Thursday, October 31, 2019

I Believe

Tuesday in ministry team meeting Taylor offered a devotional that has had me thinking ever since.  [Editor's Note: Devotionals at ministry team meeting regularly have me thinking long after the meeting is over, and are one of my favorite things.  I work with super smart people who read a lot more than I do, and I appreciate them!]  He talked about the confirmation class from Sunday in which he had the confirmands consider their beliefs as they related to the Apostles' Creed.  After that, they were instructed to write or draw their beliefs.  He handed us each the same activity page he had handed them, and we spent the next few minutes considering our belief and how we might represent it on the page.

Years ago I wrote an essay for "This I Believe."  (As it turns out, you can still find it on their website:  To sum it up, when I wrote that essay (almost 15 years ago!) I asserted that life's answers are seldom cut and dried, seldom black and white.  Life's answers are messy and gray.  Current me agrees.  It still rings true.

That said, as I was thinking on this Tuesday, it got a little more complicated than that because it occurred to me that belief doesn't exist outside of people.  That is, a person holds a belief, and without a person to hold it, there is no belief.

On top of that, a great sermon by Arun Jones called Living into Difference has been rattling around in my head ever since he preached it, and I've found a number of times in recent weeks it has influenced my thinking.  One of my takeaways from his sermon is that if we are to exist as the family of God, then we will have to learn to understand our differences with each other even when we find those differences repulsive and vile.

This is what I wound up drawing on my paper.

Each circle represents the belief of a person.  It's not that truth is neither the belief of one nor the other.  Rather, it's that truth lies in the intersection of the two: truth is both the belief of one and the belief of the other...even and maybe especially when that seems impossible.

I wrote these last few paragraphs and then got in a tussle with myself, because I'm not sure I, uh, believe it.  After all, there are certainly cases in which one is right and the other is wrong.  But this graphic isn't intended to settle factual disputes that are empirically provable.  I also gave myself a good talking to about the ways in which belief is informed by experience...and that belief does not beget fact.  It's not always true when two people disagree that one is right and the other wrong, but that is sometimes true.

Moreover, this drawing may seem to imply that there are "good people on all sides."  I guess that's exactly what I'm saying, though I would hasten to add that while good exists in all of us, so also does evil...and it is entirely up to us which of those two endeavors we choose to pursue.

There is inside all of us a voice or an urging that calls us to our better selves.  You can call it the Spirit, maybe.  Or the Divine Spark within.  Some people repress and ignore it.  Some even silence it.  But it's there.  That, I believe, is Truth.