My “aha” moments

aha_titleTheologian Peter Enns is currently featuring a series of guest posts by fellow theologians describing their “aha” moments when it came to looking at Christianity or the Bible in a different way. It got me thinking about mine.

My first came at age 20 when the denomination I had attended all my life was rocked by a series of changes. I saw for the first time that it was not my observance of a Saturday Sabbath and sequence of annual Old Testament Holy Days that was important, but my relationship with Jesus, who loved me. This was critical and a great deal of relief and joy entered my life at that time – but I still believed that his acceptance of me was tied to my performance. The Sabbath and Holy Days may not have been important any more, but other things were – I needed to serve him.

My next was one I was not to fully realise until years later, but as I spent a year teaching English in Sri Lanka to Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim students, I discovered people not of darkness, but of gentleness and supreme joy despite often significant poverty. I felt not the slightest need or desire to change them – they were already lit from within. If anyone was changed that year, it was I. Many questions were sparked for me at that time, but having no idea what to do with them at the time, I buried them and got on with the business of marriage and children.

My next and most monumental of all was as I discovered Trinitarian Theology via Baxter Kruger, Steve McVey and others. These gentlemen were incredibly instrumental in helping open my eyes to the fact that while I had indeed internalized the reality that Jesus loved me, I believed that there were still strings and conditions attached. And I was still seeing the dark, angry, vengeful Father behind his back.

Only he wasn’t there.

He didn’t exist.

Who did exist was a Father who loved me in ways beyond my wildest dreams with no strings attached.

This rocked my world. I had an immediate recognition that these things were true. As a parent to young children myself, it finally all made sense. There was nothing my children could do that would make me turn my back on them for even a minute, let alone eternity. I did not feel right about inflicting pain on my child for making a mistake, even a willful one, for the purpose of teaching him a lesson. I would allow myself to be flattened by a bus or walk miles on burning shards of glass in a heartbeat for my child even if at the end of it all, she slapped me in the face and told me she had no mother.

It brought me to my knees when I saw for the first time that what I felt for my children – the very energy that drove me night and day – was like a candle in comparison to the forest fire of love the Father bore unconditionally for me and for every person ever born.

My Sri Lankan friends of other religions, I sincerely feel, included.

And so my beliefs have continued to grow and evolve – I receive new “aha” moments that give me goosebumps on a regular basis, but I don’t believe there will be any more of the earth-shaking variety. (Though who knows??!) I am secure in the unalterable love of Father, Son and Spirit – and though like all people I still have a few serious questions (mostly the “how can this tragedy be allowed to happen?” variety), at this point I sincerely believe that nothing good is impossible with God. There is no limit to his patience, understanding, and ability to heal and restore hurting, shattered souls that have done much wrong. We may never see the outcome of it this side of eternity, but on the other side, I believe we will.

It is said that in Heaven there will be no more tears or sadness. With the majority of humankind writhing in hell or willed out of existence, as much evangelical Christianity suggests, I do not see how this could be. The idea that we could grow to forget those we had loved but had not “made it” is a supreme sadness in itself. And so I hope, and I expect, to see us all there, restored.

None of this has come without pain and loss at each stage, mostly in the form of withdrawn friendships, and loss of community. I have shed some tears over it indeed – but, having been where they are and believed what they do, I understand, more than they know. That pain has eased. I have also gained wonderful friends and a community of people who are also sharing the beauty of what they are coming to see. It’s incredibly exciting and I feel far from alone.

It’s a journey I feel quite sure will last a lifetime. The best is yet to come!

~ by Jeannine Buntrock

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