I used to know

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

I used to think I knew. I used to think I understood.

Now I’m not so sure.

I mean, I believe in truth. I believe that there is such a thing as sin, a cancer that grows in and around the human soul. I believe part of what it means to really love one another is to point out the signs that a particular cancer might be taking root in a life, to help cut it out when the inflicted person is ready, and then walk with them toward healing.

I believe the Bible is a uniquely inspired, objective holy book offered us as a means of communicating truths about God and ourselves and the world around us. I believe that it is true, and trustworthy. It’s a book of hope and despair, light and darkness, dryness and streams in the desert.

I believe that how we live matters, that morality is a real and necessary thing. I believe that ways of living that feel good can ultimately be destructive. I believe that we should develop character, strive for integrity, ask hard questions about the right ways to live. I believe that our hearts can be deceitfully wicked, above all things.

What I don’t think I believe anymore is that we, today, right now, as a group or individually, actually know every single thing that the Bible is saying to us. We can know so much and should be incredibly grateful for the tools and resources available to us. We have the benefit of so many mothers and fathers in the faith, so many traditions and doctrines and movements throughout our history, so many of each others’ voices to listen to and draw from.

I believe that when Jesus says God is looking for those who will worship in Spirit and in truth, it means that knowing and responding to God will be an ever-evolving reality. Jesus seemed to understand, better than we do, that we as a species would continue to grow and change and expand and struggle and fall and rise to heights unimaginable. Which is why we are given the Spirit, a moving and breathing and transient companion. We need truth, long for it, require it to exist as healthy humans and worshipers. The truth doesn’t change. But we do.

Our understanding of the world around us changes. Our understanding of evil changes. Culture and society, as expressions of the human experience, change and evolve. We can dig our heels inappropriately into a book offered as a gift and guide (making it something it was never meant to be), or we can lean heavily into the Spirit as he leads us into truth. We can claim the truth we’ve been led to gives us freedom to hate and condemn and shame others in a hundred areas in which we believe ourselves to be superior, or we can open wide the gates of love and trust that same Spirit to lead them into truth as well. We can use the faith to damage and destroy, or cling to the humility of needing a grace offered to all. Can we lay down our need to be right, our need to know better than others, our need to know it all, and open our arms to one another?

But what of those to whom life is not an ocean, and man-made laws are not sand-towers, but to whom life is a rock, and the law a chisel with which they would carve it into their own likeness? What of the cripple who hates dancers? What of the ox who loves his yoke and deems the elk and deer of the forest stray and vagrant things? What of the old serpent who cannot shed his skin, and calls all others naked and shameless? And of him who comes early to the wedding-feast, and when over-fed and tired goes his way saying that all feasts are violations and all feasters lawbreakers?

~ Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

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