Book after book introduced me to a completely new way of thinking about my faith, myself, and the world around me. My study also raised many questions about some of the people in my life who professed to follow the Christian path, but whom I felt didn’t show it by their actions or their words. During a time that I desperately needed human interaction, I unfortunately found that I was no longer comfortable in my conservative men’s Bible study breakfast group. Each week, they seemed to be more fascinated about topics such as the National Geographic’s search for Noah’s ark rather than trying to understand that Jesus’s statement of loving your neighbor was a much wider circle than they were comfortable believing or accepting; it was certainly a wider circle than was being served breakfast. Whereas I viewed stories such as Noah’s ark and Jonah and the whale as just that—simple stories used in a simpler time to teach a lesson—they accepted each as the gospel truth. They were missing the larger meaning while simply focusing on the phenomenon of the supposed miracle.
Again, given the area that I live in and a peer group shaped by conservative and fundamentalists ideals (as I have called it the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and Ron as in Ronald Reagan), I found myself in the very awkward position of traveling on a fascinating journey alone. Other than my family, I had no one to share these discoveries with, but I accepted the fact that it was enough for me to experience the freedom and adventure that I now enjoyed. I believed that surely, at some point, I would find others out there to connect with whose beliefs matched mine.
I realized that if I had been complacent all these years in glossing over the cold, hard facts of my faith, and as a result, had never sought out more, there must be other thoughts and ideas that could challenge me. I discovered the works of Phillip Yancey, Harold Kushner, Parker Palmer, Rob Bell, Shane Claiborne, Scott Peck, and Richard Rohr—thinkers who pushed and nudged me to reflect and react on my faith and myself.
I understood that Jesus wants us to serve the needs of others—not just the ones who look like us or believe what we believe. It became clear that real faith is about being compassionate and accepting of everyone and not about converting them or selling them something we believe is the only path to salvation. It was easy for me to see that real faith was about bringing hope and peace in the form of the Kingdom of God here on earth for all to enjoy, not just a supposed chosen few.
My journey continues.