For too long, stop signs permeated my faith. “Don’t believe this.” “Don’t do that.” “Don’t go there.” “Don’t listen to that.” And I grew up in a relatively comfortable home. I can’t imagine what a legalistic faith would feel like. These stop signs were sometimes fear-based. They were often a warning to prevent me from going where God didn’t want me to go. People who disregarded these stop signs weren’t serious about their faith. They didn’t trust that the stop signs were meant to keep them safe.
As I got older, the problem I increasingly grappled with was that the stop signs weren’t producing healthier individuals. People who followed these rules were just as screwed up, though perhaps in different ways. I began to question some of the stop signs and eventually cautiously move past them. To stay compliant to the stop signs would have been to become stagnant in my faith and eventually have it die altogether, like repeating freshman year over and over and over. There is only so much of that one can take, especially freshman year.
My Christian faith had taught me this idea that there is the letter of the law, or the rules one is meant to follow; and then there is the spirit of the law, understanding the greater intent of the law. Jesus was often cited as the example of one moving from the law to the spirit of the law. Did he break a rule by healing on the Sabbath? Yes. Was it wrong? Jesus said it wasn’t. Interestingly Christians would use Jesus as an example to shame Jews for getting it wrong. And yet this is exactly what I experienced from Christians.
When I began to venture beyond some of the stop signs, I encountered a number of people who cautioned me, who judged me, who bullied me, who shamed me. There is a lot of negativity in some religious systems. And it’s hard to not be impacted by it. It’s hard to not have one’s faith hardened by other people’s negativity. It’s hard not to have one’s faith soiled by constantly being told what’s wrong with you, with what believe or who you are reading or what you find inspiring.
I have had to learn how to be fueled by what is working. I now listen for the “Go!” moments in my life. I am still learning to quiet the voices yelling at me to stop. I try to relish the inspiration and I do my best to move past what would otherwise shut me down. It’s not that there isn’t a periodic “no” or “not yet.” Sometimes it comes in the form of “What about this?” or “Are you sure?” The difference is that the stop sign was put there by someone else. The “no” or “not yet” or “slow down” or “are you sure?” requires on ongoing engagement with my faith.
I get the purpose of stop signs. They aren’t inherently bad. But if those stop signs are the point of your driving experience, you aren’t really focused on the experience of driving. I trust my acquired skills to navigate and stay safe. Feel free to disagree. We can even have a great conversation about that. But if all you are going to do is to yell at me to stop, to tell me I don’t understand, to point out how you know much more than me, then I’m going to have to keep on going.
2 thoughts on “Go!”
I have to agree with you about the stop signs in “religious” circles (other circles too). Who hasn’t experienced it? Some though find that these stop signs are the easy and necessary way to define their identities not understanding that they are the very thing that is enslaving them to a life of laws and judgment rather than the freedom of grace, mercy, and forgiveness. There is One who has offered us life and liberty, and that abundantly, if we can trust His goodness. Wow…is that hard to do when we look around! We are our very own worst enemies. I think of the attitudes and things I have said over the years and simply cringe. Who did I think I was/am? But He shows us that we are no better than the other, that we are all on a level playing field. If I judge another, I move into the realm of right and wrong (law) rather than the life of grace with its system of life and death. We all have choices to lean into life or go our own path and move into death (doing it our way and moving into separation from the Life-giver).
I can, however, observe that certain actions by a particular person may not allow them all that is available, that they may miss out in the full freedom and light that is offered for one’s life here on earth. I can place boundaries on relationships where actions affect others and are not healthy. God did create humanity with an order in which it operates. The laws and commandments came out of this basic operating manual that was instilled in us from the get-go. They were important enough that they are now (through a major sacrifice) written on our hearts and are still an operational guide-line. My understanding is that if we do not find peace in our lives we ought to be questioning, as you mentioned (“are you sure”), our understanding of this relationship with someone who intensely loves us and wants the very best for us.
All I know is that I don’t even know how to have this conversation without mentioning Jesus. Without Him and His finished work I see no freedom but only us living for us or trying to appease some higher power. Either of those move us into a system of laws and judgment as I try to convince you that my way is the best way especially since that is the very lens through which I see myself. I must defend it with all fervor because I must defend my very well-being and heart which is the core of my belief system. On the other hand, I can trust what this Jesus says about us and I no longer need to judge but I am moved to a place of rest. Who I am no longer needs to be pressed upon all those around me but it will simply flow as He does the leading. The wild thing is, that means I don’t know where the wave I’m riding on may even take me. I no longer really know how to navigate because I’m no longer the driver. Correcting us is not what brought us into relationship with this God but His love sure did wonders, especially His sacrificial love, which spoke volumes and just melted our hearts. Correcting others and telling them how they should operate, or should be, is certainly not a drawing card nor a reflection of this amazing Master and the way He draws us to Him.
Anyway…I was intrigued by what you wrote and got a bit windy in my response but so appreciate your deeper thinking about so many subjects and your kind service to our community. I don’t know really whether I agree or disagree but it made me think and it made me want to write some words down and have a conversation. Thanks!
I’m glad you felt compelled to write! I love reading more about your journey of faith. Moving to a place of rest, riding a wave to an unknown destination – well said, and resonates deeply.