How did I wind up so interested in theology? I think the spark may have been lit in high school, as I remember being frustrated the way I’d basically memorize my youth pastor’s sermon points, but couldn’t retain anything in my AP Calculus class.
Then perhaps it was further dived into when the boy I had a crush on when I was 18 and 19 years old would talk to me late into the night about C.S. Lewis books and quotes. By 20, I was reading popular modern Christian authors as I tried to argue against this friend’s Rob Bell-type beliefs during that whole Love Wins / Erasing Hell madness in the Christian community (if you don’t know about that: good.) I’d even work out at the gym listening to David Platt sermons. Then my world started to break, and my beliefs in the world were challenged, and I tried to walk away from all the debates and arguments and appeals to emotion or intellect for awhile. I didn’t want to figure out the divide between the spiritual and the flesh anymore. I was tired. I was sore from watching the hate.
For reading purposes, I dived into back fiction and newly into memoirs. I read only a couple with a spiritual vibe but without the theological structure, like Shauna Niequist’s Bittersweet, sent to me by a friend, or Bob Goff’s Love Does, given to me by a pastor. I didn’t do church for awhile, which I’ve blogged about as a very healing and good time, but I nonetheless realized something was missing. When I found Sojourn, my church now, I was still shaky. I knew that I missed lessons on Christian theology and Christian biblical history. I knew I missed the sacredness in those sermons. But I didn’t know what I believed about the Bible. I didn’t want to listen to more debates, more hatred thrown, more guilt pushed into me. I needed to be right, I needed correct information, but how the hell would I know?
Then another friend sent me a link to a podcast by Rob Bell. My old self, my more legalistic self, cringed at first. Rob Bell? The Love Wins guy that everyone at APU dismissed as a universalist? What was he even doing making podcasts? Didn’t that book destroy his career? (The answer, by the way, is: yeah, but only to rekindle it in a beautiful way.) But as I had never actually read a single piece of writing by Rob Bell, I realized I didn’t have much to judge him by, so I listened.
Hatred is thrown aside. Guilt is confronted and replaced with validation of our own humanness, and there are words spoken of the Divine in all of creation. I was hurting and still angry at the Church. But after listening to a couple sermons at Sojourn and then these Rob Bell podcasts, I was thinking, “If THIS is what the Gospel is about… then for the first time in a long time, I can see why Gospel means the Good News. This finally feels like Good News.”
Since then, I’ve sought out sermons and podcasts and books and blogs. I have seen the combination of social justice tied with Scripture, and it has restored my faith in what God is doing in this world. But something about me has also been timid. I’ve been afraid to dive too deeply. I’m worried that I’ve bought into some “Rob Bell” worldview that I used to think would certainly send people to hell, and even more terrified that I might help pave the pathway to hell, as people described Bell as doing.
Simply put: I’m afraid of having the wrong ideas and viewpoints. I’m still afraid of being wrong. The other day, I had a moment of picking up another book and feeling that same fear. What if I believe the things I read and they’re wrong? What if I become MORE wrong than I was before? This thought was responded to with a voice inside of me: You will. You will be wrong sometimes. In your search for truth and vulnerability, you will believe things that are wrong. And that’s OK. Not everything will be wrong, but not everything will be right. That is part of the search for truth.
Something in me breathed a sigh of relief. You keep going, and you keep learning, and you’re going to be OK. The truth is this: I’ve been wrong before. Super wrong, in fact. I will be wrong again. I’m wrong right now about stuff, I’m sure. But there is beauty in learning, and in growing, and in developing as a person. There is beauty in knowing that grace shines through our wrongness, because there is something far more important than “right vs wrong.” Love, as it turns out, still wins.