For years, at my church, off and on, we would watch videos. They were moving. Life altering. They made you think and would often leave people speechless. They were in our church library where church members could check them out and use them as a catalyst for great conversation - especially among the “seeker” audience. But on March 15th 2011, the man behind those videos released a book. A book about Love. He openly asked questions and challenged the traditions of religion. And when that man released that book and caused an uproar felt nationwide, those videos that no doubt had positively affected so many were yanked off the shelves of that church and considered unworthy, ungodly and useless.
So because a man named Rob took his time to write down words from his heart and his head and people didn’t agree with him, the conclusion is that Rob was deceived! Now obviously everything that he has ever said or done is worthless.
I think this hit close to home because I went through a similar experience. Of course mine was on a much much smaller scale but it felt big inside of me. A few years ago, my life took a turn. I began to ask questions and I no longer aligned with the church where I was raised. As a result, I felt the judgment of my faith…as if my life up to this point has all been a lie. The authenticity of my journey with my God was brought into question. Some of my closest friends looked at me as though no good could any longer come from me because I was broken and deceived. I have had people say to my face that I am leading a life that will ultimately result in eternity in hell. My former pastor even said from the pulpit recently that people like me have a “make-believe God” who will not serve them well after they die.
Wow! How do I live up to these low expectations? Perhaps the hardest thing that I juggle is to now know what to say and how to say it. My goal is to be loving and respectful to all people, even the ones who misjudge and condemn me. I know that some people don’t want to hear that I am happy because it messes with their theology. I know some people don’t want to hear my thoughts and what I have learned relationally and spiritually over the past 2 years. I know just like Rob, if I say anything, it has the ability to be twisted by people because they think I have an agenda soaked in bitterness, defensiveness and deceit.
I wish that I could do an experiment but I just can’t figure out how to pull it off. I would like to take a quote by someone like Billy Graham or Charles Stanley- a quote that is biblically accurate and profound. I would like to put it in quotation marks and post it but instead of putting - Billy Graham, insert - Rob Bell. I wonder how many panties would be waded up and how many people who pick apart the quotation…not because what it said but because of the perceived intention by which it was written. I would like to do the opposite and take a great Rob Bell quote about love and instead of putting - Rob Bell, insert - John Piper and see how many “Amens” come back. Of course this little experiment wouldn’t work on my Facebook page because people are already making assumptions about what I post and why I post it based on the perceptions of me. Are you following me?
I see this all the time really. It’s all over the world of politics. Obama could say “I like kittens” and Rush Limbaugh could find a way to rip him apart because he didn’t say he liked puppies too. But Bush could have had a bumper sticker on his car that said “I love kittens” and he would have been praised for it. That was a silly example but hopefully you see my point. We are so quickly put off by people’s perceived agendas when they don’t align with our beliefs. Yet with great ease, we ignore our own biases, judgments and criticisms and would be offended and defensive if someone made assumptions of us.
So my whole point is this…making assumptions about people’s intentions sucks. We get it wrong way too often. I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t want to come to any conversation with a bias. I want to hear what people are really saying and not get caught up in what I think they mean before I hear their heart. To be honest, this is a struggle for me at times. Each time I hear from someone in my past who wants to grab a coffee and chat, my heart still races. Thankfully, I have been pleasantly surprised by some wonderful people who recognize that I am still me. They may or may not agree with me, but they want to laugh, listen and just be in my presence. They don’t want to rip me off of the shelf and toss me in the “useless“ pile with the Nooma videos.
I’m pretty sure that in spite of some big mistakes, some life adjustments and some differences of opinions, there is still some great conversations, some laughs and some love to share!
Until next time,