Open Handed Faith (part B)

Ok…I know my last blog was a little like chewing cardboard for some. I am still spitting out the furry bits myself! Since starting my blog I have noticed an internal tension to start with a big idea and then feeling compelled to neatly tie it all up in 800 words so you can read it while you finish breakfast. It is bloody hard! I am an idealist at heart and recovering cynic! The two beat hard against each other at times hence my intensity. So if you can cope with my weirdness I will try and keep my funk in control.

There might be some readers out there saying, “OK Jay…I am tracking with you, yep I get how you think there are some serious discrepancies, but you still believe there is hope right?” Well hell yeah! There is hope, I live with it every day but it looks NOTHING like the prescriptive life I used to live and anything I thought was true 20 years ago has since been messed with.

The silliness of praying like a parrot for someone’s sore big toe when the rest of the world is living in debilitating poverty infuriates me even though I tolerated it in the past. My daughter Sunshine has forced me to embrace mystery and stop farting around trying to tie everything up neatly with the bible as though that was its primary purpose. People need hope not a legislative list that is ticked. 

I long for more churches to make its business about ‘kind eyes’ and less about right or wrong. People see Jesus and his message of hope through ‘kind eyes’, not a theological idea or rule. For those of you reading this who don’t have a Christian faith but are searching, there are some great communities out there who get this, keep looking you will find them.


Reflecting on our journey with Sunshine provides sharp edges that push through the fluffy bits.  If I am completely honest, I now realise the effort I put into understanding the intricacies of the bible all those years ago holds little power today. Mostly… it was just a bunch of apologetics and miff muffed moof to make me feel groovy at the time. The result of hearing sermons year after year has not created a defence barrier that somehow protected me from evil or despair. I wished it did.

In my grief over Sunshine I didn’t reach for the bible, I reached for friends who acted like Jesus. If anything, I avoided superficial bible beaters fearing they would try and sum up our experience as a result of sin or think that the purpose of our pain was for God to bring good. The mum at your local hospital nursing their child through the 10th epileptic fit for the day is appalled by the suggestion that all that happens in life is ultimately Gods will. Honestly…who would ever equate the love that Jesus talked about to a God who is so clinical?

When Sunshine was fighting for her life in the ICU I wasn’t contemplating how God was going to bless me or if I was meant to give 10% of my income to the church or if life was predestined or affected by my will….I didn’t give a crap. I needed ‘kind eyes’ that hugged me letting me feel – not forcing me to think my way through the problem. For me the emphasis has to get back to the love bit….the love that Jesus talked about and said, “look… if you can’t make sense of everything or don’t have an education that enables you to read the bible or have a different perspective to someone else, just make it your priority to love people. That will give you the best opportunity to act out what I value.” (A terrible ‘Jay paraphrase’ for those of you who don’t read the bible and apologies to those that do read the bible!)

Now I know what you are thinking…if you are a Christian you are thinking yikes…”don’t mention the war!” And if you are not a Christian you are probably wondering why the heck I am so wound up and attempt to pass me a beer (which I would gratefully accept)! Yes…let me explain my verbal vomit. I am deeply distressed when the people who do want to look for God get messed around by rules leaving them more confused as to who God is. I am also just as saddened when some write church off as a disastrous mess. Even our governments know if you take the church out of society they will be left with a social catastrophe in terms of replacing the support networks it provides.

I would be in danger of stroking my horrendous ego if I saw myself as the great UN mediator between people of faith and people with no faith…God save us! What I am attempting to highlight is the humanity we all share and break down the toxicity of the ‘all knowing’ that moves us dangerously close to arrogance. While people argue over what the bible says about the existence of hell, the mum and dad at the hospital saying goodbye to their child for the last time knows full well what hell is. People don’t need another denomination because there is a difference of opinion on an aspect of the bible. People just need Christ followers who will love. We can do better and it starts with big chunks of humility.

