Hi friends, Jackie here. I’d like to introduce you to my friend Cindy, a truly brilliant woman whom I’ve referenced before. She is so, so good for me and has challenged my thinking time and again. Sometimes I want to just post her emails on my blog (and if you’re smart enough to find it, you’ll realize I *have* done this before). Over the last, oh, two years, Cindy and I have had an amazing ongoing conversation about how much we’ve learned since undergrad, how much we’ve grown. I asked her to write something to share with my blog readers. Here it is.
I Walk with a Limp
I walk with a limp recently due to a running injury. This injury knocked me out, slowed me down, yet I stubbornly ignored it for two months before finally going to the doctor and getting it put into an air cast. The cast is huge and noticeable. It causes me to limp.
Jacob of the Bible walked with a limp also. He wrestled with God all night until God won the match by simply touching his hip. For the rest of his life, Jacob walked with a limp to remind him of his humility before God.
* * *
I was at youth group in high school when I made the comment that the Bible is our weapon. I meant that the Bible is our spiritual weapon and that we use it to combat the forces of evil in our world. I meant it in the way that Paul describes – putting on the whole armor of God. But over the years, I didn’t use the Bible as a weapon against evil. I used it as a weapon against others. Those who didn’t believe as I did, think as I did, act as I did, vote as I did, interpret the Bible as I did. My Bible was my gun and I looked at its texts as if I was staring down the scope of a shotgun. I lined up the perfect text against whatever or whomever I found lacking, and I fired.
* * *
Paul writes in Galatians that Jesus breaks down divisions. That there isn’t Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, because Christ made us one. We Christians recite this passage from memory, and then we turn around and start creating divisions. Categories of people. Those who are saved and those who are lost. Those who read the Bible the right way and those who read it the wrong way. Those who say they believe in Jesus and those who actually do. Those who vote the right way and those who don’t.
We look at the ways people screw up and we use their sins to put them into the “other” category. Separate from us — those who got it right.
When I arrived at Christian college, I arrived ready to perfect my faith. I sought more shells to load into my spiritual weapon. I wanted someone to teach me the Biblical texts I needed to create divisions between faiths that called themselves “Christian.” I wanted proof that those churches weren’t doing it right, because they didn’t really believe in Jesus. Because they didn’t believe in Jesus the right way. Because they didn’t believe in Jesus my way.
Never mind that Paul says we’re all one in Christ. I read his words as, “All who believe in Christ the way I believe in Christ are one, and everyone else is out.”
* * *
I got the idea, at some point, that the Christian faith wasn’t worth it if it wasn’t really hard. Uncomfortable. Outside the grain. Counter-cultural. What I failed to recognize was that Jesus dug right into culture. He made the poor and meek and thirsty feel comfortable, welcome, loved. He said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
My Christianity believed that Jesus gave me His burden, believed that I should want to be like Jesus, but it never considered my role in relieving the burdens of others. Those whose burdens were heavy. Those who needed love. Those whom I’d placed into the “other” category. It never considered that instead of sitting back and judging culture that Jesus dove right in to it. That maybe I too should be diving in with arms full of love and grace and healing.
* * *
A pastor at my church preached on the story of Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee with His apostles. Jesus said, “Let’s go across to the other side of the lake,” so into the boat they all went. The ship undoubtedly rocked gently, sweetly, like rocking a baby in a cradle, and Jesus succumbed to the lull of the seas and fell asleep. Yet as the ship continued across the sea, the gentle waves grew stronger as the wind began to blow wildly. With the boat rocking furiously, the disciples shook Jesus awake, panicked, terrified that they were going to capsize. Jesus got up, rebuked the seas, and then asked His apostles, seemingly incredulously, “Where is your faith?!”
The pastor discussed that across the Sea of Galilee was Syria — a country of others. Non-Jews. Yet Jesus said, “Let’s go to the other side of the lake,” and His disciples got in the boat.
In the Christian church today, the pastor explained, Jesus is asking us to do the same thing. He is saying, “Let’s go to the other side of the lake,” and on the other side of the lake are “others,” those who have been ostracized and excluded and broken down. We get into the boat, but the seas get rough, and we cry out to God, demand to know why He isn’t saving His church, insist that it’s too hard to bridge this gap between us and the others, that we will never make it to the other side.
“Where is your faith?!” I can almost imagine Him saying.
* * *
In my Christian walk, I walk with a limp. The limp won’t allow me to forget all the pain I’ve caused others by seeing the world as “us” and “them,” by using my Bible as a weapon against the others instead of using it to combat the evil that plagues us all. It’s a limp that reminds me of how many times I’ve looked out at a rocky sea, a small boat, and told Jesus, “No thanks. I’m not getting into that boat.”
I still screw up, judge, categorize, ridicule, doubt. But I pray and I seek grace and I do my best to see people as Jesus did, to break down divisions, to see everyone as one in Him. And when Jesus says, “Get in the boat. Let’s go to the other side of the lake together,” I seek the strength to take His hand and climb on in.