Putting God in a box makes sense, from a human perspective. We place things within a framework created for the purpose of better understanding. We make judgments, set up criterion and categories, and then place things within our own prescribed construct in an effort to help us comprehend meaning and implication. But, we also do it, ridiculous as that may be, in a feeble attempt to control the things we don’t understand. When it comes to God, we see it all the time. People focus on the things they’re confident in, paying little to no attention to the things they consider “scripturally ambiguous.”
Maybe if we ignore them, they’ll go away.
Maybe I can still follow Jesus without ever really addressing those supposed ambiguities.
Maybe you can. But, I wanted to know the Lord as fully as I could. So, I asked Him to show me where I had put Him in a box. Simply put: Where was I refusing to see the possibility of who God really is because it went against what I was taught on Sunday morning. **PLEASE NOTE: I did NOT say what went against what I was taught in scripture. I believe in the inerrancy of the Bible… and I can also go off on bad translations!*** But, I will NEVER truly understand who God is this side of eternity. None of us will. To think we can is arrogant. And I guess that’s what I was asking God to show me. Where was my arrogance limiting my ability to know Him… and his people.
I should have known as soon as those words escaped my lips, the Lord would turn my world upside down. Without getting into a lengthy explanation of my theological background, or positions, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version: I grew up Southern Baptist. I went to Dallas Theological Seminary. I am not a cessationist. I’m not a dispensionalist. I am a FIERCE opponent of the Prosperity Gospel. (False teaching is serious.) I believe in the gifts of tongues and healing, but I have neither. (If you try to convince me that I can learn them, I’ll try my best to control my face from revealing my thoughts.) I believe in spiritual warfare. I am a HUGE proponent of social justice. HUGE. (If you don’t want to advocate for social justice, then following Jesus might not be for you. The gospel saves you, but the fruit of that salvation is seen in your deeds. See Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25) I love a good theological debate. Not because I’m eager to prove I’m right. Quite the opposite. I want you to show me where I’m wrong and I DESPERATELY want to learn how to better wrestle out our differences with humility and love. I don’t believe my theology is 100% accurate. In fact, I’m pretty sure when we get to heaven, we’ll be surprised how many things we got wrong on this journey. I think a lot of us are prepared to die on a hill at this particular moment (Cough, Cough…. 2020 Presidential election) in this particular culture… that’s probably far from where God is actually leading.
Some have labeled me a “theologically conservative progressive.”
I think labels are dumb.
Honestly, when I see the melding of political and theological, I get nauseous. And irate. Sometimes in reverse order. I just saw a Facebook post today advocating for Christians to “get out on the battle field” for the next Presidential election. Um… I’m sorry, were you not paying attention to the 2016 or 2018 elections? People have strong feelings about it. I have strong feelings about it. But, I’ve been trying to put my feelings aside and push into truth. So, that’s where I’ll start. (These next three posts aren’t “political” at all. But, as the weeks and months start to unfold, you will begin to see that our American Christian/Political culture is scripturally inconsistent at best. (That’s me being EXTREMELY generous. I can give you a very long list of Christian “public figures” who have built their platforms on vilifying the very people Jesus has called us to love… and who have sold books and merchandise to profit on all their hate-spewing diatribes. It’s all connected and Satan is pulling the strings.)
Our first “official” stop on this road trip was to a small church in eastern Tennessee. They graciously invited us in to share our story and support our family. It was the first show and the kids were incredibly nervous. So were the parents. Sydney and Brayden were worried about messing up on stage. We were worried that no one would show up. This is always a real possibility. But, we worried for nothing because the kids were amazing and the gracious and generous people of that community showed up. Their church took a love offering to support our family and then people bought merchandise to love on us even more.
Up to this point, the overwhelming majority of the presentation was focused on the history of Be The Change Youth Initiative and the music behind Be The Change Collective. Only 6 minutes, literally, was spent talking about depression and suicide. But, this is what the pastor spoke about when he closed out the night. He talked about his own struggles and how the topic of mental health needed to be addressed in the church. (We definitely agreed, but it wasn’t something we really focused on as a ministry. And, we didn’t feel called to focus on it. Laughable now.)
The pastor asked our family to come up on stage so their church could pray for us. I could immediately see Jamie squirm out of the corner of my eye. He hates stuff like that. His Catholic upbringing was FAR more conservative and legalistic than my Southern Baptist roots. He had come a long way through the years, but was still the last member of our family to walk up… and actively tried to convince the pastor to not bring us up on the actual stage. But, the pastor wasn’t having any of it. He wanted his church to pray over our family, and we were about to be prayed over like NEVER before.
In the past, churches have prayed for us and it usually looked pretty much the same. The pastor would take the microphone. Sometimes a few others, most likely the elders, would surround us placing their hands on our shoulders, as the pastor began his prayer. And when he was done, some in the congregation would join in with the “Amen.” But, for the most part, the pastor was the main orator.
Well… not at this church.
I immediately knew things were going to be different when the pastor passed the microphone to this unassuming older woman sitting the in third row. He then started telling people to come up on stage, specifically directing people to stand next to certain members of our family. I remember feeling a rush of adrenaline, the faint metallic taste in my mouth. It wasn’t due to fear. I think it was more about expectation. Just as I was regaining my bearings, a chorus of voices filled my head. It was overwhelming. I remember doing two things immediately: squeezing Sydney’s shoulder because I was startled and wishing I could see Jamie’s face because I KNEW he was about to lose his mind.
I also remember listening to see if anyone was praying in tongues. I don’t know if it happened, but I didn’t hear anything indistinguishable. What I did hear was a beautiful sound. Prayers from both young and old filling the room. Each person praying specifically for the person they were touching. I heard teens pray for the Lord’s anointing to continue to fall upon Brayden. (This is a prayer so many have prayed since that night. So many.) I heard someone pray for a hedge of protection to form around Sydney. That God would provide for every need of our family… in ways that would humble us.
It went on for what seemed like hours, but it was only a few minutes. I remember thinking that heaven must surely sound like this. A cacophony of voices, mostly indiscernible, but all giving praise to the Lord. While I’m sure it was restrained, compared to other expressions of prayer, it was audacious for us. But, not irreverent. It was exuberant without forsaking the holy. We felt the tension and decided to rest there. But, He didn’t let us rest there long because within 24 hours things were about to get REALLY uncomfortable.