Between Black and White

I wrote this week that most of us lose our authentic selves by creating personas that we think our faith requires mistaking those for our authentic selves.

I’m beginning to see how many of us, not the least of which is me have lived with very skewed ideas about who we are and what we are to be about in light of our Christianity. Many of us have experienced a very dualistic faith. Things are either all good, or they’re all bad. People are divided into two groups. Good people and bad people. Saved people and lost people, in people or out people. I’m either completely certain, or I’m a complete agnostic (which really isn’t the exact opposite of certainty but in most circles still carries a very negative connotation).

It seems that it is from within that kind of mind that we begin to create our false selves. We have to. In a black and white faith the only safe thing we can do to fit in is to create the person we wish we were and then try to parade it around in public masquerading as us. Many of us have tried to embrace life in black and white yet life hands us twists and turns for which we are unprepared. Rather than addressing those challenging realities we go into damage control. If we can’t change our realities we try to change the way we present them or at least the way people perceive us to be living with them.

Life is anything but black and white. There are about a hundred scenarios in my life that I could rattle off without taking a breath for which I have no categories or clear grids from which to live them out. I’m not always going to cope with them extremely well and I’m not going to apologize for that anymore. I’m human, a human with every shade of gray inside and outside of my reality. I’m depending on the Holy Spirit to help me sift it out.

True faith doesn’t ask us to abandon our reality or the deepest things about who we are. It asks us to take the things that we are most impacted by and share them. In Micah we read that God has already told us what he requires of us – to uphold justice, to love mercy, and to walk in humility. If being honest about our heart isn’t humility then I don’t know what is. Jesus said that we could sum it all up by showing compassion to one another from a heart that loves God with our whole essence. Nowhere is the gospel telling us to take all the hard truth about our lives and hide it in a box in the basement.

This simple faith doesn’t require me to create a cut out version of me that is pristine and prop it up so that I’ll have credibility.

People of the Thresholds

Last week I wrote about the threshold places in our lives. Something called “liminal space” where we are in between what was and what is yet to come. I was encouraged at how many people touched base with me through Facebook, Twitter, and my email to tell me that this is exactly where they believe that they have found themselves to be and have viewed that season very negatively up to now.

After doing a little more reading this week I have been encouraged to consider creating liminal spaces in my life. Instead of fearing, dreading or avoiding those in between places where everything feels like it is standing still I’m encouraged to actually seek them out. It is in those spaces that we learn to truly desire the guidance of the Holy Spirit, not just accommodate it if it should materialize. It is also in those liminal spaces that we learn who we truly are.

I believe this is the space where the most sincere forms of worship take place. These are the places where we are basically saying to God, “Unless you show up here in this, I am done for!” It is a place of very simple prayers, honest confessions, and humble praise. Thresholds teach us that anything beautiful that has happened is a gift, any comfort is truly from his Spirit, and that whatever we experience in this interim is intentional preparation.

The thresholds teach us the difference between what we really believe and what we only wish we believe.

I’m beginning to see that those whom I call the People of the Thresholds are not always the most comfortable to be around. We have so many questions, we probe beyond the stock answers, and nudge until we feel like we are a little closer to the whole truth. For those who are not in that space it can be off-putting and even seem a bit caustic.

This is where I see some of us experiencing what I call “the steeple in the road” by the church.

The obstacles of pat answers, the need to tie a bow around our pain, to “fix” us, or to speak in a dialect of Christian-ese that we don’t even understand is the church dragging the steeple into the road. For many the steeple in the road is any time that the church has ignored, misunderstood, or mislabeled them.

I believe it is the People of the Thresholds who can actually move the steeple out of the road for so many who question whether they even belong in Christian community or not. Maybe the most sincere form of Christian community is one that worships in the thresholds.