Welcome: An Introduction

Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Stepping out of the Closet

There's a saying: Chase two rabbits, catch none.

                                                            Courtesy of google images

I have chosen my rabbit and have him in my sites. But much like from the tale of Allison in Wonderland my rabbit is elusive and oftentimes ducks and weaves and dives down tunnels giving me no choice to follow. I pursue my rabbit, so white and pure, so full of light and radiance, through darkness and through trails that have been both followed and abandoned by past explorers. Overgrown with thorns they cut deep into my heart's flesh, scarring its muscle and tissue, teaching it wisdom that can only be discovered through trial and pain. Sometimes you have to lose everything to gain that one thing which is to be treasured above all others.

There are other rabbits too.. Some beautiful with thick coats, their colors alluring and drawing my gaze towards them from time to time. When my gaze falters from  eternity's pearl, tragically she fades into obscurity, causing me to come to my knees again, pleading humbly for His Spirit to direct my soul once again to the path in which my rabbit can be found.

My quest for God, for ultimate meaning and truth, for a pure understanding of why we are here and what reality consists of, has brought me from traditional pews lined neatly and organized in  puritanical churches, to the nontraditional and nondenominational setting of clustered cafeteria tables and modern praise music lifted high among rattling rafters, to meditation sessions, Buddha paintings patiently and amusingly looking down on me as I lay down to search my subconscious for God tucked hidden within, a seed stubbornly refusing to sprout and manifest itself more fully in my heart.

Finally my drifting has taken  me to places of solitude as I edge my way further  from my brethren and seek to be nestled more closely in the embrace of my Father. There's no condemnation, no betrayals, no fear of others using what you say to gossip at a later point. The raven and songbird can keep secrets, so do the chipmunk and wood duck, their preening and scavenging for food showing no interest in my spiritual quest as I pour out hymns and prayers to God and then sit alongside the river, and enter the bliss of silence, seeking my own river of eternal water in my soul's center, beckoning it to spring forth anew, carrying me down its watery trail to Zion.

I have so many questions, so many things I don't know yet. It seems like most other Christians around me are so firm on the doctrines many of them have been brought up under. Others still have accepted them since being born again and have blazed onward, never questioning, never pausing, never seeing the many forks in the road that seem to continually rise up and enter my view every time I'm on my path. Perhaps they have an advantage, perhaps their subconscious has built-in cables to God's will that just wasn't installed into my DNA.

Heaven and Hell. That's a biggie right there. Do non-Christians go to hell just because they have never come to know the fullness of God? Because they never accepted the offer He gives us, stretched towards us with palms bloodied and heart open wide, no gates or fences, just an open pathway to redemption, understanding and salvation. Ok, I think many rational Christians could ascertain that a loving and just God would not condemn those who have never yet known the name of Jesus. Like the overused example of the lone tribe of Amazons trekking through the jungles, never yet being exposed to the technology of a light bulb yet alone getting their hands on a Bible. They can tag along I suppose.

But what about those atheists that seem to know more of Scripture than most Christians? Those who have searched, who have plodded along their own paths? Those who were once filled with hope that a Divine creator might exist and have become entangled in science's relentless snare? Don't get me wrong, science has it's place, but when we rely on science only, and not on our own intuitions and receptive natures that have the ability to probe out truth and the Divine, we only see one tiny perspective, one part among the totality of reality that limits our full view.  What about those atheists, that have heard the gospel...what happens to them? What happens to the Jews, the Muslims, the Buddhists, all who have been culturally affected by their own versions of religion and with just as much thirst have sought out truth, understanding, the end of suffering and salvation like me? Why do I deserve heaven any more just because I naturally fell into the paradigm of Christian thought and belief upon my quest's conception most likely due to my cultural upbringing in this western world I've been born into ?

