Getting out of the boat


boat-1869215_1920The smallest things often have the biggest impact on how I view myself.

I’m pretty small stuff in the blogosphere, and believe it or not, no one has made a negative comment about anything I’ve published. Not one.

Until just recently. And it wasn’t even a negative comment. It just questioned the wisdom of telling a story that wasn’t mine. No, I didn’t plagiarize or take credit when credit was not due to me. And I got it all straightened out – at least I think I did – to everyone’s satisfaction. And that’s all I’m going to say for fear of hurting someone’s feelings or sounding judgmental.

But what I realized during that short and rather insignificant series of emails and revisions is that I’m pretty thin-skinned. Not so different from most everyone who shares my personality traits of peacemaker and wimp.

It kinda bothered me that the criticism – and not even the words, just the fact that they were said – stirred up an odd combination of stuff: defenses, rebuttals, explanations, pride, shame, insecurity.

So, as I was pondering and praying about this, God, as is His way with me, sent a song: Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns:

Oh what I would do to have the kind of faith it takes
To climb out of this boat I’m in – onto the crashing waves
To step out of my comfort zone,  into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is
And He’s holding out His hand.

Oh, those crashing waves. And, evidently in my case, even the tiniest of ripples. The unsettling feelings I have that, as soon as I click Publish, I will step out into the waves of people, their ideas, their bias, their perspective…

And I will become subject to how they choose to crash in on me, telling me I’m wrong, reminding me that I’ve always been wrong and sinful and less than. Telling me I’ll never amount to anything, I’ve got it all mixed up, I’m not who I say I am. I’m losing the spiritual war.

I can’t really be a Believer.

I find myself in conversations during which critical or smug comments about the twisted beliefs of “them” sound curiously like something I believe to be true. I remained as small as possible when the Bible-study discussion turns a corner straight into controversy. Can we please just go back to our “purpose-driven lives” and stop talking about it? Please don’t make me step out into the waves.

You all know what I’m talking about. Those issues for which placards emerge and parades are formed. Ideas and positions that, for some reason, have become political issues. The tough ones.

Sides are chosen. Lines are drawn. Camps are pitched with big tents and strong, deep stakes.

Good golly, Miss Molly. Please not that. Not camps.

Oh what I would do to have the kind of strength it takes to stand before a giant
With just a sling and a stone
Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors, shaking in their armor,
Wishing they’d have had the strength to stand.

That’s me. Wishing with all my heart I had the strength to face those giant issues with just a stone’s worth of courage, ready and willing and unafraid to use the voice God gave me to bring the simple, good news of Jesus to all who can hear.

At times, the good news of Jesus comes wrapped in tolerance, a trait that many of my fellow Believers call “giving in to Satan” or “watering down the Gospel”.

But isn’t it possible that those in the “other” camps wish we’d look past the camp label and just talk about Jesus?  About how much He wants all campers, no matter where they pitch their tent, to meet Him in Heaven.

I’m not a Bible scholar. I don’t know or understand a fraction of what many giants of the Faith have already forgotten. I’ve been lazy and disengaged so much of my life.

And, my lovelies, maybe I’m completely, utterly, and unforgivably wrong. Maybe I’ve been lulled into the narrow, false notions of peace and privilege for so long I can’t see beyond us four and no more.

Maybe. But as I listen and learn, I’m more and more convinced that Jesus made the foundations of Truth pretty clear. He said…

…”I am the Way, the Truth, the Life.” (John 14:6)
…”Love Me with all your heart, mind and strength.” (Mark 12:33)
…”Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:33)

I know there are a lot of other beliefs and issues and sacraments we, as Jesus People, hold near and dear. I hold them close. But honest and truly I believe that one truth and two commandments sum up what’s the most important in all of Scripture.

Every other single solitary thing
runs a pretty distant second.

And, with that, I believe I just stepped out of the boat.


The foundations of truth: Jesus is the Way, love Him, love others. Click to Tweet

Are you an expert?



I got to my daughter’s house to watch the kids all day and forgot everything – my writer’s notebook, the book I was going to start reading, and, darn it, I should have remembered to bring my laptop.


Oh, well. Ana always has really good books ready to read, so I selected searching for sunday by Rachel Held Evans. Although I can’t yet recommend the book, so far, so good. I usually read with a pencil, but it didn’t belong to me, so when I came to a particularly riveting line, I stopped to make a note of it in my writer’s notebook.

Rats. No notebook.

And I said, out loud, as if reprimanding myself, “Evidently, you’re not a real writer at all.”

Thankfully, and just as quickly, I snickered, shook my head, and began to wonder where that came from. It didn’t take long to figure it out. It came from “experts”.

