Sometimes when I wrangle with someone about faith issues, I'm told that I don't really understand the faith, that I've missed it in some key way. Perhaps, they reason, I never really did understand, never really knew God.
It's unthinkable to me that I could not have understood the faith "properly" enough to sustain it. I spent twenty plus years in it, teaching others about it, leading dozens and dozens of people to Christ, literally staking my life on my faith by moving to hostile places to share it, for example, with Muslims...
I prayed for healings, had words of knowledge, saw miracles (as we defined them), was slain in the spirit, led bible studies, spent hours upon hours praying (that deep meditative kind as well as the prayer journal kind as well as the breathing prayer kind), spoke in tongues, also railed against tongues (depending on what year you caught up with me as a Christian), attended weekly home groups, attended Bible studies for years, went to both John MacArthur's church and John Wimber's church (bastions of the two sides of evangelicalism), studied the Bible daily for years, read theology and the Christian classics (Lewis, Packer, Stott, Schaeffer, Yancy, and on and on), went to L'Abri, worked for a mission agency, lived as a missionary, listened to Christian radio, spoke at conferences, married a Christian, attended church every week, believed the orthodox tenets of the faith with all my heart, shared them and explained them to others, ghostwrote for John Wimber, wrote worship songs, worshipped, denied myself access to pop culture for ten years so that I would focus only on God...
I'm not sure what I didn't understand.
Some of my old friends are so slippery. They will read a list like the one above and find the crack - "Oh, she denied the culture. That's the problem. She didn't see God at work in the world." But if I had said that I had been in the world (which I was for ten of those years sharing my faith), then I would be told "Oh you were slimed by the world. You needed to remove yourself to get closer to God."
Is there no way to accept that someone went that far and deep into faith as outlined in most non-denom churches and then decided it didn't stand up to scrutiny, to testing, to reason? That it doesn't even hold together theologically?
I know one thing I never understood in all that time - that not everyone who calls herself a Christian sees Christianity through the expression of faith I outlined above. Christianity is much bigger than conservatives are willing to admit. They think they can just amputate whole groups and call them "non-Christians." It's galling.
Once you come to accept that other versions of faith may legitimately exist - wham. You are told: You never understood. You never really believed. You never really "got it."
Why isn't it possible to understand and reject? What fear lurks behind that statement?
Is it possible that "understanding" is so shrouded that even those all the way in can't see it truly? Is that the kind of God we should worship - a God who plays mind games with his own children?
I don't mind if others continue to worship according to the creeds, according to the tenets of conservative Christianity. I'm on no mission to de-convert anyone. Rather, I'd simply like to be believed when I report my personal experience.
I was found and then I was lost.
I don't want my experience discounted just so the other person can protect herself from facing the fact that sometimes the three strand cord doesn't hold.