Universalist can be a dirty word among evangelicals. The term heretic usually closely follows after, sort of  like the second kick once you're down kind of thing. Many of my fellow Christians get pretty adamant, sometimes very confrontational and condemning at the notion of universalism. I can understand. I used to do the same thing.But I can't help where my journey is taking me. And this is my stepping out of the closet part of the post! So, hope people haven't stopped reading this already and moved on to another blog!

Every time I start chasing my rabbit, it becomes more vibrant, more full of hope, more full of light clearing the view and distance between me and him when I plunge deep into the endless possibilities of God's love, compassion and grace.  My surroundings become more crisp and defined, my inward eye more discerning. Every time I let go of the fear of repercussions, not publicly but in the privacy of my own devotional time or the near anonymity of a friend's blog and write about how I really feel, what I've come to understand as truth, something wonderful happens. Every time I seek God's direction within and move past my comfort zones and find myself no longer bound by what I've always been told and stretch myself out to the unknown, towards believing what has always been taught was the unbelievable,  a peace floods my heart and like a gentle wave of the ocean, it lifts me up on it's rising crest and then lowers me down again, taking me closer to the shore. And these shores I am nearly landing on are open wide expanses, filled with the abundant possibilities that only love mixed with the elixir of truth, blood and sacrifice can produce.  Jesus stands on that shore waiting patiently with arms open.

Heavens, I think I'm becoming a universalist! There are legitimate doctrinal issues with my new found leanings and serious questions arise. If non-Christians are "saved" then what would be the point of Jesus' death and resurrection? Why do we need a savior if others don't and also make it to heaven? What is the point of evangelism? Many staunch opponents to universalism urge others away from this line of thinking because they consider it cheapens the Gospel. As you can see, universalism can land one in quite the doctrinal quandary.

So where does this all leave me? Well, with more questions and more rabbit holes to explore! I'm not sure the quest for truth, understanding and pathway to God ever ends, until maybe at least this life does. Perhaps it continues for all of eternity. I do think the adventure is the greatest one that a soul could ever venture on.

Kurt Willems, a fellow Christian blogger recently wrote a post, "Coming Out of the  Theological Closet. You can find it here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/2011/08/08/coming-out-of-the-theological-closet/#more-3292  In his post Kurt discusses how sometimes we can hide some of our questions and beliefs from others for fear of rejection and he confesses openly this hiding held back a part of him who God designed him to be.

Well, I for one, am searching for my identity in Christ and I don't want my attachments towards the desires of approval and acceptance hindering that journey. One blogger who I have come to appreciate for his open honesty in questioning and seeking is William Huffhine, author of "Confessions of a Christian Dropout".  His blog Christian Dropout (http://www.christiandropout.com/) explores many of the same questions I find myself facing. I love how he admits when he doesn't know the answers and I believe many of us can relate to his observations of the Church and religion. I'm looking forward to reading how his journey unravels before him and urge you all to visit his blog.

I never like to say I'm 100% right about something because I've seen my views evolve so much over the years that I know better not to make such an absolute statement. I've also been wrong before when I thought I've been right. I think if we are all honest we can find a time or two when that has happened. Many of you might not like the conclusions I start to come to here and perhaps might not like what I have to say from time to time. I urge you to have patience as I with humility search and seek and grasp my way towards a more fuller understanding of God. 

Universalism, as well as some other areas of doctrine, have been clamoring my mind and heart for attention for quite some time now. I've longed to write more openly on my blog about them but have already come across some criticism in my personal life and I allowed that, at least temporarily, to effect my resolve in expressing more openly my spiritual journey. Well, that is no longer going to be the case! I plan on pressing onwards towards some of these areas in posts to come.  In approaching them with a seeking heart and open mind. I encourage you to come along with with me in my journey and to be honest with your reservations and objections as well as when you can identify with my sentiment and leanings.

Any thoughts? I'm sure you have some! Please leave them in the Comments section! Thank you :)


  1. Hi Jessica!

    Very well thought out and eloquently written. There's not much I can add to what you've already written other than to say that new lands, very real lands that actually exist, are never discovered until we get in the boat and set sail. I applaud you for having the courage to pull up the tent stakes and continue the journey.

