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Sunday, February 18, 2007
Exactly How big is a mustard seed?
One thing I have learned so far from emerging Christians is that we can see God in so many other ways than just the rigid conservative cultures we've grown up in (at least for me). I have begun to see that there is goodness in everything and I believe that goodness is God. But I have questions....

We have a group of friends that we meet with every two weeks or so that gets together and talks about spiritual things. We have a couple of atheists, a buddist thinker, two pastor's kids, some skeptics, and then some followers of Christ. I love these people, they are my dear friends. We are all very different and I look forward to hearing their thoughts and opinions.

We typically start our converstaion by watching a nooma video by Rob Bell. It just helps to get the conversation going. My husband and I never try to push our views we just all share openly and honestly how we feel about the videos. It is quite interesting.

The last couple of times though, I have walked away feeling like my faith is slowly being shattered. Sometimes I agree with what the atheists say, the buddist thought sounds interesting and the skeptics questions are all very thought provoking. Most of the time our conversations end with determining that we all just need to be good people. Most share that they don't feel like they need to be associated with God to do good things in the world and they definately don't need or believe scriptures to do good things or be a good person.

Our friends all want to do good things with their lives. They are all striving to be good people. They are full of love, energy, and passion. Yet, not all of them believe that God is out there. Most of them struggle with Jesus.

So How am I supposed to feel about this? I'm not trying to "convert" but I do feel a sense that somehow these conversations are both good and bad. Somehow, after walking away, my faith seems rattled and I feel the need to just talk to God about it, hoping and praying that the mustard seed is still there with in my heart.

I'm not sure where the "preach the gospel" aspect comes in to play in the emerging culture. Does it come in to play? I still feel the pressure of wanting my friends to have a faith, but I'm not really sure how that plays out at this point. Its not my number one goal, but somehow after these conversations, my faith is just being chiseled away.

Does anyone else understand what I am trying to say or has gone through any other experience like this one?
posted by Meg at 1:17 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 2/18/2007 01:58:00 PM, Anonymous Rachel

    Meg - Yes, I very much relate to what you are describing and I am wrestling with the same issues. In some ways, it was easier back in the days when I just stayed inside my nice little conservative evangelical box and only developed relationships with people who shared my views. Now that I've left that box, I wouldn't be able to stand to squeeze back into it. But it is a lot scarier and a lot less black and white out here.

  • At 2/18/2007 02:27:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Meg, thanks for sharing so beautifully and openly. Personally I have always been the questioner who felt inadequate next to people really seemed to whole-heartedly be able to buy prepackaged Christianity. Gosh, I tried, but always partly felt like a faker. Now that my questions are more open and there is a sense of safety in just being real, I find that there is actually more room for real faith to breathe without feeling suffocated by the energy required to condemn doubts, wonderings, musings and heretical thoughts. Trusting God seems now not in conflict with sometimes wondering if there is a God, if that makes any sense. I really resonate with the idea of "God rid me of god."

    Is it possible that losing faith in beliefs is different than losing faith? Or think of a catterpillar, which breaks down into amorphous goo before emerging as a butterfly...

  • At 2/18/2007 03:15:00 PM, Blogger Meg

    I really appreciate that others are going through similar things.

    I also really like the "God rid me of god". I think I listened to part of a pod cast on Emergent's website the other day that talked about christianity as a god, an idol.

    I do think it is possible to loose faith in beliefs without loosing faith. It makes me wonder if all this time, my faith has just been based on the idols of Christianity.

    I truely believe that God is continously creating us, maybe I'm just having a hard time adjusting to the amorphous goo..;)

  • At 2/18/2007 04:21:00 PM, Blogger Helen

    Meg, I decided that the most important thing for me was not to deny reality.

    And so where my faith was forcing me to do that, I said, ok, then I have to let go of that aspect of it. Because I don't want to live a life requiring denial - if Jesus is the truth, that can't possibly be what he wants, right?

    Things that are real don't need to be desperately clung onto. We can get confused and they're still there. We can go on vacation and come back and they are still there.

    Maybe one thing you need to do is not let your friends lack of faith make you feel silly or invalidated. Maybe you need a few wise people with faith in your life who can help you if you come away from meetings with your friends feeling confused and discouraged. I don't know - these are just suggestions.

  • At 2/18/2007 05:13:00 PM, Blogger Ari

    I think first it's important to remember that God can be found in atheism and buddhism - just because you say to yourself "that's a good point" doesn't mean you're abandoning your faith. It's a humble and good place to be able to see God in the other (as a recent sermon on the emergent village podcast pointed out).

