Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The first time I questioned the Bible...

I remember clearly the first time I questioned what I thought was an inconsistency in the Bible. I was thirteen years old on my very first mission trip. It was my very first time out of the country, on a team of kids I didn't know, who were all older than me. It was all brand spanking new and I absolutely loved it. My team leader literally had to dig my mom's claws out of my shoulder at the airport as she sobbed out how much she would miss me and that everything was going to be okay (for twenty minutes) while the other kids looked at me sympathetically.

Up until this point my faith had been the faith of my parents. I have no doubt that Jesus had already taken up residence in my heart, but at the time I don't think I was aware of it. Stepping off the plane into Port Au Prince changed everything. I remember exiting the plane and walking across the hot pavement to see hoards of people pressed up against a chain link fence, jockeying for a position near us so they could sell us their crackers and trinkets. My team leader pushed us through the crowd shouting directions at us to not accept any offers for help with our bags. Too late- a couple of my team members had already lost their stuff. We hurried onto the bus awaiting us and settled in for the long drive into the Dominican Republic. Everything came into sharp focus on that four hour drive. Seeing the card-board shanty towns along every highway told me all that God stuff was real, although I had no clue how to make sense of any of it.

I've always been a questioner. I've always needed more clarification, more information; always quick to point out inconsistencies. But two things happened here that set the course for the rest of my life:
1. Jesus became a real person. All that stuff I had learned in Sunday school hadn't mattered until then because I had no need to apply it, no need to rely on parents were pretty reliable. Here I was on my own and I saw a great need and felt I was supposed to do something about it and I couldn't do it on my own.
2. I realized that someone had some explaining to do. I started reading the Bible because I wanted to know what God was saying/had said and quickly realized there were things that didn't line up. I don't think I could have articulated it then but I was already beginning to wonder why I had been so blessed with a family and a home and food for every meal and why these people, who God loved, were not--my first taste of "the problem of evil".

The first time I questioned the Bible was on this trip but didn't have much to do with the stuff God was beginning to do in my heart. I think I said to my leader, "The Bible says we are saved by grace and not by works but here it says that we will  be judged on what we do when we get to heaven. Which one is it?" I don't remember what his answer was but I do remember it wasn't satisfactory. I also remember feeling just the tiniest bit of pride that I had stumped him.

This story recently came back to me out of the abyss of my memory and for some reason it comforted me. When I'm in the midst of the valley and all I have are questions and uncertainty, I sometimes romanticize this imaginary time in my youth when I didn't question anything and everything was easy. But remembering this story tells me it was never that way- that God, for better or for worse, created me with the brain I have for a reason. It's frustrating to know that I'll probably be this way for the rest of my life (questions only lead to more questions), but it's comforting to know that God will use me in spite of myself.

What was the first time you questioned the Bible?

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