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Of Simmering, Resting, and Labels

(This is the fifth part in a series. Click the links to read the rest of the series: One – Going Back to the Beginning Two – Stuck Between Two Horses, Three – The Wrong God, Four – Stepping Stones and a Crossroads, Six – He Is Not a Tame Lion, and Seven – Letters to the Wounded from the Wounded)

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about faith and the hard slog of the last few years. Sometimes things just need to simmer for awhile, and the last several weeks have been a much-needed simmer.

As I dip a spoon in and taste, the sharp edges and bite seem to have blended and muted somewhat. It is such a relief to enjoy a day without the dragging around the combustible balls-and-chains of rage, anxiety, and disillusionment. My pillow can’t convince me with its old “escape everything” promise. Instead of walking on eggshells, waiting for the next explosion, we all get silly together and laugh… a lot. Swinging on the swings, weeding the garden, taking walks, feeding the ducks… all fill our days now… except for the minor issue of the invasion of our area by ticks. *shudder* (Those of you who follow me on Facebook and Twitter will know more than you care to about this!) I’m mastering a new skill – pulling the critters off our dog.

After being off work for almost 6 weeks, I can honestly say I’m enjoying the time away. Being home every day has resulted in me being less pressed for time, allowing for a more relaxed pace and time to actually enjoy each other. Before I took this break, I wondered if being home 24/7 would push me right off the edge of sanity. Every week for four years I have looked forward to quiet days at my desk at the hospital where people called me “Joy,” not “Moooooomeeeeeee!!!!” and where I could go to the bathroom without anyone screaming in panic because I disappeared for two seconds.

To honor the time needed for simmering, I laid aside my theological/faith-type books and have been staying up too late savoring Anne Lamott’s well-written fiction and memoir. It’s like being a kid again, sneaking in just one more chapter at midnight.

Just because I’ve taken a break from deeper reading doesn’t mean the deeper thinking has stopped bubbling. Among my many lingering questions are issues related to the Bible, its use, and the origin and relative authority of the books contained in it. Does the word “literal” mean “at face value” or does it mean “the simplest interpretation possible?” How human is this book? Is it like Jesus – somehow paradoxically both fully human and fully divine simultaneously? What does that mean for how we read, understand, and apply it?

The term “Christian” itself is becoming increasingly difficult to swallow. It has been twisted and abused beyond recognition, its connotations far removed from the original definition of “follower of Christ.” People now hear the word and think of all the stereotypes and charlatans out there – the snake handlers, child-abusers, prosperity preachers, and manipulative thieves with whom I despise being associated.

Those of us who, sincerely albeit haltingly with many stumbles and missteps along the way, seek to follow Jesus Christ need a word or phrase other than “Christian” by which to refer to ourselves, a name that better reflects what is to be of utmost importance — Jesus, not politics or wealth or power or health or comfort. Lately, I’ve used “Jesus-follower.” It’s kind of a mouthful, but it’s also simple and direct. Reminds me who I am to be about (I’ll give me a hint: not ME).

I’m curious: if you are of a specific faith, do you find that people read into the name of that faith things you don’t intend? How do you respond to that?

Also (and just as important), what reading-for-fun do you recommend?

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