these I'm glad Al Gore invented the internet, so I can read stuff and realize that there are sane people in the world and so maybe I'm actually not crazy (well, not AS crazy).
Feb 6, 2006 at 05:23PM | Unregistered Commentermeegs

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