I’ve got a half dozen drafts all like this, all starting with disclaimers. I’m mostly speaking to people at my old church with varying levels of subtlety, none as clear as this one, but even upon publish, I don’t expect anyone to stumble upon this for a while.
In the disclaimers, I clarify that I haven’t gone off the rails and that I haven’t renounced or “shipwrecked” my faith, but that there are a bunch of things that I disagree with. Some methodological disagreements, some “both, and” and “yes, but” corrections that seek to pull a stance closer to center. In my mind, it’s not subjective nitpicking, and it’s not that everyone’s right and we’re just seeing different angles of God like looking at different faces of a diamond… it’s big enough that it feels moral to me. It feels the difference between right and wrong. It feels incomplete.
After the disclaimer, I go into the main argument.
I transition to how giving grace to the hearer means not being so explicit in communication and allowing yourself to be misunderstood. That gives someone the creative autonomy to think for themselves on what you’ve said. It could be messy, but it goes farther over time than spoon-feeding.
A different post talks about how trying to be so precise in our understanding of God’s love undermines it and removes all of the romance and feeling.
In this one, I was planning to write about how there are different ways to come to God and to relate to Him, and one’s not superior to another. You can relate to God as an authority figure, but you can also relate to Him as a friend who sympathizes with you in weakness. You can come to Him through questions and logic and reasoning or from fear of hell or from seeking comfort in a moment of need.
I would’ve talked about how the gospel is good news to people when it answers the questions that they’re asking in a medium that they can understand and even find naturally persuasive. And how we shouldn’t mistake or conflate personal cultural discrepancies with the inevitable and non-negotiable confrontations of the gospel.
I would’ve said something about trusting people and allowing them to grow and learn even if they mess things up, even if they are a liability. The apostles were doofuses, but Jesus still commissioned them and brought them along while they fumbled around. The early church was trying to get its act together too with the widows and the Gentiles.
The church needs its members to feel equipped and mobilized to use the gifts that they’ve received, so that the church can be built up into maturity. If the church members aren’t mobilized, the problem isn’t as easy as laziness. For a Chinese church priding itself on work ethic, I’d wish that laziness were the issue. It’s paralysis by high standards, a lack of support, promotion of a faith that is limited to the domain of the local church, and a culturally re-enforced fear of failure.
In none of these drafts do I go so far as to say “I miss you. I wish I was a part of your lives. I wish you understood that it felt like we lost everything. I wish you knew I swallowed all of my defenses because I didn’t want to cause trouble. I know you moved on, but I spent the last year thinking closure wouldn’t take that long, but now I’m worried it’ll never arrive.”
It’s hard for me. It feels wrong to me. I’m not reminiscing about the “good ol’ days” without replaying the arguments and the frustration. I gave up stuff I don’t think I should’ve given up. I perpetuated culture I wouldn’t promote anymore. And I wish it wasn’t part of me, but it still affects how I think about and talk to God, how I go to church, how I talk to people. I couldn’t get through my day without guilt. That’s not righteousness. That’s legalism.
I never finish the posts. They sit unpolished and unresolved in my Medium account.
Paul offers something. Tonight, it feels as impersonal as it does hopeful.
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Cor 5:17.