At my church we recently started a new series called “the white space” (click here for the message from last weekend) and it’s a series about exploring;
Who wrote it? Why do we have it? What’s the purpose of it? Is it to be taken literally or not?
How do we engage the Bible in a way that opens us to the kind of transformation and change that it’s meant to bring in our lives individually and together as a community?
I missed out hearing it last weekend, but this morning as I listened to it via the podcast I started dwelling on what the bible means to me, and it led me to realizing that I come to the bible with baggage.
The baggage I come to the bible is threefold; it’s what I gleaned from the bible through my father’s lens, my mother’s lens, and my own lens.
Disclaimer: not all of what I’ve gleaned over the years can be summed up in “good” or “bad” terms, it’s what I learned and it shaped me and still to a certain extent it shapes me. My views of God and the bible 5 years ago doesn’t necessarily reflect where I am now and what I think, evolution in this regard should be embraced not looked at with contempt.
With that being said, what I gleaned from the bible via my father was a black and white stance, a literal take on nearly everything in the bible. I recognized his emphases were on verses concerning Paul rather than Jesus. I also got the feeling that God was out to get humanity, or at the very least a portion of humanity.
I remember when I was either 6 or 7 in our basement we had a easel with a large pad of paper on it, and on it was the Calvinist TULIP acronym on it and a cross shaped bridge between God and humanity. I learned both of their meanings from my father, but even then I wrestled with this take on God.
From my mom I learned I was not good, because “only God is good”, I was called bad but good was never affixed to me. I also learned sin, as she defined it, was whatever separated us from God (and in a way I still hold onto this view). She instilled the majority of my spiritual life between the two of them; bible studies, read-the-bible-in-a-year, “our daily bread” daily devotional, prayer time.
I don’t regret this part of my upbringing, it laid a foundation, my foundation, of who I am today. It served as building blocks and not stepping stones; that is, it built me spiritually, it wasn’t a jumping off to another item, and so on.
And yet, as it naturally happens, my views changed. More to the point, I changed. It was gradual, but I realize a common theme; God put people in my life who indirectly caused me to think differently, a gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit to reexamine my thoughts and ideas and views. I will say this, that whenever you encounter “the others” in your life, you might have to change what you hold dear, because people from all walks of life matter to God.
So many of my thoughts and perspectives were laid to waste, my assumptions and presumptions were dismissed, and my level of grace extended and received multiplied exponentially…Thanks be to God!
But still, I carry quite a bit baggage when it comes to the bible. If I’m honest with myself I am usually combatant when people drop a “well you know Paul said about that” in a conversation, and I’m quick to retort “yeah? Well what did Jesus say about that?” Paul has his say in quite a bit of the New Testament, and I want to delve into what he said but it’s hard for me to do sometimes.
But I want to. I want to engage in difficult texts, I want to engage with Christians who have different stories and philosophies and theologies that differ from my own, I want to and I believe I’m moving in that direction.
And it’s what I needed and also what I wanted. God and this model will help me get out of my head and into my heart, inasmuch it’s going from internal practice to external behaviors.
I come with baggage, but I’m able to discard it in a healthy manner that respects both my past and my present, and certainly as God will lead me- my future.