25 questions part I: Belief, hope & doubt

by Kristin on February 2, 2009

in Belief, doubt & hope

Photo by John Lambert Pearson

In a post last Friday, I invited my readers to ask me 25 questions. I’ve loved watching them emerge—some make me smile and remember, others make me think, and also feel a bit panicky about the challenge of how to articulate things I know but haven’t necessarily put into words before.

So you’ve done your part. Now it’s my turn. Rather than trying to answer all 25 questions in one shot, which would result in the longest blog post ever, I decided to create three posts, one for each of my three main categories. Brace yourselves: I’ve tackled some of the heaviest questions first.

What do you say when your children or a dear friend asks “what do YOU think I should do?” (Leona)

I help them think about what is good in the world: forgiveness, love, giving to others, and being the person they truly are, in a way that feels right to their core. Then I remind them of the things that get in the way of what’s good—things like pride, selfishness and fear. And then I tell them they have to decide what feels right, in their hearts, more than in their heads. Finally, I tell them to move forward boldly and to remember that even if their choice ends up not being the best one, God can redeem any mess we create.

Why do you feel the need for a faith at all? I’m agnostic (to make light of it), but I’m interested to know how you feel and, more importantly, why? (CJ)

I believe there is overwhelming evidence pointing to the truth of a God who loves us and has a vision for the world that is more perfect than anything we can envision or accomplish on our own. I’m not talking about scientific or historical evidence so much, although there is that. (Of course, there’s also evidence pointing to why we shouldn’t believe, which is why I don’t spend much time building that kind of “case” for faith.)

I’m talking about the evidence that’s woven through the life stories of people who believe. Many evil things are done in the world—some in the name of God, some in the name of pride and selfishness, and many in the confused name of all those things. But evil is not difficult to accomplish. Social justice and mercy and love and forgiveness are the truly difficult things—the things that require strength and power from something much bigger than humans and the mess of the world.

When I look at the lives of people like Desmond Tutu, Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King Jr., as well as at my own story and the lives of many people I’ve known personally—from my mom and my husband to the pastors of my church—I know there is something bigger than us to believe in, and that believing makes a real difference in the world.

If you could tell the entire world a story about Jesus what would the story be? (Jenx67)

I would tell the story from Luke 7:36-50, or at least variations on that story, as realized in my own life and the lives of others. It’s the story about Jesus having dinner at the home of an important, educated, wealthy man, with other important men. While they are reclining at the table, a prostitute approaches Jesus, and washes his feet with her tears, dries them with her hair, and pours perfume on them.

Jesus protects the dignity of the woman, even though there is no social or political gain in doing so—rather, quite the opposite—and he risks much by putting the self-righteous host in his place. Ultimately, and most importantly, this is a story about compassion and forgiveness, which is everything. As Desmond Tutu says, “Without forgiveness, there is no future.” This is the truth Jesus has modeled for the world.

If you could have three wishes granted, the first one for the world, the second one just for your family, and the third one just for yourself, what would they be? (Julia)

Perhaps this is cheating, but I realized that the wish I want for the world is one that my family and I need to embrace, too, and that embracing it would make our lives much more satisfying and whole. So here’s the one wish, for everyone: I would wish that all people could suddenly see everyone else through eyes of overwhelming compassion. Can you imagine what the world would look like if we did?

What’s your all-time favorite song, and why is it your favorite? (LeslieB)

I grew up in a house full of music, and I love a very broad range of music. For some reason, I didn’t want to chose a “religious” song, because I didn’t want to seem all pious and traditional.

But if I could only have one song for the rest of my days, there’s no doubt it would be Amazing Grace. And it’s clear why I love it: It combines the best of musical composition and poetry. It can be sung and played in many styles and moods—I’ve heard it done as gospel and soul, as acoustic folk, startlingly loud on bagpipes, and acapella. I listened while my dad jazzed it up beautifully on his clarinet at my wedding, and I’ve sung it countless times to my children since they were babies, just as my mom sang it to me. It transcends time, and it communicates the only message we need to hear: “I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”

What do you most regret in your life? (Becky)

I regret wasting many hours and years trying to figure out who I “was supposed” to be, and how to be that person. I should have been exploring and fully embracing who I am, and believing that God made me (and loves me) exactly this way for a reason.

In an online world where so much is virtual and even many of your friends you’ve never met, how do you decide who is the authentic you, and how do you nourish that self? (Nick B.)

Identifying the “authentic me” has been an almost full-time job these past few years. Much of it involves turning off my brain and tuning into my heart, so to speak. When I start feeling socially anxious or stressed, and not like myself, it’s often because I’m virtually or physically spending too much time around someone (or a collection of people) who somehow lure me away from my true self. I know what it feels like to be with people who make me feel more like myself, so I have learned to see what’s going on in my relationships, and make adjustments.

Writing my blog, as honestly and openly as I can, is what nourishes my true self. The more authentic I can be on my blog, the more I can be sure that I’m attracting the right friends for the right reasons.

Why does your blog bio say “daily defying” rather than “daily defining?” (Robinana)

I love words and meanings, but life has gradually shown me that we spend far too much time trying to “define” things. To define is to pretend that we can be definitive about something: What it means to be a Christian. What it means to be a family. What it means to be “normal.” By saying, instead, that I’m defying what it means to be this certain type of person (a divorced-Christian-liberal-remarried-Midwestern-mommy-writer), what I’m actually defying is the possibility of any one definition, and poking fun at the very idea that any of us could be defined.

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  • http://mommyknows.com mommyknows

    Why not link to the people that asked you the questions? There are a couple of people I thought asked really interesting questions, I’d like to read them if they have blogs.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com/ Kristin T.

    mommyknows, that’s a great idea. I’ll add the available links.

  • Becky

    Thanks for these! They are amazing, insightful and moving, as I’d have imagined they would be. xxxxxxxxb

  • http://www.jungleoflife.com/ Lance

    Hi Kristin,
    I love your answers to these questions – nice job being “you”…

    I’m especially moved by your reply to why you need faith. And the whole idea of belief. I certainly can’t claim to have many of the “scientific” answers to support any theory for how this all began. Belief…that’s it for me too. It’s a belief in what is good and right in the world. And of a God who loves us immensely.

    Honest and open writing — you’re doing it Kristin.

    And it’s this that brings me back…continue to be “real”…

  • http://compostermom.blogspot.com Daisy

    Thanks for these! I appreciate your honesty and courage putting these out in the open. Ah, compassion; it could change the world.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com/ Kristin T.

    Becky, thanks for asking one of the most difficult questions! :) And thanks for your constant love and support. It’s hard laying it all out there like this, and so good to know someone like you is waiting to receive it.

    Lance, you’re a great role model of “honest and open writing,” so it means a lot to hear you say it about me. I also really like how simply you put this truth: “It’s a belief in what is good and right in the world. And of a God who loves us immensely.” Thanks for adding your perspective to mine.

    Daisy, thanks for recognizing the courage it took. Posts like this one make me feel all squirmy! I’m not sure why it’s so hard for me to put it all out there when it comes to my faith and beliefs, but it is.