What Are We Fighting For? Part 10: Believing Something Doesn't Make It True
Growing up, I had no idea that I believed in anything that wasn’t true. Starting with monsters under my bed.
Believing stuff that wasn’t true didn’t happen because anyone intentionally lied to me. Except, of course, in the case of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, which resulted in gifts and money, so I’ve willingly made peace with that.
Turns out though, a lot of the things I have believed at some time or another weren’t at all true. For instance, I believed everyone was watching me all the time to see if I made any mistakes. (Most people weren’t.)
I used to think if I failed to decipher what God wanted me to do with my life, I would spend all of my remaining days making up for it. (I was missing the whole point.)
I began to believe differently as I matured. I realized that there is no secret audience looking on, but my life and choices do affect others. So I had to tweak that belief.
I stopped looking for a secret code type of prayer to get what I want and, instead, embraced a mystery that is so much more personal and beautiful. Thinking of prayer as an exchange of love and connection to purposes greater than my own transforms ME…not my circumstances. It’s a powerful thing to find such intimate connection with the One who is in all things and loves us through all things. And that holds up, no matter what happens in my life.
I’m becoming more and more okay with knowing I’ll never have everything figured out while being aware that belief and questions go hand-in-hand. But if my beliefs are not changing as I go through life, gaining knowledge, experience and growth.
We tend to believe the things that confirm what our stories have reinforced. If shame is ingrained into our stories, we can very easily spend our lives connecting shame with our faith, our relationships and our self-talk. We say we want freedom from shame, yet we keep believing lies and acting on them.
Episode 22 of The Love Better Podcast features Cassie Anderson, who shares her story of growing up in a church community that equated spirituality with perfectionism. In an effort not to dishonor anyone through her story, she did not share details of the fallout that ensued as a result of those expectations, but suffice it to say, the damage was immeasurable.
For many of us, a lifetime of immersion in church culture (or any other culture, for that matter) may have taught us things we didn’t feel we could question. But if something is worth believing, it should be able to stand up to honest evaluation.
So many of us once believed things about God that didn’t hold up over time. For instance, many of us were taught that if we pray hard enough and do everything right, nothing bad will happen. And we might even get a front row spot at the grocery store on a rainy day. But when a marriage falls apart, or cancer isn’t healed, or we have to walk in the rain one day, we conclude God isn’t there at all.
Rather than walking away from God all together, imagine the relief that could come with simply admitting that maybe we have misunderstood some things about how His Love operates in the world. Maybe a few verses taken out of context confirmed messages our internal narrative was already grappling with.
Whether it’s matters of faith, or politics, or a million other things, it’s not beyond imagination that maybe…MAYBE…none of us is completely right, and none of us is completely wrong.
We are wired for connection to one another and to something greater than ourselves. But if the way we treat one another is contingent on our agreement, we are missing the entire point of Jesus’s existence.
In Cassie’s story, as well as our own, we see red flags whenever expectations, doctrines or unexamined beliefs are at odds with the unconditional love that Christ exemplified.
In our experience, it took an even greater measure of faith to be willing to look at our beliefs and test them against the way we treat each other. Yes, there is mystery surrounding spiritual things. Often that mystery can’t be fully explained; but allowing ourselves to examine our beliefs is not rebellion or weakness. It’s wisdom.
Aligning the way we live and love with the character of Jesus has been the most holy and freeing experience of our lives. And it is ongoing. It means continually holding up what we know against what we don’t know, and making sure our beliefs do not become more sacred to us than seeking the heart and mind of Christ Himself.
Jesus made it very clear that the greatest commandment is love. Full stop.
If our beliefs somehow excuse exclusivity or hatred or ignore systems of injustice that cause oppression, we need to consider the possibility that things we have believed may not be as “right” as we thought. We still have so much to learn.
Even in the difficult conversations that inevitably happen in authentic relationships, prioritizing love over selfishness, or self-expression, or convenience, helps us reframe the way we speak and helps us approach our interactions with respect and dignity.
Ideally, church would be the first place where people run to find authenticity, connection and belonging.
Over and over again, Jesus said, “You have heard it said…. BUT I SAY…”
Lies and secrets are a way of life when we try to control others’ perceptions of us. But love creates space for growth that connects us to one another and to God, even in the messiest moments of our humanity.
Perfectionism encourages us to distance ourselves from each other. Love invites us to make mistakes and learn from one another.
Defending a doctrine instead of engaging with each other authentically is polarizing and off-putting. Love values people over rhetoric or stuff.
If ”standing up for our beliefs” causes us to treat anyone with cruel criticism, we need to take a serious look at what we believe.
Learning how Jesus rescued an adulteress from being stoned by religious and political leaders of that time in NO way means Jesus thinks adultery is a great idea. This story helps us understand the way He valued her as a person who is more than the sum of her mistakes. And that very interaction - which she undoubtedly believed she didn’t deserve - is what gave her the validation she’d been looking for in all the wrong places.
We have all likely believed things that weren’t true at some point in our lives. But we can do better once we know better.
Imagine the explosion of connection and transformation that can happen when identify the beliefs that contradict the love Jesus gives us. As recipients of this great love, we can stop trying to fix each other and simply let love transform us from the inside. Imagine the relief of trusting in the overwhelming love of Jesus do the heavy lifting so we can be free to do what we were created to do.
If you’ve been believing things that contradict the merciful character of Jesus, it’s okay to change your mind.