    The world was "flat" until someone had the courage to sail around it. The universe revolved around the earth until someone took the time to look more deeply and had the courage to share what he had learned and endure the inevitable condemnation from the "authorities."

    May we continue to journey, look more deeply into the things of life and eternity, and speak openly of our adventures.

  2. Thank you Bill for your awesome comment. I seek to sail as deep as God will allow me to go! I thank you in particular for inspiring me through your book and blog to be more direct and honest in my pursuit of God and understanding. It's truly stifling spiritually when we have to worry about the condemnation of others when expressing our faith and beliefs. It's my hope that more and more people will step out with the questions they have, the reservations, the thoughts and inspirations that they don't share due to fear of rejection or criticism. We all have something to learn from eachother, we never will, if we keep it all to ourselves! :)

    ~blessings and thanks again :)

  3. Wow, Jessica!
    I've read quite a bit of your meanderings here. This is probably the best written piece I've seen from you. It comes from the heart. I can tell you're struggling a bit here, but I THINK you're on the right path. You REALLY MUST read Rob Bell's book. I have it and when we get together I'll make sure and get it to you.

    Love your analogy of chasing rabbits. The fact that you say:

    Every time I start chasing my rabbit, it becomes more vibrant, more full of hope, more full of light clearing the view and distance between me and him when I plunge deep into the endless possibilities of God's love, compassion and grace. My surroundings become more crisp and defined, my inward eye more discerning.

    is what leads me to believe you're on the right path. Any path that leads you closer to God is the right one.

    Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Christians. We ALL pray to the same God. There is NO wrong God. As far as Hell goes? I'll continue to believe as Rob Bell does...
    (and it's interesting I wasn't aware of Mr Bell before reading his book)
    ...that why would God who is all loving seek to ONLY accept a select few and send the rest to damnation. And who IS that select few? How can humanity KNOW?

    EVEN IF this was the case how can ANYONE say BEYOND doubt who is saved and who isn't? I don't believe God would condemn ANYONE for all eternity. That's not the loving God I believe in.

    Good for you, Jessica that you're continuing to seek answers. It's those who accept doctrine without EVER questioning and without EVER looking beyond, that most worry me. As I've maintained on my blog since its inception:
    Life is about moving forward.

    God will reward you for continuing to seek him in ANY way possible.

    You're on the right path. Keep searching, Jessica. Keep reaching. Keep learning. It's the only way to grow.

  4. Chris,

    Thanks so much for your great and thoughtful comment! I feel like we can identify with eachother a lot because as you come here I often journey to your blog as well and we both are seeking spiritually and it's a joy to be able to have these exchanges :)

    I think you hit a really great point home when you wrote: Any path that leads you closer to God is the right one.

    I've been reading and listening to Ken Wilber quite a bit (if you aren't familiar with him I'd highly recommend him!) and he recommends to go with what intuitively works for you spiritually, where you feelGod is calling you, and to stick with it, not drifting to other beliefs but really cultivating a genuine sense of your own in the forum of the familiar. (I'm totally paraphrasing)

    I definitely think God leads us down all kinds of paths, and if we seek Him and Him only, He will always light the way in our hearts. We just need to look for it. It's really refreshing meeting so many lately that are searching and seeking, digging and plodding along for answers. I think we all have something to learn from one another :) Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Very thought provoking post and worthy of more than one read. :D

  6. Jessica, you are so right; if we want to continue to grow in our relationship with God, we have to chase those rabbits (fantastic image, by the way) He sends our way. We have to trust in the paths He opens to us and, as you stated, we must seek Him and Him only.

    Like you, I have questioned the saving of some and not others. However, I have concluded that God is so much bigger than I, this is in His control, not mine; who am I to say that Jesus hasn't appeared to other cultures in ways that satisfy Him that they are believers? I think the most important things we can do as Christians is to grow our relationship with Him and spread the good news of salvation to others.

