I attended my first Christian women’s conference this weekend. I’m exhausted – inspired, enlivened…and worn out.
In this journey with Jesus, I definitely find my edges from time to time. The current edge I’m exploring is around John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
I am an “and” person. I believe the world would be better served to look less with an, “I’m right, and you’re wrong,” lens and more with a, “where can we find common ground,” one.
Duality is our nature. We are both light and dark, positive and negative. We must know our contrast in order to have beliefs at all. The ability to hold our own belief systems with enough grace to dance with another allows life to be interesting and beautiful.
Alas, in the undercurrent of this otherwise lovely women’s conference, I was wading around in the murkiness of whether there really is only one way, and if I couldn’t say I believe that there is, whether I belonged there at all. Was I a fraud among Christians if I believed that other people who had accepted Divine Love into their hearts and lives were also living in Heaven?
When I got home last night, I went searching. Anne Lamott was the first Christian author I read years back. My friend Toni gave me her book, Traveling Mercies, in 2003, and I remember loving it. At the time, I wasn’t ready to explore Christianity or any other spiritual path for that matter, but Lamott did stick with me.
I found some peace running past this interview with her in my search:
It’s at this point in the conversation that I begin to wonder if [Lamott] is a universalist. Later, I follow up in an e-mail message: “Do you think that people from other faiths who don’t believe in Jesus are God’s children and will go to heaven?”
“Yes,” she writes back. “I think Jesus is divine love manifest on earth, as it comes through the community of Christians.” He’s like the “beautiful Jewish uncle” who says, “Well, I can show you the way.”
“Only Jesus has come to me, and I experience God’s love in an immediate and personal way through his companionship,” she says. Those in other countries and cultures “feel Divine Love come to them through more local teachings, through other expressions of that love.”
The idea of everyone enjoying God for eternity appeals to me—as I’m sure it does to God—yet it’s hard to reconcile with verses such as John 3:16 and Jesus’ assertion that “no one comes to the Father except through me.” On the other hand, Lamott’s tenderness toward people resembles that of the Shepherd who went looking after one stray sheep.
“Some people have been too starving, attacked, hated, or full of hate to experience God’s love,” she says. “Sometimes I think God loves the ones who most desperately ache and are most desperately lost—his or her wildest, most messed-up children—the way you’d ache and love a screwed-up rebel daughter in juvenile hall. A 5-year-old girl or her mother in the mountains of Afghanistan, a junkie in L.A., Mother Teresa, you, me, children in Gaza—God created us all and loves us and brings us home, into what may be the first shalom we have ever had the chance to experience.”
She disarmingly adds, “I don’t even pretend to understand much of anything. I just try to love and serve everyone, and bring everyone water, and lend an ear; that’s what Jesus said to do.”
I love that.
One of the lies in our culture is that you’re supposed to have your beliefs all figured out, and they should never change. For example, the media will condemn a candidate for changing the way he/she votes on a particular topic over the span of his/her career. We then surmise that people are supposed to hold the same beliefs at 20-years-old as they do when they are 35…or 50!
In a world that changes at such a rapid pace these days, people hunger for stability. We want to know the one Truth. Certainty makes people feel comfortable, yet the older I get, the more I realize that true genius is in the ability to be in the creative space of uncertainty…of possibility.
I realize how much I’ve censored myself here even because I’ve been worried that my belief system is not mature enough to share. However, I realized this weekend that part of the beauty in my sharing could just be that I don’t have it all figured out, and I’m willing to go through it. Perhaps there are one or two others out there who need to know it’s okay not to know all the answers, too.
What I know for sure is that there is a truth that is guiding us to who and what we need to know. I get little confirmations all the time. It’s the same place in my heart that guided me to God that is allowing me to stir on this edge for a bit, and so I choose to let that be okay.
One of my favorite speakers to date, Lisa Bevere, spoke a couple times at the conference. She held the conference’s final session and had the entire audience in tears as she told a story about her father and forgiveness. I was literally heaving crying. (It felt good.) She closed with a prayer.
While I had spent tiresome emotional and spiritual energy over the past week over John 14:6 and fitting in, I was brought some sense of peace with the final words of her prayer: “I choose love.” Those were the last words spoken before the conference’s dismissal. I heard it as a confirmation that I was okay in that place. In fact, it was exactly the place I was supposed to be.
I choose love. Do you?