What is Truth? (Frederick Buechner Excerpt)

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I was having a dialogue on Facebook recently with a friend who holds different beliefs from mine. We have a love and respect for one another that transcends any differences between us and we entered into a short exchange of thoughts about the Bible. She genuinely asked me how I can believe it with all its contradictions and questionable translations. I told her how I see it and we had a civil conversation about it that, I hope, left us both better people for having had it.

Not long after, I opened my email inbox which held my daily reading excerpt from Frederick Buechner. I’ve pasted it below and it’s pretty much what I was trying/hoping to say in that Facebook conversation. Hours before this, in another book, I came across another passage mentioning the particular silence written about below.

Since Buechner is a much greater master of words than I could ever hope to be, I wanted to share this because he puts into words what I can only struggle to say…

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“Somebody should write a book someday about the silences in Scripture. Maybe somebody already has. “For God alone my soul waits in silence,” the psalmist says (62:1), which is the silence of waiting. Or “Be not silent, O God of my praise,” which is the silence of the God we wait for (109:1). “And when the Lamb opened the seventh seal,” says the book of Revelation, “there was silence in heaven” (8: I)—the silence of creation itself coming to an end and of a new creation about to begin. But the silence that has always most haunted me is the silence of Jesus before Pilate. Pilate asks his famous question, “What is truth?” (John 18:38), and Jesus answers him with a silence that is overwhelming in its eloquence. In case there should be any question as to what that silence meant, on another occasion Jesus put it into words for his disciple Thomas. “I,” he said, “I am the truth” (14:6).

Jesus did not say that religion was the truth, or that his own teachings were the truth, or that what people taught about him was the truth, or that the Bible was the truth, or the church, or any system of ethics or theological doctrine. There are individual truths in all of them, we hope and believe, but individual truths were not what Pilate was after, or what you and I are after either, unless I miss my guess. Truths about this or that are a dime a dozen, including religious truths. THE truth is what Pilate is after: the truth about who we are and who God is if there is a God, the truth about life, the truth about death, the truth about truth itself. That is the truth we are all of us after.

It is a truth that can never be put into words because no words can contain it. It is a truth that can never be caught in any doctrine or creed including our own because it will never stay still long enough but is always moving and shifting like air. It is a truth that is always beckoning us in different ways and coming at us from different directions. And I think that is precisely why whenever Jesus tries to put that ultimate and inexpressible truth into words (instead of into silence as he did with Pilate), the form of words he uses is a form that itself moves and shifts and beckons us in different ways and comes at us from different directions. That is to say he tells stories.

Frederick Buechner 
from The Clown in the Belfry & Secrets in the Dark

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My Story of Healing from Eating Disorders (Podcast)

This will be part 1 of my story because there has been healing in so many areas of my life that each would require a separate talk. So I’m sure there will be more parts that I share on this topic in the future. But for now, I wanted to post the story I shared at church here in Berlin recently and my hope, as always, is that something I said might give hope and encouragement to someone listening.

There were moments of technical difficulty during my sharing…and a bit of nervousness…and a bit of crying. Our stories can be messy, so it’s no surprise that the telling of them can be too.

Click here to hear it.

It tells a bit about how I went from this:

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To this:

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I hope that if you, or someone you know, struggles with an eating disorder, or any kind of self-destructive behavior, that hearing my story will help you to not give up and to keep praying, keep hoping and keep knowing that God loves you no matter what’s going on and that healing and good things are possible.

Your life matters and you are needed here on this planet.

Blessings & peace,

Monique

p.s. If you need coaching and/or spiritual guidance, please click here to schedule an appointment for an introductory call with me.

 

 

FEAR VS. LOVE

          

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Some people think that the opposite of love is hate. Some have said the opposite of love is apathy. While there may be some truth to both of those, the opposite of love is actually fear.

It’s interesting that when Jesus cast demons out of certain people or healed them of ongoing illnesses, he didn’t spend hours analyzing how they got into that condition. In Mark 5, he didn’t ask if the demon-possessed man had had an abusive childhood. They didn’t have psychiatric labels then (that we know of) like we have nowadays. Jesus simply met people where they were at and he moved them forward, often by healing, freeing, and delivering them from what was causing their suffering.

I once had a pastor who said, “God never does something just for you. What he does for you is also meant to bless and affect others.” Jesus didn’t just deliver this man for the man’s sake; an entire town had been affected by his “issues” and the entire town would later be affected by his healing. One of the most marvelous passages in the Gospels is Mark 5: “Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind.” This wasn’t after years of extensive therapy. This was after moments in the presence of Perfect Love.

Christ’s love is so powerful and his power so loving that all he needs to do is speak words of healing, or touch someone, or be touched, and oppression of body, mind or soul must cease and leave. This begs the question: what if we were able to love from such a place of being so grounded in God and his love that our mere presence, our mere words, our mere touch could bring healing to others? There’s nothing “mere” about any of these things.

There are people in our lives, around whom we may feel rejected, criticized, and like nothing we ever do is good enough for them. Around these, we may feel anxious, bound-up, irritated, and uneasy. We want to remove ourselves from their presence. On the other hand, there are people we are drawn toward because they exude love, acceptance, and a deep-seated joy that’s not dependent on circumstances. Their acceptance of us is not based on what we do, it’s based on who we are to them. In their presence, we feel freer, more able to be ourselves, at ease, and at home. No human can love us perfectly, but these people give us a glimpse of that perfect love that everyone longs for.

God is the only one who can love us perfectly for the simple, yet profound, reason that he is love. It is the very essence of his character and of his being. He cannot be, or do, otherwise. This is why Jesus was a magnet for the downtrodden, the discouraged, those heavy-laden with care (and he still is). These are the ones who are often most open to the slightest kindness, the gentlest touch, because when a person is wounded, the last thing they need is harshness. They need tenderness.

The man in Mark 5, prior to his deliverance, was much like the guy on the train who most people avoid—the one who is dirty, smells bad, and mumbles to himself or shouts obscenities. It is very likely fear that makes people look away—fear of being reminded of one’s own inner poverty when in the presence of outward poverty. But Jesus was afraid of no one because Jesus was the embodiment of perfect love and perfect love casts out all fear.

It is dazzling that in Mark 5:6-7 the man ran to Jesus and worshipped him before he was ever healed. The man wanted God. The demons were afraid of God. So the man was in a state of push/pull—drawn to Jesus, yet at the same time repelled by him. But once he was free, he begged to be allowed to stay with Jesus. Instead, Jesus sent the man back to his town (the very town that had alienated him) and told him to tell everyone what God had done for him, making him the first bearer of the Good News of God’s healing, freeing love in that vicinity. The man’s life was his testimony. The people had seen him before, and they saw him now, and there was no denying that the man was changed, transformed, and free due to encountering God’s perfect fear-evicting love in his Son, Jesus Christ.

 

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