    There is a joy in the journey!


  7. Bottom line, Jessica >> Read the Bible.

    Take your journey through the hot sands that Jesus walked, talk to Him under the olive trees and see what He says about your questions.

    But, before you do, ask God to reveal to you the truth of scripture. Ask him for wisdom and insight and to reveal exactly what He wants you to know.

    Ten years ago I asked Him to explain to me about prayer. He has revealed so much to me through scripture, through sermons, through my own prayers, and He keeps on explaining it to me. Any person might forget after the first year, but God never does. He'll teach you if you just ask.

  8. Bill has spoken in a couple of posts on labels. Even Christian labels can lead us on rabbit trails that have little to do with Christ – though most often they sound and even seem right. Matthew 7: 13-14, and also Proverbs 14:12. (Of course there are several other cross references here).

    A seeking heart like yours dear Jessica isn’t likely to go too far off the main path, not as long as you recognize the Shepherd’s voice. The problem with following religions is the tendency to hear other voices instead of the Shepherd’s. John 10:27.

    That’s why Jesus went to ‘a lonely place apart’ so often: to get alone with his Father and learn to do only what he saw Abba doing. John 5:19

    I’m looking forward to finishing my spiritual memoir, as it shows the many rabbit trails I’ve followed along the way. It sounds a bit like your journey described above. At the end of the day, I finally settle on the wilderness (for now) where I simply enjoy His presence and peace, and where abiding in Him is enough.

  9. Mari, thanks so much for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed it :)

  10. Martha,

    That is a great perspective! Seeking out one's view on these theological questions has merits, but above all a living relationship with God is the most important thing. When Christ is alive in our hearts and in our lives than we start to manifest His Kingdom-His love, grace and compassion, here on earth. And heaven knows this planet and all the people abiding in it need the message Christ offers!

    Thanks for stopping by :)

  11. Gina..thank you so much for stopping by. Priceless advice that I will gladly accept! Scripture is the gateway to understanding and beckons us ever closer to learning and experience God more. Blessings.

  12. Debra,

    So glad you are enjoying Bill's blog too! I've found it very inspiring! :) So true about labels. Thank you for your thoughtful comment and I look forward to reading your spiritual memoir :) Blessings.

  13. I got called a universalist once - at Catholic Bible Study....I took it as a compliment, actually because I had just felt a real understanding of my faith...

    I think Jesus died to open the gates to heaven to all of us schmucks on earth. And if you go back to the basic teaching that "God is Good" then you can't have goodness without God. So, if you are doing good in the world, you know God, whether or not you know you know God. Haha if that makes any sense.

    I just really believe in this whole MYSTERY of our faith and there is SO MUCH to know that it doesn't matter if you know 100,000 true facts about God or 0 - they all are closer to 0 than infinity in the big picture. And I think, on judgment day, we'll find our Father with open arms and a smirk on his face patting each of us on the head saying, "my poor clueless child, thank you for trying so hard. Now, you can understand..."

    That's just how I figure it. But I know so little of something so big...

  14. Maureen, thank you so much! We all know so little of something so infinite and vast, so you're not the only one! :) I was called a universalist and I felt unfairly dejected and offended! This was awhile back when ingrained in me was that "universalist" was an offensive term bearing the stamp of heresy. I love your frankness and openness towards God. You have a refreshing perspective. Thank you so much for stopping by :)

  15. Maureen's statement "So, if you are doing good in the world, you know God, whether or not you know you know God" sums up what I have believed for a long time. I think it is grounded in Mathew Chapter 25. Jesus said " ....Anything you did for one of my brothers here you did for me." To me that means when we are helping and loving others we are loving Christ, whether we know it or not. Regarding heaven and hell, in Mathew, Christ seems to be saying that self-centered people who do not care for others will be the goats who are not able to join the loving fellowship of God and other loving sheep prophets, saints. That having been said, a life centered on a God that one consciously knows and worships is a precious goal!

