First off, thank you all so much for commenting on my last post. I’ve really been thinking a lot about some of the comments you guys left, and I would like to maybe have a conversation here about them. I appreciate the different insights people from different parts of my life have to offer as I struggle with this topic. It’s good to hear that I’m not the only one who is wrestling with the topic. It is also good to hear that people who have wrestled in the past have found peace. That is, I believe, the heart of what I am searching for…peace.
One comment that I loved was left by my friend, Gretchen, on the link to my post on Facebook. She said that God is too big to fit inside any box…even the Bible. I cannot sufficiently express how much this comment resonated with me. I have been thinking about it ever since. The idea that the Bible doesn’t represent God in all His fullness…or even come close. I was taught to believe that we could learn about God in the Bible. That it held all the answers to life’s questions, in some form or another. As I mature, though, I find that I have all kinds of questions about God that the Bible doesn’t shed any light upon at all. Instead, the Bible’s contradictory representations of God leave me vastly confused. I understand that He is a great and infinite God, and therefore is multifaceted. However, some things seem like they should be mutually exclusive. Like, love and hate. How can you love the whole world, yet condemn the majority of us to an eternity in Hell? The Bible doesn’t answer these questions for me. It is the source of my confusion. I find great comfort in the idea that the Bible is not the final word on who God is and how he relates to us. It’s a relief to think that Religion may have used the Bible to try to box God up but I don’t have to keep Him there.
Mark, a friend of Amy’s, left a comment that I’ve been chewing on. He said, “What if the Bible had a single, primary purpose: to teach us about Jesus. To teach us about how He created everything, how He has a penchant for working with and through families, to teach us about how He was born, lived, died, and most importantly how He rose again? To teach us about how He has gone to prepare a place for us to live with Him?” For the most part, as I have kicked this thought around, I like it. I feel like the one thing I can embrace for sure about the Bible is the teachings of Jesus. When I read them, they feel very true to me. When I think about Jesus as an actual man who walked this earth, I don’t have to doubt that he did. History proves that he was real. I have enough faith to believe the parts that can’t be proven…his deity and his resurrection. The part that is problematic for me is believing that the purpose of the whole of the Bible is to teach us about Jesus. I still have the issues of knowing about the canonization process, the disputes over what was Scripture and what was not, and wondering if man’s best efforts were anywhere near right or complete. Also, what about the parts of the Bible that don’t actually talk about Jesus? What am I to do with them? For the most part, I agree with Mark’s idea of how to view the Bible, but I feel like we are approaching the subject from different starting points. I believe that he is starting from the idea that we have a Bible that is accurate, reliable, and complete. I am unable to set out from the same premise, so this idea doesn’t assuage my inner conflict about how to view the Bible. Mark, if you happen to read this, I would love to hear your thoughts, and know if I even interpreted your comment as you meant it.
Another comment that meant a lot to me was from my dear friend, Joy. She is my oldest friend. We have been friends since we were babies together. I even named my daughter after her. So, when she started off her comment by saying, “First of all, I love you!” I immediately felt loved. I am so thankful for the people that can hear my heart through what I write. Joy wrote in her comment, “ I just want to point out that the Bible is a book of faith. I truly believe man wrote what God wanted them to (II Pet. 1:21), not just what they thought was a good thing to write. Psalm 138:2 is also very interesting where God says His word is honored above His name! But these things have to be believed…through faith! Think of all the O.T. stories – Elijah on Mt. Carmel, the Red Sea crossing, the fiery furnace. If you tried to research and analyze them, you would NEVER believe them! They are impossible…except with God. Just a few thoughts. I’m sure you’ve already thought of them. The Bible IS God’s Word! But it can never help you if you don’t have the faith to believe it.I love you. Please know that most of all!” Joy, I really appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment for me. I agree with you that you have to have faith. After all, without faith it is impossible to please God. (That part rings true to me.) You may find it interesting to know that I don’t have trouble believing that stories in the Bible actually happened. I don’t have any qualms believing that God can send fire from Heaven or part seas. My issue comes with trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do with them, and what they lead me to believe about God. I believe that God can cause a city to crumble after people walk around it seven times and blow their trumpets. He’s God. Of course he can do that. My problem comes when I think about what that means. It means that little babies and old men and the sick and lame of that city were crushed in the rubble of their broken homes. I don’t understand that part of the stories. Why would God do that? Or the story of the dude that rushed to keep the Ark of the Covenant from tumbling to the ground. God struck him down despite the intent in his heart? Or the story of Achen? That one killed me as a little kid. I didn’t have a problem with Achen being killed for his disobedience. It made sense to my little child’s heart. He did wrong; he got punished. The part that grieved me was when the teacher got to the part about where they were to stone his family with him. I have this irritating habit of putting myself into the story and imagining if I had been Achen’s daughter, dragged from safety to be killed by the stones hurled by God’s command. It didn’t seem fair. It still doesn’t seem fair.
So I ask myself, why do I teach my children these stories as an attempt to teach them about God? If they make me feel this bad, why do I tell my children, “This is your God?”
I think it’s pretty obvious that all I have is a bunch of questions. I don’t have any answers. I know I can’t ever understand God fully, but, Lord have mercy on me, I need some peace!
Please feel free to weigh in with your thoughts. If I answer your comment with a question/challenge, please know that I am just struggling to see if I can come away with something to hold on to. Please reply and help me understand why you believe what you believe. Not just what you believe, but why you believe it. I need some people to wade in with me and talk about it.