This week’s question:
I love God but I have shed many of the dogmatic practices and beliefs that I once held as the ultimate…(as a result) Many within my previous community have difficulty communicating with (me) and I with them. They are fully convinced I have turned away from God no matter what I say. How do you navigate that in a positive way?
Let me start by saying I feel these words deeply. My own process of leaving certain beliefs and doctrines behind has created tension, and actually led to the loss of relationships with people who knew me prior to my unraveling. No matter how much we try to tell ourselves that it doesn’t affect us, it really does. The moment I realized that I would no longer be welcome in the denomination or church that I grew up in was a painful one.
The truth is that we will never be able to convince some people that we are on the Jesus path. For many of them being Christian is largely about the beliefs and doctrine espoused. So, when we let go of those beliefs and can no longer affirm those doctrines, we are seen to be drifting away from the faith. You and I know better, though. We haven’t drifted away. We’ve been going through a process of discovery and transformation.
With that in mind, a few thoughts. First, as cliché as it sounds, we haven’t lost our faith, we lost theirs. Shared belief creates a kind of bond, an insider status that links people together. When one person can no longer affirm those beliefs it creates a tension, even a fear, and fear isn’t our friend.
Second, I once heard Rob Bell say something to the effect of, “People are upset because you’re breaking the rules of golf, but you’re playing tennis.” Brilliant, right? I think that is often the case. I have decided that I won’t respond to certain demands or requests. If someone is asking gotcha questions to which they already know the answers, I won’t respond. If someone is trying to use guilt or shame, I’m out. If someone is being mean, hateful, or clearly has no interest in hearing another perspective, I don’t engage. However, if someone is asking with a genuine interest, I’m here for those conversations.
Finally, this quote from Richard Rohr has become a mantra for me:
“There is nothing to prove and nothing to protect. I am who I am and it's enough.”
When it’s all said and done, you don’t have to prove to anyone that you’re faithful or on the path. The reality is that you know who you are. You know where you’ve been and where you’re going. You know you aren’t the same as you used to be, because you’re on the path of transformation. Jesus was content to allow the fruit of his life to speak. That’s where I am trying to be. People may doubt my genuineness as a Jesus follower, but if I am beginning to produce some decent fruit, that’s what ultimately matters most. We just won’t convince some people, and that’s okay. We have nothing to prove. We are who we are, the Beloved of God. That is enough.