  16. What an honest and humble confession Jessica. I am sure your search, your spiritual journey will someday soon get you where you want to be because you are earnest, honest and have a beautiful and faithful heart.

  17. I love this post & your style of writing. Such an interesting perspective. Gods love is universal so why should we not be universalists?

  18. Thought-provoking questions! The right questions lead to answers that can enrich the quality of your life. One of the most powerful things anyone seeking personal growth can do is ask questions of themselves, to delve more deeply into certain areas. Life can be a puzzle, questions help us power our way through our thoughts.I'll hop way now

  19. I applaud your courage, Jessica, to express what you think in the face of criticism. Probably none of life's complexities can be answered with a fixed set of rules.

  20. Sigrun, it was a pleasure to have you stop by and comment, thank you so much! :) I think your reflections are refreshing and reveal much truths to the issue of heaven/hell. Thanks so much :)

  21. Hi Jessica, I have to agree with some of the comments here. This piece was written from the heart and it deals with your struggles and questions. I think there are many people out there who are facing the exact same questions. I am not sure we will get the answers in this life and I am really looking forward to get them in the next. Have a blessed week!

  22. you're not alone :)

    "they may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one"

  23. I'm envious of your courage, Jessica. It's been easier for me to just walk away from the whole thing because I can't handle the ridicule. But I can truly say that I've found more peace sitting in the sanctuary of the Universalist Unitarian Church than I have ever felt in that of the Evangelical Christian Church. I truly believe that's what God intended...for us to find him through many different approaches and come together to celebrate the diversity he placed among us.

  24. I had commented on two blogs yesterday and somehow I had trouble posting them...I guess it's a way to divert my attention and really go into the roots of my reflections.

    It's a good way to start with a parallelism with the search of God and the rabbit(s)...

    Somehow, you remind me of the beloved in the Song of Songs who sought after her love...who found him and lost him again. I guess that's how it is with God... we could not define Him in human terms nor confine Him with our own understanding... It is a continuous process of loss and discovery and each time a new one is realized, we are purified and our faith is strengthened.

    I think the deeper question you have more than universalism or the evangelicalism (?) is inner freedom.

    One has to be inwardly free inorder to step out of the first mansions (St. Teresa of Avila's 7 mansions) and enter into the inner sanctuarium where everything is pure and light...

    I urge you to keep on questioning but allow your questions to penetrate your being and not stay stagnant on the head level where we rationalize a lot...

    Listen to that inner voice (which you are practicing through contemplative prayer) and let God lead the way...si dici,"piano...piano" slowly slowly, you'll get there...

    Be at peace...the Spirit will guide you in discerning what is and what is not...

    True love and freedom brings us to humility...

  25. insightful, thought provoking post for someone like me who has a lot of room for growth in the realm of spirituality.

  26. Jessica,

    I love the passion with which you write. You are wide open to the biggest theological and practical questions of our day! Wonderful

    I also am honored that my blog gave you some courage as you journey forward in your faith. I love the new-found openness and authenticity I sense in you.

    On Universalism... as you can probably somewhat guess... I'm not a universalist. BUT, I also don't hold to a traditional view of hell either. I personally don't think either view does justice to the character of God or the Scriptures. With that said, you've gotta continue discerning, listening, reading, and growing... I trust God will have his hands on the process. So, I want to give you a couple of great resources to help you in the journey forward on Heaven and Hell.

    1) Surprised by Hope, NT Wright [the most important book written on the new creation in our time. also has a short section on hell]

    2) A Wideness in God's Mercy, Clark Pinnock [Personally, i think this book might have some of the answers your looking for! I'd invite you to start here... assuming you haven't read it yet] http://amzn.to/qdvtNx

    3) Razing Hell, Sharon Baker

    Anyway, I hope you will be blessed on your journey forward!


  27. Don't stop searching....Don't knock the Bible off the table either. : )