Translating The Externals
Lately, I’ve become very aware of a certain phrase we all use pretty often. If you pay attention, I bet you come across it often as well. You might even use it! It’s the phrase “I feel like…” It will usually come up around discussions of predestination, creation, end-times, or anything remotely political. It’s used when we talk about the deep, itching questions of life. The ones we all have very weighted opinions about. So what do we actually mean when we say this?
I think “I feel like” most closely translates to “What I actually believe is…”
In my own life, I use this as a defense mechanism with God. It might sound something like “I know God says He forgives me, but I feel like I need to do something to prove to Him I’ve changed.”
Maybe what we’re saying inside is “This is what I have to say to be in the tribe, but I don’t completely trust this idea.”
The ‘I feel likes” come out when we aren’t honest with ourselves about what we believe. It’s a crafty little way for us to stay ‘in the tribe’ without showing our true cards. We’re afraid if we were honest with ourselves or others, we’d be rejected by others, and/or God.
Moving Towards Grace
Here’s the thing, It’s okay to ‘feel like’ for now. It’s okay to actually believe something else, even if you think you might be wrong, especially in God talks. Many of us may feel like God only accepts us when we have the information right, when we pass the theology test. Once we’ve read the bible enough and agree with the Church totally, then we’re in. This is the impression that’s given off a lot. But it’s not true.
No one has all the right answers. Everyone has a couple of “I feel likes.” in their closet. And God still loves us. He still forgives us. He still has mercy. And you know the funny thing? Throughout your life, many of those things you actually believe will change. The longer you follow Jesus, the more you will be awakened to the reality behind the words on the pages. You’ll see the Bible is true because it’s about reality, not the other way around. And then, the things you may have had wrong will fade away because you’ll have tasted and seen.
What we need to do as Christians is create spaces to be honest. Imagine, a place where you could say “I actually believe this… because…” and the person leading the study had nothing but grace and truth in love. Imagine if we put the swords down from each others necks, and listened to the reasons behind the “I feel like” statements. I bet a community like this would quickly see the Kingdom of God, the reality behind the pages. They’d encounter Jesus.
The secret to this type of atmosphere is the ability to translate the externals. You know, those words we say that have more meaning behind them than we’d like to show. We like to hide behind the externals. But I’m willing to bet we’d love to peel back the layers and dig under them, if someone was willing to be there for us. We might say what we really believe if we truly trust someone’s love for us. And I think community, especially Christ centered community, needs to be honest in this way.
So we need to keep knocking. Keep pressing. Keep wrestling with God, and be honest with ourselves. Be honest with what we actually believe. And most importantly, be open to letting God show us a whole new world in Jesus. And to be people who give good grace to others, all the while directing them in love and patience to Jesus’ words