I feel the latter more often than the former. I’m constantly getting fed the message that one cannot be a Christian if one believes A, B, and/or C. People, as close as friends and as distant as major religious leaders, love deciding what convictions do and do not fall under the Christian umbrella. Since politics has apparently joined theology as a key factor in determining one’s stance with God, there seems to be a never-ending stream of do’s and do not’s.
I’ve always fought back against the stream. In high school, I remember being asked why God would create humans and after a little thought, replied, “Maybe He was lonely.” The teacher looked at the class and said, “Can God be lonely?” More than one voice said, “No,” and the teacher moved on as if that single word was the end of the matter. In my opinion, if God can’t be lonely, I don’t know how we could relate to Him at all, since at least for me, that feeling has dominated most of my life. High school continued to offer spaces in which I could argue and I’ve gotten used to disagreeing with the majority of the Christian representation in America.
However, my grounded fervor has begun to shake. I’ve felt distant from God for a while, partially because I’ve been too afraid to find a church to plug into, and also because I’ve been a bit miffed with how my life is going. I see the confidence with which people declare their beliefs as the one true way and I begin to tremble. What if I’m wrong and they’re right? What if believing X and Z really does mean I’m ignoring God’s truth?
Last night, I was thinking about this as I tried to sleep. I imagined being a ewe in a flock of sheep. The sheep around me were all huddled in a circle and when I went over to them, they stared at me.
“What are you?” they asked.
“I’m a sheep.”
“No, you’re not. You look funny. Your ears are shaped differently than ours. Your hooves are weird.”
I was troubled and a little hurt. I go and try to find the shepherd. After calling, I heard his voice and went over to where he’s standing.
“What am I?” I asked him.
“You’re a sheep,” he answered.
“But the others say I’m not.”
“That doesn’t matter. You’re a sheep.”
“How can I be sure?”
“You recognized my voice when I called you.”
So after all my doubting and anxiety, the answer is simple. I still hear Jesus’ voice. I am not so far off the path that I’ve lost my sense of Him, of His compassion and mercy, His patience, His humility. When I’m overwhelmed by all the descriptions of Jesus people are throwing before me, I shut my ears to every voice but His and His voice is full of grace. Even if I am wrong about some specific issue, it doesn’t change who I am.
More importantly and most importantly, it doesn’t change who Jesus is.