Monday, November 2, 2009
Beer: I'm going to have to get back to you on this one
Date: October 29th, 2009
Place: The Thirsty Scholar, Somerville, MA
Number 78 is either the heaviest or lightest beer I've had all year.
I met with a new acquaintance, Regina, and we had a pint and talked about Christianity. Regina is an atheist, or on further discussion, a motivated agnostic. But beyond that, she's a neighbor – a wonderfully pleasant Somervillian who had shown up to our community group (essentially a Bible study) because she's a person searching; looking for answers and looking to escape loneliness and searching for what this is all about. As we all are.
And after coming a week or two, she sent an email. Said she felt like maybe it wasn't the right place for her to find answers. That the stories she hears and the stories that she has are different, that maybe to learn more about Jesus it would be better to look elsewhere. I wanted to sit with her, talk with her, learn her story and tell her mine, get past the surface and get into the parts of our struggles that are real and that are scary and that are messy and that can use hope.
Because in the end, the Bible, the redeeming of man, is just a story. A story of a loving God who gave man a choice, because he is a gracious God, a loving God, a merciful God. But also a wrathful God. One whose heart broke when man turned his back. A God who wipes out those who oppose him. Like any great story there's that tension, that give and take, push and pull, those parts that we can figure out and those parts that give us no clarity (How could a good God let there be suffering?), the great To Be Continued: at the end.
And the part of the story that lives in the world. The story of Christians who bring heaven to earth by serving their fellow man and those who use the name of Christ to justify horrible acts in the name of God. It's real and it's messy and it's scary and it's big and huge and I can't understand it but I believe it.
The only complete grasp I have is mine – and a very slight understanding of God's – so I told my story. My choice. My decision to believe it. To buy into Jesus. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I got duped. And I don't want anyone to think Well, he lived a decent moral life if when it all ends I find out that Jesus was just merely a story, an allegory. I want them to pity me and I want to feel like I was an idiot. Because I really believed it, because I went hard out and I tried to live it. It's heavy.
Yet in the story of Jesus I feel complete and I feel whole and the loneliness has been lifted and it's my faith that sustains me and I sleep at night with no worries and with total clarity and purpose and meaning. It's light.
Thursday was just my story coming into contact with Regina's. Both ours will continue, whether they walk the same theological lines or not. Maybe we'll just be neighbors who agree to disagree on the purposes of our lives and the reason God created man and why He allows things to happen and why He doesn't give us what we always want, or even more frightening, when God gives us precisely what we have been asking for.
Or maybe one day we might be sharing other stories in heaven.
Which I hope for with all my heart.