Head vs. Heart


I know I've mentioned this here before, but when I was a teenager I was on the Bible Quiz Team for my church, and I was also on the Team for the Christian school I attended. 

Our Quiz Teams won national championships, so it was kind of a big deal to be on one.  Not to brag, but I was pretty good... really good, in fact.  

We memorized entire chapters of the Bible in preparation for these quizzes, which meant that I was memorizing at least 5 chapters from the Bible a year, and this went on for several years.  

The fundamentalist Christian communities that we were a part of when I was growing up valued the memorization of Scripture.  You were expected to have Bible knowledge---to be able to quote Bible verses at the drop of a hat.  

On the other hand, I spent almost zero time really trying to study and understand what we memorized--apart from very shallow, literalistic, and uncritical interpretations.  

When I was a young teenager, I received a lot of affirmation for my head knowledge of the Bible and of what it meant to me at the time to be a Christian, but as I got older, things changed.  

I longed for an experience of God's presence, but I had never learned how to feel it---and I so wanted to feel a connection to the Divine.  Instead, I settled for rote memorization and a spate of unsatisfying answers to all of my hard and troubling questions.  

So finally, I walked away from all of it, and it was years before I found my way back.  

It took me years to realize that there were other, more life-giving ways to be Christian--ways that didn't value head knowledge above Divine experience, Christ-centered feelings, and Spirit-induced revelation.  

It is this kind of Christian space that calls to me, inspires me, and keeps me stumbling after Jesus.  

I read this poem by the 13th-century poet Rumi the other day, and I wrote it down to share.  It speaks to this so beautifully: 
There is a learning community where the names of God
Are talked about and memorized, and there is
Another residence where meanings live.  
Perhaps you have come to a place in your journey where you are feeling like all of the things that you thought you knew about God are failing you.  You might have spent so much time trying to get your theology right that you have neglected your heart.  

If this is where you are right now, I have only this to say: There is another way.  

You see, if your religion keeps you locked in your head, it's "junk" religion, to coin one of Fr. Richard Rohr's favorite terms.  

And if your faith is grounded in a set of propositions and carefully constructed arguments that fall apart like a house of cards when confronted with hard questions or even harder realities... it will always keep you at arm's length from the joyous, generative life God longs for you to lead.   

Hold on to what is useful from what you've learned in the past, but hold it loosely, and then reframe it in God's amazing and irresistible grace.  

And if your faith community is requiring you to check your brain at the door in order to be a part of it, then find a new faith community---one that will encourage you to question, to wonder, and to explore.  

Then get ready.  There are surprises ahead of you--life-changing, transformative surprises. Because you will not only discover a new way to be Christian, but you will also discover a new way to be your truest and best self.  

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  

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