As I read through the assigned passages for today’s devotion, I found myself, at each turn, saying “Seriously? I’m not in the mood to write about that!” Every. Single. Time. In fact, it wasn’t until I started playing around with translations that I finally settled on a passage; yet, even then, I did so reluctantly.
I’m burned out. I’m burned out on religion. I’m burned out this thing called Christianity that is all too often used to build walls, rather than tear them down. A Christianity that shows a face of judgment rather than acceptance; is haughty rather than humble; is secretive rather than confessing; that draws people in through fear rather than grace.
I don’t want to be grouped in with that brand of Christianity. I understand why so many view Christians as hypocrites and the most un-Christ-like group today; I even agree with them.
Because of the struggles I am experiencing with the church, I was plagued with the following thought each time I read one of the three passage options for this devotional: how will this passage be misused and abused to protect Christianity for the straight, white, male, and financially stable?
I am aware of how bitter that comes across, and it comes across that way because I am bitter; my patience with traditional religion is severely lacking.
I narrowed my choices down to this passage in Isaiah because it caused the least visceral reaction. But it took looking at an alternative version to finally read words that gave me hope and reminded me of grace. Words that penetrated the fatigue and the bitterness, that plowed through the darkness to find that glimmer of light that is still inside.
Peterson translates this passage in a way that promises a wide gate to enter salvation; it may be built and fortified, but it is so not to limit who comes in, but to keep darkness out. The passage points to a place wherein God’s embracing love, through Christ, to any who seek God, can offer restoration, redemption, and grace.
The translation also highlights the need to stay dependent on God and remain steadfast in trusting God in all situations.
My bitterness tempts me to say, “Forget it. I’m done.” But God says, rely on me and I’ll strengthen you to carry on. My own kind of judgment says, “They do not know my God.” But this passage reminds me that God is God. I don’t need to change the minds of those I see as wrong, for that would make me the same as they; instead, I need to display the Truth as I understand it and remain open to the correction of the Spirit. My head says, “I’m not judging”; but my heart knows I’m no better for the things I’ve said and thought. I take offense to those who cherry-pick Bible verses to fit their political or religious views, yet I recognize I am no better as I chose a translation because it supports my understanding of who God is.
Sometimes reading the Bible is hard. Plain and simple. But, when we pay attention to the internal reactions we experience while reading and take the courageous step to explore the root of them, we clear out space for God to do work. We all need God to do work in our hearts, and it would do us good to remember that. For when we think we are beyond needing work, we’ve likely become the very thing we despise.
The gate is wide, for that I rejoice. But in the moment that I start to understand the wide gate to be open to certain people and closed to others? Suddenly, I become the very person I’m fighting against.
I am not God. You are not God. God is not God—at least not in the construct I’ve made for God. God is bigger than anything the human mind can create, so the minute that I limit how and who God can love, I lose sight of the One True God.
So, for today, I will continue depending on God for grace, hope, love, and forgiveness. I will rely on the Spirit to guide my actions, my thoughts, and my deeds. And, when I wake tomorrow, I’ll ask God for the strength to do it all over again. I will persevere in this work for God because I believe it is what I, what we all, are called to do. We are siblings in Christ and we are all created equally by the same God. May rejoicing in that truth carry us all on for another day.