6 thoughts on “Open Handed Faith (part B)

  1. Hey My Friend, You know I get what you are talking about from some of the crap and hell of my own life experience and journey.
    Here is another angle that only occured to me today…..
    I was listening to someone of faith talking about a lady in her 50's who is in the last days of her life. The person retelling the story was celebrating the fact that the lady outlived her original prognosis, had seen her adopted son through to adulthood and was going to heaven. That jarred with me and the work world I now inhabit were I see stories of intense pain around death every single day. The sentiment being expressed felt totally disrespectful to the emotional pain that will be present with those in her immeadiate family….and dare I say the statements were more about making the story teller feel good about the situation than the truth of what was going on.
    This just reflects what I have experienced in church (and yep I also grew up in the very middle of the place) over and over again – both personally and from afar.
    I think the tendency of the established church is to celebrate and engage with the 'victorious' Christ. And yes that is an aspect of Christ but what I have observed is that this is focused on to the exclusion and minnimization of the 'suffering' Christ.
    I have to wonder if we spent more time exploring what that meant and engaging with that paradigm of Christ how much more real our lives would be and how much more genuine peace there would be as we understand that suffering is present and cannot be escaped….and you know what …I feel completely comfortable as a person of faith saying “Life Sucks”…and a whole lot more in that nature. I have experienced the hell of living, I genuinely fear death, I have no answers, I hate with a passion trite pat Christian statements, I am comfortable saying to people who suffer like I did that it is right for them to question, and I am very happy to keep doubting. To be honest I don't think I will ever understand. It may seem odd to some but all of that makes up the expression of my faith in God.
    THis stuff you are opening up is spot on Jay….keep going and I will keep engaging with it.


  2. Hey Jay

    Good thoughts; I've been meaning to read this here blog for a while & have somehow always managed to miss.
    WHat a topic to read as my first instalment in the Gospel according to Jay!!! I Love it.
    I have had many great mentors on this topic over the years. I remember a few years ago, having been asked to preach one Sunday, I opened up my sermon with something like “well, in the grand scheme of things, we have all listened to countless sermons, here's another one; it may change your life but it probably won't. It may however add something to your understanding of how to do life”.
    One of my favourite mentors from the 80's used to great his congregation by calling us “fellow faith strugglers”. I guess I have been fortunate to have been part of a few solid “faith based” communities over the years, that were more about doing a faith based life together than they were about getting it's member to adhere to legalistic party lines.
    I've had a few brief flirtations with the Church of Frank Sinatra (that's where the leaders promote “Just do it my way”) but the older I get the easier they are to sniff out. And funnily enough, the older I get the worse it smells!!
    Permit me a brief detour to an example that best sums it up for moi?
    ABout 10 years ago I was in the precarious situation of having to try & help a colleague grow through some difficult challenges. We felt he/she was approaching his/her “ministry” portfolio with a skewed understanding & skill base. At one point the discussion turned to his/her passion for the people that were meant to be impacted. It struck me then what a misguided trigger passion can be. My challenge to that person was “yes, but what is your commitment; when your passion wanes, and it will wane, what can we expect from you then?”
    It was a profound moment of understanding for me.
    I would rather do life with a group of people who were deeply committed to each other within the context that faith provides & provokes, than with a group of people who were passionate to see the world saved for Christ. (Church speak 101). For me, this is & has always been the most believable expression of the Gospel; probable because it is held by real, frail people who realise their own humanity. Faith Strugglers.
    In january this year we said the grand farewell to one of my personal heroes (& colleagues) Jim Stallard. Jim was a quadriplegic having fallen off a rope swing just over 10 years ago. He maintained & indeed increased his impact as a tireless advocate for people with disabilities in some of the poorest countries on the planet. After his accident somebody told him that he “will do great things for God”. Jims' reply; “No, I'm going to do small things, coz that's all I can do”. I would have loved to have seen Jim “arise from his chair & walk”. I confess that sometimes I privately prayed for this. He never did. But what a life he lived; what a gutsy determined faith filled life; a real person with a real conviction & real struggles, but a dogged determination to see it through. And see it through he did.
    They are the sort of people that I am keen to do life with.


  3. Hey Mick…I wish I got to meet Jim…sounds like he had a big impact on everyone around him. I guess I'll just have to hang around you instead!

    Yes as you say…I think people are desperately looking for something different. The positive thing is… at least people are still looking. You have done the journey for a long time now and I love the way you still have space in your heart to dream for something better. Thats what I want to…something much much better.


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