We Are Not Our Ideas



I consider myself fortunate to have known God from a young age.

Although I am told God remains constant, my perception of God has certainly morphed through various stages of my life.

When I was a child, God was a parent figure, protecting me, keeping me safe from scary things in the night. As a teenager, God became a friend, concerned with my relationship dramas and my all-consuming crushes. Becoming a parent drew my faith reflections into deeper appreciation of vulnerable love, while life’s cruel realities would scatter my thoughts into chaos in the midst of pain.

I have heard it said, The only constant in life is change. The inevitable ups and downs of our journey shift our perspectives. Our ideas evolve as we grow.

As a writer in a digital age, I have to find my way through these changes and shifting perspectives, while laying down words where others can see.

The stories and thoughts that spill out onto the Web are pieces of my heart and soul. But I am often reminding myself that although my ideas belong to me, I don’t belong to my ideas. My views and musings on life do not remain static, but flow like a river, either cascading over cliffs with a torrent of emotion, or gently trickling in quiet reflection.

As a faith writer, I am expected to be a guardian of doctrinal orthodoxy. My words are often considered sacred because I speak of God. My stories and ideas, however, are simply snapshots of a journey; they cannot adequately capture the entirety of my faith, convictions, and identity.

The quickness with which I see faith writers discredited as “not Christian,” then farewelled and burned at the virtual stake, is disheartening.

I believe that a public engagement of ideas needs to be met with public accountability. I’m not saying we can’t disagree and contend fiercely with opposing viewpoints. We can, and we should, in order to further sharpen our ideas and live more fully into our convictions. I am saying we can do an even better job if we tackle each other’s ideas rather than one another’s humanity.

In this journey of faith, our ideas are the bricks which pave our paths. When I encounter massive suffering in the news, my swirling thoughts on theodicy are like wobbly bricks I tread for my next step forward. My growing convictions for gender equality and justice are more bricks which form my spiritual path. I carefully mold and forge each of the pieces and meticulously lay each down to make a way for my own faith, and I invite fellow travelers and future generations to join me.

But we are not the path, we are the travelers upon it. We cultivate relationships with others, not the road. The traveler thinks, but he also eats, drinks and sings. Sometimes she falls down and scrapes her knees, other times she takes bold steps forward.

My ideas are pieces of my journey. They do not define the totality of my personhood. I think if we can release each other to engage ideas without letting it determine our dignity, then we give ourselves permission to speak boldly. I can throw ideas out there with a little more abandon, cobble words together with greater imagination, and unleash more energy into sharing my thoughts without fears of being cast out.

I can try paving my path towards the east or meandering to the west. I can discuss my ideas, pick them apart, tease out the core arguments, discard the superfluous, all the while recognizing the dignity of my fellow travelers.

I believe our best ideas are formed in conversation. Our most creative work is inspired by the work of others. We are born into an already vibrant discussion of an ancient, historical faith, and we get to participate by engaging it with modern concerns.

But along that path, I pray we have the wisdom to know when to stop building for a moment and care for the wounds of those who are down. I pray that we are not so absorbed in paving a path forward that we neglect the beauty of the sojourners traveling on it.

We don’t belong to our ideas, we belong to each other. We journey best, not when the path is straight and smooth, but when we travel together.

This post was inspired by Tripp Fuller & Bo Sander’s conversations from this episode of HomeBrewed Christianity’s TNT.


Image credit: Loren Kerns