Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Finding Grace in Those So Different Than Ourselves

This is a picture of a kissing gate. I may have passed through this same gate with my wife on a walk through Wales about 4 years ago around this same time. It is called a kissing gate, because only one person can pass through at a time, and the man can demand a kiss before letting the girl pass through. Somehow it reminds me of the interactions of fellowship which randomly occur in life. We have our moments of passing into true fellowship, and they surprise us like the demand of a kiss at the kissing gate.

Some of the recent interactions of deeper connection, and grace have occured with people whom I might not have expected such freedom of relationship (if I were thinking like a typical Evangelical): a gay Pagan man whom I knew did not quite trust me but somehow we came to new appreciation of one another, an Occultist with a tough exterior who showed a gentle heart which surprised me, a middle-aged female Witch whose seeking led her to spend all afternoon asking about our church, an extremely liberal female pastor with a foot in cast and heart for mission, a liberal pastor whose primary interest was saving the planet, and an evangelical pastor who played 40 questions with my life and made it feel like a game between friends.

I wonder if Jesus found comfort spending time with people who were remarkably different from Himself? He speaks of His discussion with the Samaritan woman, and says, "I have food to eat of which you do not know." Was there something about that interaction which fed His soul? Did he find the dialogue comforting like a good meal with friends? Or should I assume that He was fed merely by the fact that He served God? Was there no satisfaction in the relational interaction with the woman at the well?

This Samaritan woman wasn't a well studied theologian, or a deeply prayed-up disciple. She was a common sinner - a spiritual ragamuffin. She was a seeker, but a clumsy one at best.

I have been finding myself less comforted by those who speak the typical language of the churched, and more drawn to and "fed" by those who question church as we know it today, and so I ask myself this question: Am I sensing the "food to eat of which you do not know" as Jesus spoke of it, or is something else going on in my heart?

Having to forge new relationships is the nature of the season I am living in, and strangely, ministers whose theology is dramatically different than my own, and seekers whose ideas of religion are only remotely similar to my own at best often offer a deeper refreshing than preachers whose theologies are most like mine. Does this mean I am finding new food for the soul? I am not sure, but it's worth a thought. What do you think? Can we find refreshing in mission itself?


carl said...

Perhaps when we speak and relate with those who are significantly different from us, however that might be, we come to a better realization of who we really are and that may encourage or challenge us. Either way, with the right attitude we grow and find refreshment.

I find that God refreshes me in seasons of familiarity as well as in seasons of new things.

agent wife said...

I've been experiencing some of the same emotions as my vision is broadened outside of church walls. I think we already have a tendency to box God in, especially when we live in a small realm of christiandom. The Lover was constantly showing up in unexpected ways, even through "pagan" rulers and events. Jonah was so convinced that the "pagans" would not be interested in God and wanted to stay in his comfortable arena. Yet the pagans ended up being a people sensitive to the holy spirit, while Jonah was a winer to the end. I too am learning the ways of Jesus, among those traditionally deemed as "on the outside".