Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Why Christian?

This past weekend I was fortunate to attend a conference in Minneapolis. Fifteen speakers, all women, from a wide variety of backgrounds, came before us and explained why they identify as Christians. Their stories were vastly different, as were their approaches to telling them. Some of them had experienced terrible losses or treatment; others had more conventional paths to faith but with interesting detours along the way. All were passionate, and articulate, and inspiring.

I loved hearing their stories, and was reminded again how powerful personal stories are for relationships, for instruction, and for guidance. Our stories reveal our truth. There are those who say that stories are not truth, but I believe that the story is far truer than a recitation of the facts, because it reveals the teller's truth. It shows what parts of the events recounted are important to the teller. It tells what part of the event changed the teller. The facts, as told, may be disputable, but the teller's connection to the story is true!

So when I tell you why I am a Christian I am revealing truth about me to you. And it may look very different than your own experience and feel very different to you than it does to me, but it is my answer, my story, and my truth.

Yesterday someone shared an experience she had at a church she visited. She said "I hate going to worship where the children are sent away!" It didn't feel like church to her at all when there were no murmurs or shushing happening. I have heard others share the opposite story: "And no one took their child out - it was so loud I couldn't get a thing out of worship there." Both completely true, and probably neither very factually accurate.

Every family has stories they love to tell:

  • When there was a snake in the basement
  • When someone shoplifted and had to go back and face the music
  • When the uncles pushed the car to the end of the driveway before starting it so as not to wake the parents

Each is told from the perspective of the teller and each participant or observer adds details and perspective that enrich the tale. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John recount stories of Jesus' time on earth and include different (and sometimes conflicting) details Our picture of Jesus is enriched and enhanced by these different perspectives.

You can probably anticipate what I'm going to say: tell your kids stories. Tell them why you're a Christian (or why you're not. . .), or where your spiritual journey has taken you. Tell them about your childhood, your people, your experiences and feelings and changes in direction. Paint them a rich tapestry that includes your truth, varnished and unvarnished. Be authentic. And hear their stories for the truths they reveal. Of course you want to discourage outright falsehoods, but don't get so worried about accuracy that you miss the messages contained within the details. Imagine how little we would know of Jesus if we only had one Gospel. 

I give profound thanks for the stories I heard over the weekend. They pointed out perspectives on Jesus I could never have seen without the lens of their experience. I'd love to hear your story, and I hope someday soon to write mine more fully.

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