From the beginning of my faith journey until now, I have been conscious of two sometimes contradictory beliefs. First and foremost is the conviction that God is the very definition of love. Complete love that blocks out evil. Growing up in the Baptist faith, I can remember accepting Jesus as Lord of my life with the understanding of a child and then growing in faith as I continued to be raised participating fully in the life of the church. PK's do not have much choice! I remember having the wonderful feeling that Jesus is our friend, brother, and Lord, and that he seeks us out as a shepherd seeks lost lambs. I am so grateful for the imagery of the Good Shepherd. It makes me feel his kindness and gentleness to all of us lost lambs. It has helped me feel loved and wanted when I hit low points in my life. As my life has passed, my memories of feeling the love of God and experiencing his care have been a huge comfort.
The other side of my faith experience has been questioning. Questioning of everything. I have loved learning about the historical facts about the Bible, who wrote it (we think), when it was written, when parts of it were put together, who decided what would be in it, etc. Learning some of the answers to these questions was essential to me because even as a teenager, I could not accept all that the Bible contained. Even in grade school, I remember asking how we know that the Bible is true. I have never doubted that Jesus lived, but I have wondered how we know he is who he said he was. I knew that to believe that he was God takes a leap of faith, but though I believed that God made the world, was Jesus his son? And was he fully God and fully human, as we often say? From the origins of the earth (creation story), to the origins of life (evolution?), to early mankind (Who did Cain and Seth marry, and where did they come from?), to the Israelite story (why were they chosen and others not?), to Jesus (did he say everything recorded in all gospels, and what about all of the differences?), to the ultimate ends of our lives here on earth (what are we really here fore), there have not been many questions I’ve come upon that I’m not ready to chew on for a while. I have spent a lot of time wondering what I should believe about lots of issues in the Bible and in daily life. I have wondered if what I believe is important to whatever my job here on earth is. Some doubts have kept me from praying as I should, some have made me feel estranged from other Christians who do not wrestle with the hard questions, but I believe now that God has been patient.
Where my questions and doubts have led me is to a place of holy curiosity. I love thinking of scripture in new ways, reading about new discoveries that shed light on the biblical times, and also wrestling with new ideas. I also feel at peace with my questioning. Only God has brought this. Some Christians make me feel as if my questions and doubts show a lack of faith because they are able to believe without questioning. Maybe this is a gift to them, but God did not make me the same. I am going to always approach my relationship to God with honesty and questions, and I believe he wants nothing less from me.
God has also led me in my recent years to not be preoccupied by my questions but to focus on my life here on earth. Some of my questions about Jesus's life and mission have led me to believe that he came to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth right now. I believe that we experience the Kingdom when we do his will, and we also experience hell when we do not. I hope for a much closer walk with him when I die, but the important thing is that we have that relationship now. It has helped put my questions into another light for me. I now still question many things but consider it more important to make a difference in the world in the way he wants me to. I consider all people to be his children, so creeds and denominations, while important, take up less of my focus in my journey as I move forward to share his love and bring the Kingdom of God to all people. There is work to be done.