When I sat down at the table for two - a little smaller than I prefer, even though I was a party of exactly one with a lot of book-related accoutrements - I almost didn't open my Bible. It's part of my morning routine when I am at home, and it's the center (and the centering) of my day. But on the road, on a 17th-floor hotel restaurant while I was on a business trip, it felt a teeny bit vulnerable and exposed.
I thought about reading in the Bible app… same content, less obvious. Then nobody would have to know. Nobody would get to know.
But I felt this knowing in my spirit. I felt the words, "Do not be ashamed of me, Tricia. I am not ashamed of you. Do not be ashamed of me."
It was a stern warning, downright reproachful. Conviction from the inside is the very most potent kind.
So I opened my Bible, and I read about the Passover meal, when Jesus knew he would be leaving his friends so soon, and he was giving them his final marching orders, encouragements, and love notes. It's so passionate and loving, those words. He had so much to say, and only he knew how loudly the clock was ticking. I could practically feel him taking them by the shoulders and looking intently at each of them.
Hear me, men. Things are about to go down. You have to know I love you, I know you, and I'm not leaving you without a plan.
As I finished reading, and as I finished my avocado toast (which is definitely a thing in Los Angeles), the guy at the table behind me turned his chair toward me. He said, "I'm sorry to interrupt, but can I ask what you do?"
"Good morning, I'm a writer."
"A writer - of what?"
Well, a lot of things. Journal pages, grocery lists, the occasional poem, a splash of fiction, a few memoirs, and most presently, "I'm in town to spend a few days with an author on a collaborative project to write a book involving her public battle with breast cancer."
"I see. And I saw you reading your Bible… is that research for the book?"
So many ways to answer that question. "Sure, in part. But I'm a believer, so it's the way I start my day."
"A 'believer.'" He used air quotes.
"Well, if you've got this thing figured out, sister, I'd love to know."
"I wouldn’t say I have it figured out at all. I'm just trying to take the next step in the right direction."
"I'd say that's what we're all doing. I'd love to know your thoughts, and I have some questions. Do you think I could email you?"
"That would be great," I said, exchanging business cards, and making a mental note to let Peter know before I take a step down this path. (Husbands don't love the idea of a wife travelling alone and then beginning an email dialogue with a rand-o from the hotel restaurant.)
And so began a small exchange. He sent me his questions.
Mostly, they centered on this: "You said you're a believer. What does that mean? How can you be sure? What is this about for you? It seems like Jesus had it right but Christians get it wrong. Do you have a perspective that I’m missing?"
I never know how to tread these waters. I realize I'm supposed to be ready to give an answer, but usually, I'm not ready. I wrote back carefully. Basically with this:
I so appreciate your questions, and my goodness, they are valid. Here are my thoughts.
I so agree with you: Jesus had it right, and so many Christians get it wrong. (I say that even as a Christian.) When I said I am a believer, I was saying that I believe in Jesus as the son of the true God and the path to eternal life. I too have a lot of questions about faith and justice and creation, but the bottom line is, really, I just love Jesus.
He had it right. And he loved well.
I don’t like religion; I have zero interest in a long list of rules. But I crave relationships. When I read and study my bible, I’m studying the life and teachings of Jesus, this one I want to know.
This morning I read the verse the sums it all for me: “This is the way to have eternal life - to know you, the One True God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.” John 17:3
Thank you for asking questions, for drawing out of me the truths I believe. It’s good for me to be reminded and to say them out loud.
He wrote me back with paragraphs to shoot holes in my theology and to begin a debate against Scripture, but that doesn't interest me. I don't like arguing, debating, defending - or even emailing, actually.
I didn't have much else to say. The thing is, I'm okay with mystery. I'm okay with not knowing.
The opposite of faith is certainty.
Uncertainty is something I have quite a bit of, so faith is growing like wildflowers among my weeds.
I'm just okay with not knowing for sure.
I'm okay with loving Jesus so much that it makes me want to sing.
I just love him. He's real to me. And I want to be about what he's about.
"... if my pea brain can understand God, He’s not big enough." Oh, wow! This is so powerful! Thank you, Pamela, and thank you, Tricia, for the blessings that you shower us with all the time. And Claire is right, too, in that your testimony may be one of the little jabs that Jesus gives this man, to prompt him to look deeper and one day find the relationship that he doesn't yet know he craves with our Lord and Savior.
I've often wondered why it is that so many people feel they have to argue Scripture with someone who believes and follows Jesus. If they don't believe, I think Jesus would say lovingly but sadly, "Shake the dust off and move on to one who will listen and desires to be in relationship with me." You responded with the love of Christ--and the one who has challenged you? Well, perhaps your answers are will be enough to help him continue his path to Jesus...who I trust will guide others to him for the next step of his spiritual journey. Bless you for your testimony.
I have often said that if my pea brain can understand God, He's not big enough. The mystery of the gospel is where our hope lies! How sad it must be to think that the only answers to the brokenness in our world are the ones we can come up with ourselves.