At first the words landed sweet, like the tingle of sour candy I used to scrape across my teeth
during Summer matinees, so swept up in story that I didn’t notice my tongue start burning raw.
It would later hurt to talk and it took some figuring
to trade in those large pastel candy pucks
for a box of something creamier and chocolate,
which feels a little like the path I’ve taken with scripture
and I’m fumbling, talking milk duds, while I stall
to find the words because this is where the wicket gets especially sticky
in my story.
The word of God.
I still have a bit of an allergic reaction to this phrase,
and to many of the clusters of words that make up what my faith calls the Bible,
this volume of letters that I’ve loved and loathed.
“Of all the scriptures I despise, I hate that one most of all,”
the words scrambled out of my mouth
too hot and fast to wrangle back inside as I watched faces go shocked with nervous laughter.
It was a little gathering of believers that met each week where we
sprawled on couches and floor and worshiped easy and talked real and spoke encouragement
and prayer over each other’s hearts and lives and people in a genuine, healing way.
It was bliss for me until it took an unexpected turn into bible study and my insides began to squirm.
The offending verse brought back the sharp slap of shame I’d felt in earlier years
as I’d failed to “be healed” or “have no anxiety” and showed up weak or depressed
to you better cowboy the faith up and do better and believe harder
because neediness is sin.
The medicine was to “get more Word in me.”
(I can’t even make this up) Oh. so. heavy.
I’d eventually run away from this and similar spiritual floggings, then wrap around and circle back,
this time to safer-seeming places and mostly they were and I loved the love I’d discover
as I unwrapped another slice of freedom from the very same book that pounded me before.
It was like swimming in the sea and being drawn into and dazzled by beauty and light
or suddenly stung and throttled until squeezed empty of breath.
What was the deal?
Like a sandpiper on the beach, I’d dart away then go back hopeful,
drawn always to the sunsparkles on dancing water.
There are a million places I could settle and even more stories why,
but I want to tell you quick were I’ve landed
because the long version is a love story still unfolding and for another day
The cliff notes for now: I go no more into the water alone
wearing the tight, heavy clothes of assumption.
I invite the author to take me there, skinny dipping,
like a guide who seems happy to have me along for company
and may be eager to show me a shade or swirl I’ve never noticed
or just bob in the waves until some weight slides off
and I’m floating free where I felt constricted before.
Because the whole thing is a painting, I think….
Poetry and parables and picture-talk,
spacious fields of buried treasure inviting discovery, spirit calling spirit,
a long beach for combing slow, encountering gifts washed up from the deep.
Going there intellectually seems like driving fast down the beach in a truck,
looking for messages written in sand.
Mysteries get missed and even crushed that way,
and so do people.
I came back to life in the rhythm of the waves,
walking bare-heart on the moist of the sand.
I’d looked for God in a still life and found eventually an abstract painting,
an allegory with a generous guide.
Do I even think I understand it all? Oh Lord no and feel no pressure to try.
And I wouldn’t argue any point at all, except for this one:
if someone looks inside this tapestry and sees a picture
that paints God as harsh or vengeful or petty or moody or narrow or disengaged,
anything other than the good I see loved out loud in the person of Jesus,
I don’t buy it, thinking this projection of bias,
or even more likely translation of a foreign language based only on our native tongue.
Maybe it was always meant to be a treasure dig like I’ve come to wonder.
I can only say that I’m finding still fresh fountains buried for me there
and the process seems to grow inside me something that I wouldn’t trade for certainty.
And yes, if served up in a spirit that my heart no longer welcomes, my soul will break out in hives
and I’ll run screaming into the woods with no apology.
I have no tolerance for spiritual bullying or the suffocating fear it can cause.
(Really, people? From a God who took the pains to write down “fear not”
365 times in a book he was willing to pass off to wobbly beings like us to have published?
Don’t even try to threaten me with fear.)
If I had to say it short, I’d say that yes, I believe that scripture is God-breathed,
like trees and sky and sea and flowers and puppies
which we also tend to get our sticky hand prints on and pollute or even abuse.
(i’ll go there later – where i’ve landed on the whole deal of suffering and a loving God)
For now, may I just bless you wherever you are on whatever your journey
in whatever you choose to believe.
I love this about life – how it’s all one big eclectic explore and we’re all welcome along the way.
And for each time someone has used scripture at you – caused some blunt trauma wound,
can i apologize to that hurting place. I believe wholehearted that it wasn’t from the heart of God.
Someone just couldn’t see the picture for the paint.
You are loved.
“Will you follow me down that old dirt road and get lost inside those mountains?
Will you rip up that map and dance inside the confetti?
Let’s chase the horizon and find ourselves along the way.
These are wandering feet and they wish for you to join them.”
– Tyler Knott Gregson
” Don’t settle for an angry, narrow-minded, linear-thinking,
unkind, punitive God.”
– Robin Macmillan
Thanks for coming along on this series…..I have maybe one more or maybe I’ll find myself done;
it’s been harder to dig up the words than I ever imagined.
I’ll be putting it to voice soon, like I wrote it to be.
Here’s another little video I made you….hope you enjoy:)