Someone recently told me there is a large majority of Christians who are not worried about discipleship anymore as we have shifted into a desperate rhetoric of conversion. When I think about this conversation of conversion, I go to a dark place my husband just interfaced with at a USC game.
While walking up to his seat someone was passing out pamphlets. Have you lied? Have you cheated? Have you thought about women? Then you’re going to hell. (Not kidding, those are direct quotes.) The intention is there, albeit completely misdirected, but this person was not interested in the commandment which says “go make disciples,”… not converts. He had no intention of getting to know Nate or learning his story.
Discipleship requires relationship; it requires what the word implies – discipline. The word implies a journey, not merely a single decision. It requires moving past formulas into some really hard questions; it requires theology. And now is not the time for a theology of comfort, easy answers, or profit for profit’s sake.
Let me say this, I don’t have all the answers. Far from it actually, but I do ask a lot of questions. I live the story I have been given and from what I can tell about the rejection letters for the new book I’m working on, the issue isn’t with the writing itself– I think it’s that I am asking people to take the blinders off. For to be moved with compassion for yourself, means that you can’t help but realize that for other people and the community around you. Here. Now. But how you make sense of that is between you and God, not you and a book. That means risk; that means narrative and not prescription. It means letting the Eucharist change you instead of just treating it as a nice reminder. It means telling the message that has been given to you, instead of a message customized for the masses.
I think this is why Jesus told people to be silent after he did something, because he wasn’t going to the masses; he was going person to person, disciple to disciple. He wanted to build understanding and reconciliation sustainably. He wasn’t welcome at every table, so in a way he made his own, but he still invited everyone to it. Not to mention, he went to the tables on the margins others deemed as not worth the time, energy, or investment.
Eventually, the crowds came to him, he didn’t seek them out, so why do we always try to find mass markets?
I’m wondering today where my place is at the table in the world of Christian creative non-fiction? I’m not asking for pity. I appreciate, in part, the world of books-with-answers and Tim Tebow success stories, but let this be a challenge: is there room for the question askers and practical theologians who want to bring education along with their stories to the table? Stories which end, not with a happily-ever-after, but with the challenge of Eucharistic living? Isn’t it time for a change from easy answers of conversion to building space for mere understanding and honest dialogue?
Maybe if we stop trying to fix and sell everything around us, we could actually see who is around us. I pray that is always my intention: to see beyond labels to stories. I need this lens for the health of my soul and the community around me.
All of this, from the books that sell to my dilemma of publishing to the risk of living beyond labels, begs questions of: Can we move beyond comfort to welcoming a stranger? Can we seek out wise discernment instead of easy formulas? Are profit and security really worth it? What is the cost of siding with those issues when we are called to lives of sacrifice?
I chose a life of risk and it has been radical. I truly believe I am trying to live – completely imperfectly – on earth as it is in heaven because I am questioning the norms, I am seeking out otherness, and I invite discomfort (most of the time kicking, screaming, and crying). I desire understanding more than being right, even though it is extremely hard. Discernment is not an option, it’s a lifestyle and I will continue to write in such a way which encourages it and live into it too. For the risk of not, of living blindly, of living one-sided, causes too much pain.
I can see why that wouldn’t be wanted in boardrooms. But maybe I’m seeking approval and publishing deals in the wrong place.
Who would’ve thought a little book about homesteading would’ve stirred all this up? Lesson learned: Be careful when you follow your vocation. It will make you uncomfortable, but it will push you into understanding what it means to be a disciple. And I am okay with that.