Sunday, September 7, 2014

Open Letter to Some People I Care About

Okay. Here's the thing.
Can we talk about Jesus?
Because I'm soul-hungry and soul-thirsty.
And what you're handing me is sawdust, and it leaves me gasping and choking and inside-out-starving.
I'm soul-sick and soul-weary.
And this is not medicine or rest. It's like treating my bleeding places with a sleeping pill and my cancer with a band-aid. It's poking me with a stick and telling me to run faster when what I need is to sit and rest my aching feet. (And doesn't Jesus say "Come to me, all who are weary..."?)
Here's what I need.
I need you to break it down for me. Give it to me real simple, no matter how much I should be able to handle. I know I have teeth and I should be able to chew this, but I really. just. can't.
Because this Elder Sister has a prodigal heart, and I need the wake-up call of radical grace more than I need air. Stop my arguings and ask me questions too small, too simple, to astronomically huge for my intellect to get in the way of my heart answering you.
I'm hungry for gospel, yes, still; Still, after all these years, I need you to tell me the story about the Son of the God who made the stars gave his life so I could live. Tell me again that all that rests on me is to believe it, to accept it, and to walk forward in the knowing of it.
I keep needing to hear this. Over and over again. I never get away from needing to be reminded that I am a sinner saved by grace.
When the weight of your doctrinal debates and your systematized theologies and your theoretical discussions is to much for me, can you reach out a hand to help me up? Can we break it down and take it slow and get back to the things that matter on an eternity-shaping level? Can we, just for a little while, focus on the things I know we agree about?
Not all the time, I promise. I like the deep stuff, most of the time. I enjoy the debate, the up-in-arms that goes away as soon as we step outside of the classroom. I look forward to the stimulating conversation, and I feel like I've accomplished something all day when I get a word in edgewise. And hearing you all disagree about things I've always taken for granted gives me new chances to wrestle with what I believe. In the end, my beliefs are so much stronger for it, and I'm grateful for that. I understand why this is good, and healthy, and fun. But I can't do it all the time. I need the great-big-little-ness of eternal constants and incontrovertible truth. I need for us to talk about Jesus.
And here's my thing, friend. I know my stuff well enough to know that I am not the only one. I used to feel that way. I used to think that it was just me. I used to feel bad about it. But I've learned since then it's the hang-up of many, many, many of us who've grown up within the four walls of an American church struggle with on a much-more-than-daily basis. You, my friend, I know, need to hear this too. Because a soul that gets complacent on knowing stuff and talking about stuff doesn't con-cen-trate (because it's con-cen-tric that's the operative word - we are, by nature, cyclical beings) on the Really Important Stuff anything like often enough to live like a soul that's seeped in Jesus is capable of living. It doesn't get Kingdom-Work done like a soul that's never gotten over the wordless, moment-by-moment gratitude inspired by unfathomable grace. Believe me. I've tried.
I don't know how to treat my faith like an intellectual exercise. I don't know how to spit out John 3:16 (which, I've always been taught, is the hinge-verse of the faith that is the deciding factor of my entire existence) like it's something stuck between my teeth, like I'm back in fifth grade and saying times-tables. Maybe it's the way I was raised, maybe it's my emotionalist, sensational background, maybe it's part of the joys of being raised Baptist in the dirty South (I never thought anything would make me miss Baptists so bad). Maybe it's not you, it's me. But I know that I know that I know that there's more to this faith we're walking in than being able to coolly, as though you were commenting on the weather, toss around phrases like God and sin and grace and love and Jesus.
Seriously, guys, this is base-code-of-the-universe stuff, and I don't know how to talk about it without my chest hurting and my eyes smarting. Can that fire still reach you? Can you feel the heat of that in your chest? When was the last time you let something pierced your soul?
Because I'm pretty sure that tender-heartedness (that sense of cut-me-and-I'll-bleed) is what makes it all work. I'm pretty sure that compassion and humility (I'm slowly learning that humility is what keeps the world spinning on its axis) and desire-to-witness and everything else that is supposed to be a part of what living for Jesus looks like, all springs from tender-heartedness, which springs, ultimately, from gratitude. From being able to feel the sinner-saved-by-grace miracle taking place underneath your skin as fresh as the day you first prayed that sinner's prayer (or whatever it is you did, on the off-chance that's just a Baptist thing).
And this is the thing I'm worst at.
So I need to be reminded.
So can we talk about Jesus?

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