The members of the Sunday School class I teach and other friends that know me, know that when it comes to my faith, I do not accept easy answers for tough questions. I am a skeptic by nature and faith does not come easy to me. I have lived enough life to have suffered a little and struggled a lot. The seemingly trite explanations of suffering or the traditional answers to biblical questions are not always easy for me to accept. When I sit down with my Sunday School Class on Sunday mornings, I want us to wrestle with meaning of difficult passages. I don’t want to skip over the unpleasant or difficult passages of the Bible. When it comes to the familiar passages, I want us to slow down and not just accept traditional understandings. In short, I take the bible and faith seriously, but it is not “easy”.
On a recent Sunday Morning, one of my longtime class members asked, “Just out of curiosity, is there any “easy answer” that you accept? The class laughed and I blushed a bit. I did not think of an answer right off, but the question stayed with me all week. I reflected on the basic tenants of our faith. I thought about various “truths” I have been taught through the years. Ultimately, I came to the answer that I usually come to when thinking such thoughts – God is Love (I John 4:8).
I was eating lunch with a new friend this week and we were sharing the respective stories of our lives and how we came to be the people we are and do the work that we do. I was struck, as I often am in hearing other’s stories, that though my friend’s story was nothing like mine on the surface, what we shared was an overwhelming experience of God’s love. In my own story, I talk about a time in my life when I felt unloved and unloveable and a friend reached out to me and offered me love. This act was followed by other friends demonstrating love to me – not wholesale approval of where my life was, but love and acceptance in the place that I was. I have also experienced incredible love from my wife, Lynda. This love demonstrated to me by friends has become an internalized experience of what I had previously professed as God’s love, but did not truly understand. This love has become a living reality for me and the experience has been so profound, I want only to help others have such an experience.
In a training I recently attended, I heard Richard Rohr say, “I am better at talking about love than doing it.” That sentiment immediately resonated with me. Having had an experience of transforming love and having done study on the power of love, I am woefully aware of the times that I fail to provide it to others. At times when I am tired, insecure, frustrated, hurt, anxious, fearful, among other feelings, I can let those other emotions cover and smother the desire to be loving. Each day I pray that God would make me more loving; that I would live out in my life the love that I have experienced from God through others.
All of that to say, while I may have questions about some of the fundamentals of my own faith tradition, I cannot just walk away from my faith because there is an experience of love that I have had that literally changed my life. When I read the bible now, I see that love in the pages. I desire to love others because I have experienced the love of God. I desire to be an embodiment of that love for others. There may be one or two others, but I know that the one “easy answer” that I accept is that God is love and God loves me (and you). The journey to understanding that and learning to live that out in every circumstance of life is not all that easy, but I can imagine no other truth that is greater for me.