Wednesday, December 11, 2013
On the last night of the Soulation Gold Gathering in September, Jonalyn did a fascinating presentation on different Christian faith traditions. She talked about the contemplative tradition, the charismatic... the evangelical. For the first time, it thoroughly hit me that evangelicalism, the tradition that has dominated my life, is a channel within Christianity and not Christianity itself. It's a way to know and experience Christ, not the only way. The implications of this continue to unfold in my life, and I have to say, I feel freer.
Evangelicalism is characterized by a focus on Scripture - working to understand it and interpreting all of life through its lens. In keeping with that world, the denomination I'm part of is very academic. The Bible is studied and analyzed intensely. As a scholarly person, I was majorly drawn in by this approach and dug in happily for over a decade. But over the last couple of years, my ESV Study Bible with its endless footnotes has gotten heavy. My individual Bible study has dwindled. When I started losing interest, I buckled down and bought books, books with study outlines and questions for reflection, expecting them to solve my "problem." They sit in a dusty pile on my nightstand, barely written in.
In my hundredth attempt to get back "on track," I signed up for another YouVersion plan - chapters delivered to my inbox five days a week. I went to the preferences page to switch the version to ESV as usual. But as I scrolled down the list of options, I hesitated over one. The translation I've raised my eyebrow at for my entire adult life. The modern-language favorite of hipsters, emergents, and greeting card writers: The Message.
I decided that if The Message couldn't make the Bible feel fresh again, nothing could, and I selected it before I could change my mind. So here's my confession: for the past month, I've been reading the New Testament in The Message... and loving it. Paul and Timothy and the gang seem like real people. I can clearly picture the events described. I'm comprehending things I never have before because they're in plain English. I'm experiencing a story, not dissecting a textbook. Maybe every word isn't precisely translated from the Greek, but it feels refreshingly real, and that's what my worn-out soul needs right now.
I've had a chokehold on my faith for a long time, and this is one way that I'm finally letting it breathe a little. At times I've even been afraid for my salvation because I'm growing and questioning and don't believe or behave exactly as I used to. But I maintain that a messy but alive faith is healthier than a solid but stagnant one. I'd rather grow to be an oak tree, though it can be scary and uncomfortable, than to stay locked up in my safe acorn in the ground.