I am the member of at least 4 on-line writing groups. We regularly comment when a question is posed, some have broken into smaller groups to read and critique each other’s writing, and we post things only fellow writers would enjoy. And each group has been organized by a professional writer with a lot to offer. They have generously made themselves available to those of us investigating ways to improve our own craft. They don’t offer all of their experiential knowledge for free, but they suggest reliable resources and can help point you in the right direction if you are looking for professional guidance or a new perspective.

In other words, they are experts. A well-deserved title and I give them all the props. They have paid their dues, worked hard, broken through big obstacles, and revealed inevitable pitfalls for those of us who are just beginning.

Yes, they are experts.  But, that doesn’t mean that everything they say is a requirement or that they are all-powerful and make the rules. Rules like If you want to be a real writer:

  • you must write everyday.
  • you must write at least 1,000 (or 500, or 10,000, or some other random number) words a day.
  • you must always carry your notebook so you can write down brilliant ideas, thoughts, and epiphanies.

Yes, they are experts in the craft of writing, in the process of publishing, in knowing which resources are the most valuable. And most of them write eloquently and cleverly and have ingenious stories to tell. But they are not experts of being an artist. They are not the experts of who God created me to be.

Once again, and please do not misunderstand. I’m casting no aspersions on people who offer assistance, guidance, advice, or wisdom about anything. And I’m grateful for the mistakes I have avoided because of them. But, just because someone has a website with 243,819 followers does not mean that they can do the work God asked me to do – nor can they necessarily judge it.

So, no – my day was not ruined. As it turned out, I took cell phone pictures of a couple of pages from Rachel’s book and found a piece of very un-remarkable notebook paper to document my thoughts. Not eloquent, but purpose serving.

So back to my reading and these words in searching for sunday:

Our church believed the Bible, so we practiced immersion. Believer’s baptism, we called it. Had we lived in sixteenth-century Switzerland, we might have been killed for such a conviction, symbolically drowned or possibly burned by fellow Protestants who considered the “second baptisms” of the radical reformers heretical. (Fun fact: more Christians were martyred by one another in the decades after the Reformation than were martyred by the Roman Empire.)*

Good golly, Miss Molly!

Now, stay with me. This has been on my mind for some time. Not the drowning or burning or martyring.

Not that those issues are insignificant. And truth be told, we are not doing a better job of being humans than any generation past.

Not when you consider the constant and consistent stories of child abuse and racial conflict. Not with the random storms that rage against those who believe differently. Not with the condition of our government; no matter what side of the aisle you find yourself, the future does not look bright. The disregard of those who have no voice. The subtle and blatant ways that those with less than are run over or simply dismissed.

But that is not what has been so heavy on my heart.

Just as alarming as the violence or injustice is the assumption that God will smooth it over for Us. That because we are Believers, our political and social positions should and will prevail and our lives of comfort and security restored.

As if lives of comfort and security for Believers are Biblical or guaranteed.

As if everything would be fine and dandy if everyone would simply believe in Jesus and conform to our expectations.

As if we have finally at this very point in history gotten it completely figured out. That our understanding of the Bible is the proper understanding. That, as a Church, we know God better than any generation before us ever has.

As if we are the experts. Like the sixteenth-century Swiss Protestants thought about their faith and beliefs.

As if, had we lived in sixteenth century Switzerland, we would have been able to set those other Protestants straight about baptism and any other subject they cared to bring up or argue.

As if we have the inside spiritual scoop on every ding-dang topic and story from politics to sex to alcohol.

My sweet and dear lovelies, I don’t believe for one second that I have it right. Except I’m pretty sure I don’t have it all right.

But I do know this: I’m responsible for me – not for what others believe, or how they vote, or who they love, or when they get baptized.

And I know Jesus loves me and wants me in Heaven with Him and my dad and granddads and all others who have gone before me. He didn’t come here to briefly lose his human life in the most agonizing way to impress me or as a suggestion for eternal life. If there were other ways to God the Father, I’m pretty sure Jesus would have stayed in Heaven and avoided the whole “life on earth” thing.

And I know I’m not supposed to keep the love of Jesus for myself. I’m supposed to spread it around like crazy, freely, with wild abandon.

Not because I’m an expert or the boss of you or because I have all the answers. But because that’s the only way anyone will ever want what I have. That’s the only way they’ll know I’m a Christian – by my love.


I’m supposed to spread the love of Jesus around–like crazy, freely, w/ wild abandon. Click to Tweet


*Justo Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, Volume 11: The Reformation to the Present Day (New York: HarperOne, 2010), 71.