Unlearning

Last week, I found an old journal at the bottom of a stack of books. It’s holding together with packing tape, and I realize now how hard I was on that black faux Moleskin in the two years I used it.

I took that black faux Moleskin with me when I still went to the small church, and I took it with me when I started attending the big church. And scanning the pages front to back, I can see the ways God was working on me, sometimes even at me, changing me and maturing my faith.

Somewhere in the early part of 2011, I stopped taking sermon notes for awhile. Or I’d start taking sermon notes, get distracted by a question I had about what was being taught, and wrestle on the rest of the page about what wasn’t sitting so well with me.

Looking back, I know that God was leading me away from the way I had always done things and prompting me to open myself up to the greater ways He could work and maneuver and move in the world. He was guiding me into deeper faith, into greater knowledge of who He is, and into better ways of loving.

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I told one of my Bible study girls not too long ago that I feel like I’m in a season of un-learning. I told her that I think this way we were raised in church with the sense of “right-ness” hadn’t opened me up to experiencing people who were different than me, because I was so concerned that they were “wrong” in their sin and needed to get back on the “right” path. I told her that what I know now is that those were never really my calls to make, and that probably all Jesus wants me to do is listen to them, and extend a little love, and let them know they aren’t alone.

I told her that I can’t get the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman out of my head, and that I think maybe I should follow His example a bit more. She said that following Jesus’ example is probably always going to be the right call.

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'Rat Hunting - Kalasin drinking = shot + water' photo (c) 2007, Marshall Astor - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

This is what keeps sticking with me about the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman – He never calls her a sinner. He never once tells her that she’s going down the “wrong” road, and He never tells her that if she doesn’t start doing things the “right” way that she’s going to Hell. What He does instead, it seems to me, is listen and offer another way of doing things:

You can keep pulling water from this well that you’ve always been pulling from and you can keep being thirsty, or you can let me give you living water.

The woman, of course, knows that her life could be counted by her failed relationships. She knows that she’s marked as an outsider by her race and her gender, and she knows that she’s connecting to men in a desperate attempt to feel not so alone in the world. She knows what’s up, and she doesn’t need another man on his religious high-horse telling her how screwed up she is. It seems that what she needs is someone to sit down and recognize her pain. What she needs is someone to get that she gets that she’s a mess, and she needs someone to look her in the eye and offer real help. What she needs is someone to give her a drink.

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I was raised in church and I wouldn’t want to change that, don’t get me wrong. In fact, I told my dad the other day that being in youth group in high school saved me, that having friends probably kept me from making a lot of reckless decisions in a desperate attempt to feel not so alone in the world. And for that I will always be grateful.

But…

I’ve spent most of my life in the church and I’ve spent most of my life feeling small, and those aren’t two things you want anyone to experience at the same time. So, I’m thinking that there’s got to be a better way, a more Jesus-like way of being in the world. And I’m thinking that probably starts with letting Jesus be Jesus and giving myself permission to just be me, and then getting on with the work He’s called me to do.

And that work, I think, starts with sitting down, listening to people, hearing their pain, and offering them a drink of water.

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” –John 4:13-14

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5 thoughts on “Unlearning

  1. What a great blog post. Thank you for it. I read once that Jesus was never harsh with sinners; he saved his criticism for the religious people who should have known better. I haven’t read the gospels yet looking for confirmation of this idea, but I can’t think of any exceptions offhand.

    1. Thanks, M! That is exactly the thought that’s been rolling around in my head – that Jesus was tough on the people who seriously should’ve known better. I mean, he wasn’t afraid to turn tables in the temple and get angry with the Pharisees who’d made a mockery of faith. At the same time, he wasn’t hard on all people of faith, right? He was gentle with Nicodemus and He was forgiving of the disciples when they doubted Him or rejected Him or fell asleep on Him. So, I’m not sure there’s a hard and fast rule here. But, what I do think is that we should probably always lead with a listening ear and then go from there.

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