(Part 3 Here)
Now four years later, I find myself in a marriage so good I never could have dreamed it was possible. Not good, as in idyllic or without its trials, good as in a marriage where there is deep love and a desire to always grow closer, even when it means being painfully vulnerable. We got married a little over a year after that day we prayed together, and life has not stopped ever since. We spent the first year married on the move with the Air Force, and the second moved to Japan for our first assignment, where we have been ever since.
Living in Japan has in many ways been a time of healing, a time of searching, and a time of asking the questions I was too tired and too afraid to ask. 2012 began a time where I sought to better understand my faith, how it had changed, and to understand God in ways I never even considered as a child.
2012 and 2013 also saw me get increasingly involved on base, as well as in the surrounding Japanese community. I began to teach English off base part time to both Japanese adults and children. I volunteered the rest of my time, working with private organizations on base to support the community and spouse networks. I also started my master’s degree online, where I began working towards a Masters in Public Administration from CU Denver. I lead worship at the local chapel and played the piano for the women’s bible study group. I started a new running hobby. Life only got busier and fuller. I had been given the remarkable opportunity to live overseas in a country I never dreamed of living in, and I wanted to make the most of it. I have made memories and friendships here that I know will last a lifetime.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, I began a lesser-known journey. A journey of allowing myself to finally open up the closet of questions I had been ignoring and denying for years. This was partly spurred on by finding one of my favorite authors, Brene Brown. Her words challenged me.
Faith minus vulnerability and mystery equals extremism. If you’ve got all the answers, then don’t call what you do ‘faith.’
Suddenly for the first time in my life, I didn’t have all the answers and I didn’t have to hide the fact that I didn’t have them all… well at least not hide them from a few people in my life that know me very well.
Suddenly my faith was leading me to be vulnerable, to question, and to live life in the midst of it despite uncertainty.
I started reading book after book and blog after blog in any free moment I had. I would fall asleep phone in hand and wake up to read another author, another article, another story. I stumbled upon authors and bloggers like Glennon Melton, Rachel Held Evans, Addie Zierman, The Junia Project, Recovering Grace, Homeschoolers Annonymous, The Registered Runaway, and so many more.
I have read books like Daring Greatly, Carry On Warrior, Lean In, Torn, God and the Gay Christian, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, Evolving in Monkey Town, When I was on Fire, Jesus Feminist, Pastrix, Grace for the Good Girl, and the list keeps going.
Suddenly issues that I grew up fearing or judging or not understanding began to reveal layers of life that I had never seen before.
It was like I pulled a thread and the unraveling has yet to stop.
I learned that Feminism is not the root of all evil and the utter demise of American society. I learned that Feminism is really the belief that women are people too, that women are worth celebrating, that women are worth empowering, and that is a message I am now proud to stand up for.
I learned that my husband never liked or felt comfortable with the mold of Christian, complementarian, patriarchal marriage that I once believed was the right and only way of modeling marriage. We have learned instead that it is possible and utterly freeing to approach marriage from an egalitarian perspective that celebrates mutual respect, love, and support of each others goals and strengths versus a constant struggle with enforcing strict roles of who does what.
I learned that I never understood much about homosexuality or the entire LGTB community, or the doctrines on this issue that mainline Christianity and its various sectors championed. I knew the typical party-line answer, but had never really known anyone it was an issue to, so was rather indifferent to it.
Until I couldn’t be indifferent anymore. Until one of my best friends pushed past my indifference with pain and an untold story that blew my world apart.
Suddenly, it wasn’t just some far off issue that sounded too complicated and controversial to really understand. Suddenly it was very personal, and the little I knew, meant my faith would entail some very harsh answers that I didn’t know if I could live with.
Rachel Held Evans, Glennon Melton, Justin Lee with his book Torn, and Matthew Vines with his book God and the Gay Christian showed me that the Christian answers I had heard all my life were not the only ones out there. Suddenly it wasn’t just an issue to me anymore. It was people. It was people I cared about.
My heart, my faith, and my head were at war, and ultimately my heart won. Everything I know about Christ’s life and message was a life lived to love people unconditionally, to include, to serve, to give, to touch the untouchable, to reach the unreachable, and to not judge.
This is how I want and choose to live my life. I have now found that I am not the only one out there in Christian circles who believes that either. There are mainline Christian denominations that share similar beliefs. I discovered that Justin Lee, Matthew Vines, and many others within and outside of the Gay Christian Network are working hard to bring awareness, education, and compassion to an already heated, difficult, and emotion-filled issue.
I no longer agree with interpretations of Scripture that see loving and monogamous same-sex relationships as sin. I will gladly support my friends’ marriage to their loving partners when the day approaches. This issue has been one I have spent hours and over a year studying from every perspective possible, and it is not one I approach lightly. So if it is a topic someone wants to share a story on, or discuss in loving and respectful tones I would welcome a conversation, however anything other than that is not.
Studying these issues led me to others. One question led to another. Questions in my faith on what some consider “grey areas of belief” in Christianity led to me questioning mainline beliefs.
Questioning the inspiration of Scripture, questioning the more violent and intolerant passages of scripture that became very hard for me to stomach much less understand, questioning the human and cultural biases of the writers of scripture, questioning the agendas and process of the canonization of scripture, questioning the long and controversial legacy of Christianity throughout history both beautiful and ugly—good and bad, questioning heaven and hell, questioning the afterlife, questioning salvation… I opened the door to the closet and an avalanche ensued.
I have found some answers.
I have questions that still go unanswered.
I have lost friends. I have found new ones. I have found new depths of unconditional love and support from my family around me as they have all carried me through this process. I don’t know when this season will end, or if it ever will. My faith has changed significantly and I find it much more difficult to define. Religion was safe. Religion was secure with its neatly formed, defendable answers all meticulously outlined.
Life and choosing faith destroyed my boxes.
I have learned to breathe and find comfort in the journey, despite the fear and not having all the answers.
Lifted out of the ashes
I am found in the aftermath…
Lyrics taken from Hillsong United Song titled: Aftermath
Until Next Time,