Water speaks to me. I am not a huge swimmer or anything (I’m actually awful). I do not spend much time in or on water— but it has always been that place for me where Spirit and matter meet. Water is dangerous and beautiful; more powerful than any ship and yet will gently cradle our body-form and float us across its surface. Without it, there is no life. It serves as a good place to house the ancient stories of creation and floods, where perhaps water and myth work together to tell us the divine things that factual, quantitative words cannot. Water is paradox at its finest; chaos, ordered, deep, shallow, dark, reflective, wild, and poetic. In eighth grade, I wanted to write my research paper on water and how beautiful I thought it was. I didn’t. I thought it would make for a weird paper. In my mid-thirties, it seems like the most logical thing to blog about.
This week, one of my best friends texted me (used and edited for length with her permission), “I want so badly to call myself a Christian [but] I am finding it increasingly difficult to convince myself of any truth. How can I take some of Scripture and say it’s “truth” and some are “stories” or an “outdated ideal” of…how we deal with God and ourselves? How do you hold on? What do you still hold to be absolute? Is there such a thing? Do we still call ourselves Christians?”
I love this friend. We were besties in elementary, and then she moved to another school. I did not see her for twenty years. And then one day, there she was in our Chick File A. We fell back into being friends as easy as water runs downhill. I love, more than anything, her searching heart, open eyes, and difficult questions. These are good questions, guys. They are the questions, often answered inadequately or too hastily, that drive many of us from church rather than to it.
I saw Moana last month. Twice. It is my favorite kids’ movie ever. I looked forward to this movie for two years, mostly for the artwork, not knowing much about the storyline. However, as breathtakingly beautiful as the movie is, the story is what stole my heart. It mirrors some of our Christian journeys— being on an island, only allowed to sail the coastline, knowing there is an ocean to explore, but feeling the pressure to play it safe. We can feel locked into a predetermined role, an already mapped out faith, where questions and an exploring heart lead to danger, or worse, the unknown. My favorite part of the movie happens in the cavern full of hidden sailing ships, when Moana whispers, “We were voyagers!”
We should remember that we were voyagers, too. That there is more to being a God worshiper than staying close to the shore.
I’ve thought a lot about my friend’s questions the last few days. They are not unfamiliar to me. I have had the same ones. I don’t think the point is in the answers though. We may live our whole lives in darkness in some places. St. John of the Cross said, “…the more we look at the sun, the greater is the darkness it causes in our vision.” Maybe the point is not whether we ascribe to every point in our church’s statement of faith or can honestly adhere to whatever Creed we read aloud in Sunday morning worship. Maybe we do not need to be worried about whether we are called “Christian” or not in our friend circles. If you love God and are in open water—the kind of water that sometimes feels soothing and other days feels like you are drowning— listen: YOU ARE A VOYAGER.
God is not squeezing you into a role or belief system that redirects your questions and searching heart towards easy answers. His love is bigger than the places you get him wrong. Thank God— because we all probably have him wrong here and there. I hope so. I put my trust in a God who is bigger than my faith, so it is always stretching— sometimes painfully so. Who the hell cares if you fit into nice definitions or other people’s expectations. I hold on to two things: 1. God is love. Always. and 2. My theology will forever be in flux (stagnant theology means I am worshiping a God I’ve created).
To my dear friend, I’m there with you. I am cheering you on from my own spot in the ocean. We are not meant to show up on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights and be fed all the answers. Church people need to be voyagers too. There is still much to be learned, to be explored. May you find the space and grace to ask these things aloud, to wrestle for answers even if they never come, to refuse common labels the power to invalidate your love for God. You are safe. Even in the middle of the ocean. Far from shore. God is there, too.
I love that your faith is all the paradox of water-- chaos, ordered, deep, shallow, dark, reflective, wild, and poetic. This, THIS, is a beautiful life in God. You have a pulse. A beating, sometimes throbbing, heart. These are not the places to fear. It means you are alive. Voyage on.