    I think it's also a good thing, even if painful, to be forced to go to God and say "what's the deal here, this is what i'm feeling, i'm doubting, I need to work this out"

    And finally, I do think it's good to remember that we can proclaim and still respect others. We need to proclaim the Gospel, esp. in the context of our own experiences and understanding and when we are in mixed faith or anti faith groups, we need to earn the right to share our story by listening to the other but there's certainly a time and place to share the Gospel and proclaim our love for Jesus and trust and home in him.

  • At 2/18/2007 05:17:00 PM, Blogger Ari

    I also forgot to add that one of the most amazing experiences in conversation I had with someone who was not a Jesus follower was when I shared my own doubts and fears about my own faith. She was SHOCKED, so much so that her heart was extremely softened to hearing other things I said at later times.

  • At 2/18/2007 05:47:00 PM, Blogger Lydia

    You're not alone in this Meg - If nothing else, Jemila and I are walking with you. :)

    I liked Ari's story about her sharing her doubts with a friend who wasn't a Christian.

    I still feel the pressure of wanting my friends to have a faith

    This almost sounds like you feel like you're personally responsible for the decisions your friends make about following God.

    Am I reading you correctly?

  • At 2/18/2007 06:42:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    I agree with you. It has been an interesting journey. There are times I think, "wow, I am accepting anything and everything." Maybe I am being to wishy washy. However, all it takes is reading something, watching something, hearing something, to remind myself that religion and beliefs are always evolving. The way we practice now is not the same as 10, 20, 100, + years ago. When I feel I am abandoning my beliefs, I keep that in mind. Moreso, than ever I just try to be open to others, contemplate other thoughts, and ask God for peace in the process.

    I express my thoughts and beliefs, but hopefully in a "loose" way. When I feel the urge to be "right" or "save" someone, I try to step back and express myself from an opinion standpoint. It's not always easy. I am trying to be more gracious, and allow God to work, not me.

  • At 2/18/2007 07:48:00 PM, Anonymous Linda

    I do understand - but possibly from a different angle. Christians have done more to erode my faith than any atheist. When I feel like I am losing my faith, I usually ask myself if what is being threatened/eroded is an actual part of my faith or if it is merely the trappings of the Christian culture to which my faith has been wedded for most of my life. Most of the time it is the latter. My doubts are still real, but they reinforce to me the definition of real faith: choosing to live my life in the way of Jesus despite the uncertainty of my beliefs. I call it Covenantal Doubting. All that said, I feel for you and share your struggles in part.

  • At 2/18/2007 10:34:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    I've been there, am still there in many ways, and still "have faith" although it looks very very different now. I had been sent the message my whole life that doubt, other forms of faith, and seeing truth outside the established boxes were not allowed. So of course there was guilt involved when I started expanding and growing in my faith. It is scary and the pain caused by those who think I'm out of bounds does hurt. But I had to make the choice the move forward, pursue truth, and blow open my boxes in order to be authentic.

  • At 2/18/2007 10:49:00 PM, Blogger Ari

    Linda, I think you make a good point. Often, what makes us feel "doubtful" is that we are refusing the trappings of "christianity" - someone's definition of a Christ follower. and shaking off those trappings is actually the freedom we need to have faith in the first place. That is not to say that we as Christ followers don't have "confines" of what that means, but I believe there are fewer of those than many would like us to believe.

    I think having a "flexible" faith is actually very healthy because it acknowledges that we are humans trying love and serve a HUGE God that is very much NOT human and will not be contained by humanity (do not make for yourself any idols) - even the idol of christianity.

  • At 2/19/2007 01:51:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Yes, I echo the sentiment that what is really truth will hold up -- and God-Jesus cannot be paper-mache' beliefs that we protect from scrutiny out of fear they will fall. We must trust God to hold us as those beliefs that don't hold up to the light of truth, or that look very different shake the foundations of our faith, knowing that any foundation of our faith other than God (who is bigger than any belief) is an idol. I am so grateful for this community of God lovers and seekers and servers where we can also help hold each other as we go through that process.

  • At 2/19/2007 06:14:00 AM, Blogger sonja

    To answer the question in your title, a mustard seed is tiny. But I found something out when I went on a family vacation to Maine a couple years ago.

    We went to a mustard factory, where they make mustard the old-fashioned way. They grind the mustard seeds between stones before mixing the paste with other ingredients to make mustard that we purchased. It was yummy (btw).

    Here's the thing. These tiny, tiny mustard seeds required soaking for a period of time in a vinegar and water solution, then they were ground in a series between two 1 thousand pound granite stones. They went through 4 series of grindings before they were finished. So these tiny stones took a beating from 4 TONS of granite to be edible.

