For the past two days I have been surrounded by Christians. As a pastor this isn’t a shocking statement, mind you. The significance was we were all gathered to ask ourselves why Christian? As a group of 1,000+ we filled the pews at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Minneapolis to hear from 13 women in ministry answering that very question. From “it’s how I understand myself, others, and the world” to “it’s in the music” to “I don’t know why”, these remarkable women shared their stories about how they have come to continue to claim Christianity as their faith, as their religion. As I sat in the pews next to strangers I was encouraged to be surrounded by people who were wanting to ponder this question. We were there to examine if what we were hearing resonated, agitated, disconnected with our own answers to why we, too, claim the Christian faith and religion. After being present at a conference, that felt more like a two day life giving worship service, of spirit filled, prophetic words I have continued to ask myself Why Christian, so I sit in the airport and begin to formulate my answer once again.
Some of my earliest recollections of life are connected to my experiences with the Divine. At Tuesday night family dinners I would share the latest trip to Heaven that I had that week. I told of how I would visit Jesus, my maternal grandfather, and my brother Jason. One of the most profound memories is when I told my family that I had made Jesus chicken noodle soup and he didn’t like it, so I got made at Jesus. My mother said that wasn’t alright, that getting made at Jesus wasn’t part of the story – but it was part of my young mind’s understanding of my relationship with Jesus, imaginary trips to Heaven and all. For me I don’t know if I have had a time where wrestling with God and my understanding of the Divine wasn’t part of my very being.
One of the deepest spiritual stirrings in my little body was when I would pray for my mom to be well during one of her stints in the hospital. I remember my silver spotted wallpaper reflecting the nightlight glow across the room as I stay awake praying that she would be alright, that she would wake the next day. Those prayers formed my awareness of the Spirit and the comfort of being nestled in the steadfast embrace of prayer.
As I grew older my faith journeyed with me into the waters of Baptism, knowing that when asked why I was seeking Baptism I could only respond with it’s where I belong – it is what comes next for me. Words to capture my understanding of the Divine have never been beyond the guttural feelings that stirred in my soul. My wonderings in figuring out my faith and following the teachings I knew of Jesus were the one place in my early years where I could wrestle, be still and be welcomed regardless of my actions that day. It was where I was free to be the beloved child of God that I could not yet claim in other areas of my life.
With high school coming to a close and figuring out what life held for me next it was my religion that drew me out of what I had been taught as a child and into a faith I could begin to put words to, a faith I was learning to call my own. As the desire for doing things great shifted to living greatly in the mundane I began to question how humanity could harm each other the way we do and how the church was still functioning. In adulthood that is still how most of my pondering gets its exercise. I have never questioned where God is but I have spent endless hours wondering how people can harm one another and how the church could do such harm under the claim that it has been for the betterment of the Gospel. I toss in my flesh finding truth in action to live out the Kingdom as I have come to experience it. I have come to live in the gray and understand my failures as grace filled moments. I continue to ask questions. I find truth in the practices of confession and repentance for what I have done, left undone, and done wrong unto self/other.
For as long as I can remember I have been in the embrace of the Divine. For as long as I can remember my soul as been the only source of emotions that I have fully embraced and trusted. For as long as I can remember I have wrestled with God and brought all of my emotions to the altar and have never been dismissed. For as long as I can remember the beloved child of God has been in me, finding a way for me to claim her and name her as such.
So why am I a Christian? Because my flesh has scars and bruises that mark my journey of faith and they are my most precious stories. Because the story of the world makes sense to me on a soul-filled level when reflected through the lens of God breathed humanity and peace incarnate named Jesus. Because I simply do not makes sense as anything other than beloved child of God who lives by grace and guided by love and justice. I am a Christian because that answer will continue to change and that is the point.