I’m not a big fan of podcasts, or at least I have not been in the past. Permanent roommate listens to them with regularity while taking a nap, driving to and from work, and while crafting in his workshop. I salute that because I love to discuss the ideas with him later and to see how they impact his productivity and growth. My problem is, I don’t happen to be an audio learner. I have a really hard time taking in information by merely hearing it. If I sit in a lecture, I need to take notes to retain what is being said. If I turn on a podcast, talk radio, the news, or an audiobook, I have to stop everything else and pay attention solely to that, which is difficult for me to do when I have so many different projects running in the operating system of my brain.
That being said, every now and then a recommendation is urged with such intensity from permanent roommate that I sit down to listen to one. You’ll really like this one, I think. Or, This was a really good one that addresses what you’ve been talking about lately.
Barely two minutes into his latest recommendation (Erik Fisher interviewing Donald Miller on Beyond the To-Do List), a phrase snapped my eyes open fast enough to give my eyelids whiplash, and I didn’t even finish listening beyond that point. I paused the podcast, lunged for pen and paper, and here’s the rest of that story…
The quote that began this blog post is this: “too religious for some, not religious enough for others.”
I can totally relate! I get that with such intimate understanding because my whole life feels like that. That is precisely my dilemma. With this blog, I feel like I’m passing every word, phrase, and idea through a filter, held on one side by very religious people and on the other side by completely non-religious people, and I truly believe that — most of the time, at least — you will find it impossible to please both.
I don’t want to write this blog, or anything else, merely to please people. I want it to be a reflection of my thoughts as I pass through the places I come to, and I want it to be authentic.
But who among us doesn’t struggle with the desire to relate well to others? To reach them and to not offend to the extent that they write you off and hear nothing further from you?
I’m as disgusted as anyone by deeply religious people. By that phrase, I mean people who are trapped in legalism and motivated primarily by the outward appearance. On the flip side of that filter, I’m not seeing a strong argument for atheism either. I’ve personally had enough experience in my own life to feel quite strongly — most of the time — that there is a God. And again, most of the time, I believe we can come to know him personally, although the agnostic view does hit a little closer to home here, I’ll have to admit. I do believe God is, that he is Good, that he loves and pursues me. (And you, of course.)
These truths ring very solidly with me at a core level. I don’t want to argue with you about whether or not they are truths, whether or not God is real, or whether or not we can ever know. Just like I don’t want to argue with the other side — those who think we can wrap God in a box and tell others exactly how they should live their lives in order to please him.
So back to the quote. I already feel like I’ve violated the feelings of one side — or quite possibly both! — in the past few paragraphs. This is me attempting to be real, and I’m sad to say this is probably too much reality for a lot of people.
So on this blog, I don’t want the filter anymore. I want authenticity; as much as I can come to know myself through writing, I want to. False fronts and posturing are lacking in real answers to real problems. The world isn’t going to be better off with anything less than the genuine article, the real deal.
Too religious, not religious enough…
My first thought was, “Why can’t it just be enough to love God and live life in a way I believe best reflects his heart to those around me? Why can’t we each allow others to do the same as they see fit, and not try to dictate to them what that will look like in their lives?”
I hesitate to use Scriptures verses in my writing. And maybe that’s a shame because I love the Bible. With millions of copies in print and translations in thousands of languages, it remains high up on the all-time bestsellers list and is filled cover to cover with beautiful, indescribable poetry, history, proverbs, and lessons on how, and how not, to live. So the reason I quote from so many other books and various sources, but not Scripture, is not because I discredit it, but because far too often I’ve seen it used as a club, with verses pulled out of context by those on both sides of the filter and taken as “proof” to back up their views. Verses that should be comforting, challenging, and life-giving have been turned into missiles and bombs, dropped at awkward and intimidating moments with the intentions, oftentimes, of guilting a person into a set of behaviors or to make them feel stupid or to belittle their choices and actions.
Today, I’m breaking through that hesitation and trying out a verse or two.
“Who are you to judge another man’s servant?”
I don’t own you, making you not my servant, and if there truly is a God, we’ll both be better off answering only to him.
And another one, loosely paraphrased:
Even if I sound heavenly and am capable of speaking in every language on earth; even if I can foretell the future or teach the most difficult subjects with ease; even if I can do the impossible because of the measure of my faith; even if I give every last penny and possession to charity and to easing the hardships of the poor; even if I go to such extremes as to give my very body up for martyrdom or in service to a cause; and am not motivated by love… (wait for it)…
… it is nothing!
I’m thoroughly tired of the box and the checklist of criteria and the critique of others that says if you love God you will ___________ (fill in the blank). Look like this, go there, dress this way, say these things. And even more prevalent, unfortunately, is… you won’t look like that, you won’t go there, you won’t dress that way, you won’t say those things…
The frustration that wells within me, caused by all these external pressures and expectations, by being squeezed through the filter, only serves one purpose: to pull my focus off Jesus and a life motivated by love, and cloud the mission he intended for me as an individual to uniquely complete during my passage through this place. It is an attempt to change my story, make it neater and smaller and less messy.
And I just don’t want to live the sanitized version.
If I have to write with a filter in place, let it be a filter of love for my fellow-man. Let it be woven through with dignity and respect. And let the holes be large enough to allow the messiness of life to pass through and join the story. Let it not be one imposed on me by others; let this be the authentic version.