    I was at place in my walk at that point where I had very similar feelings to what you describe. I felt very tenuous and wondered just how close to the edge I could wander before I fell off. Seeing those stones and the seeds comforted me so much. Because I remembered the parable. That God has given us the faith of a mustard seed and I realized that it would take 4 TONS of grinding after soaking, to wear my faith out. So a little bit of questioning and working through some issues with God was probably just going to make it stronger, not weaker.

    Learning how to be authentic, transparent and vulnerable with people of other faiths or no faith is some of the most difficult faith journeying you will do. You may never see the flower that blooms from the seeds you plant, or water or fertilize. But you are living out the ministry that God has called you to. His grace and peace to you, my sister.

  • At 2/19/2007 10:27:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    sonja - thanks so much for sharing that visual image!

  • At 2/19/2007 11:04:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    All of these comments have been very nourishing to me -- thanks.

  • At 2/19/2007 02:10:00 PM, Blogger Happy

    Meg, I think it's awesome that you host these conversations with your friends - I wish I knew that many people who aren't "Christians". I just want to encourage you to keep having those conversations and to keep wrestling with the issues as they come up. Following Jesus isn't always easy, and I think it's important that we revisit the "why" of following him periodically - we follow Him because He is THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Life - we follow Him because we believe that He is who He said He was, and because we believe that we need a Saviour. Truth can be found in other religions and philosophies - watered down truth and truth well mixed with subtle untruths make up some of the most powerful lies, which is why people tend to believe them... But we can appreciate the truth we hear from our friends of other faiths, gently encourage them to question the untruths in their belief systems, and allow these conversations to draw us closer to Jesus as we do the most important thing we can do - pray for them. Jesus wants to see people saved far more than we do; at the end of the day, it is His love for them which will compel them to turn to Him. Keep loving on your friends, Meg, and remember that the Source of all Truth is more than able to help you sort this all out.

  • At 2/19/2007 04:43:00 PM, Blogger Meg

    I can't believe the overwhelming since of joy that I felt in reading all your comments. Thank you for all your encouragement and for just being there with me.

    Sonja, the mustard seed story brought tears to my eyes. I really am so encouraged that the path I am on, while hard, is true...thank you.

    I think sometimes I am still battling with the idea that I am personally responsible to bring others to faith. I know deep down it is not my responsibility but the Spirits. I think deep down i'm fighting the urge to want to have a head count...if that makes any sense. Just writing that seems aweful.

    The other day I came home and I realized first that this was a good thing because I sit and think..ok..what do I truely believe. Second I thought, ok..I've got to do some personal sharing with the group that they might see how my story is unfolding. Third, my husband and I felt like we needed some kind of direction for the group. Not that we have to have certain goals necessarily, but what do we want everyone to get out of all of this? Should it be something specific or very general? Just as my husband and I are being challenged, how do we encourage everyone else to be challenged? So..those are my thoughts after reflecting and reading all your comments.

    thank you so much

  • At 2/20/2007 02:10:00 PM, Blogger Doxallo

    what do I truely believe>>

    "Jesus (God) loves me this I know."


    Seriously, some days thats enough for me. :)

  • At 2/21/2007 07:57:00 AM, Blogger Lori

    I can't believe I didn't follow this thread sooner. Wow. It's beautiful to follow God together! I've asked this sort of question so many times, particularly when my faith seems very much smaller than a mustard seed. And for right now, where I've landed, is gratefully free of a great deal of doctrinal concern. While I know there are a great many issues that are very important, right now I don't have to worry about them. For me, bottom line, Jesus came to introduce us to an entirely new way of living. This new path radically changed the people who joined him on it, as well as the communities in which they lived. Clearly, this sort of revolutionary change is still available to us, and I am jazzed to join the people who, down through the centuries, have done their best to find and stumble along this path. The sermon on the mount, for example--if I could live this out, I would die happy.

  • At 2/21/2007 07:27:00 PM, Blogger Ari

    Lori, that's beautiful and so very true. We're in a situation where as leaders within a modern church construct, we are constantly being asked to give an answer for everything and I am jealous of your place of peace and contentment.

  • At 2/27/2007 09:30:00 PM, Blogger jenelle

    That mustard seed story was really lovely. I think you should blog about it. Thank you.

    Peace to your spirit as you wrestle with these questions. It is a hard job to dignify others by listening to them, especially when their thoughts hang heavy on us. But listening and providing space for them may be just what they need for this moment of the journey. The sweet Spirit will take care of you. And them.


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