Battling Demons

Indeed, our sins — hate, fear, greed, jealousy, lust, materialism, pride — can at times take such distinct forms in our lives that we recognize them in the faces of the gargoyles and grotesques that guard our cathedral doors. And these sins join in a chorus — you might even say a legion — of voices locked in an ongoing battle with God to lay claim over our identity, to convince us we belong to them, that they have the right to name us. Where God calls the baptized beloved, demons call her addict, slut, sinner, failure, fat, worthless, faker, screwup. Where God calls her child, the demons beckon with rich, powerful, pretty, important, religious, esteemed, accomplished, right. It is no coincidence that when Satan tempted Jesus after his baptism, he began his entreaties with, “If you are the Son of God . . .” We all long for someone to tell us who we are. The great struggle of the Christian life is to take God’s name for us, to believe we are beloved and to believe that is enough.

— Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday, p. 19

Don’t Let Him Get Away With It.

This is the knowledge I would share with you: nursing a grudge only perpetuates the offender’s power over you. He continues to live in your head, reinforcing your frustration, polluting your imagination with thoughts of getting even. Don’t let him get away with that. He may or may not deserve forgiveness, but you deserve better than to waste your energy being angry at him. Letting go is the best revenge. Forgiveness is the identifying marker of the stronger party to the dispute. It is truly a favor you do yourself, not an undeserved gesture to the person who hurt you. Be kind to yourself and forgive.

— Harold S. Kushner, Nine Essential Things I’ve Learned About Life, p. 75

The Basic Truth and Basic Fear

If it’s true that there is only one love (with different expressions, not different types), then it could also be true that there is only one fear. Love can express itself in ten thousand ways, but it’s all the same love, so maybe fear can also express itself in ten thousand ways, and it’s all the same fear. Looked at this way, all love is an extension of the basic truth “I am loveable,” and all fear is a projection of the basic fear “I am not loveable.”

— Robert Holden, PhD, Loveability, p. 134-135

Truer Christianity

I was recently asked to explain to three thousand evangelical youth workers gathered together at a conference in Nashville, Tennesee, why millennials like me are leaving the church.

I told them we’re tired of the culture wars, tired of Christianity getting entangled with party politics and power. Millennials want to be known by what we’re for, I said, not just what we’re against. We don’t want to choose between science and religion or between our intellectual integrity and our faith. Instead, we long for our churches to be safe places to doubt, to ask questions, and to tell the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable. We want to talk about the tough stuff — biblical interpretation, religious pluralism, sexuality, racial reconciliation, and social justice — but without predetermined conclusions or simplistic answers. We want to bring our whole selves through the church doors, without leaving our hears and minds behind, without wearing a mask.

I explained that when our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender friends aren’t welcome at the table, then we don’t feel welcome either, and that not every young adult gets married or has children, so we need to stop building our churches around categories and start building them around people. And I told them that, contrary to popular belief, we can’t be won back with hipper worship bands, fancy coffee shops, or pastors who wear skinny jeans. We millennials have been advertised to our entire lives so we can smell b.s. from a mile away. The church is the last place we want to be sold another product, the last place we want to be entertained.

Millenials aren’t looking for a hipper Christianity, I said. We’re looking for a truer Christianity, a more authentic Christianity. Like every generation before ours and every generation after, we’re looking for Jesus — the same Jesus who can be found in the strange places he’s always been found: in bread, in wine, in baptism, in the Word, in suffering, in community, and among the least of these.

— Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday, p. xiii-xiv

A Great Unfolding

There are some things you can’t understand yet. Your life will be a great and continuous unfolding. It’s good you’ve worked hard to resolve childhood issues while in your twenties, but understand that what you resolve will need to be resolved again. And again. You will come to know things that can only be known with the wisdom of age and the grace of years. Most of those things will have to do with forgiveness.

— Cheryl Strayed, Brave Enough, p. 15

True Faith

I think this will throw some light upon the words of our Lord, “If ye have faith and doubt not, if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.”

Good people, among them John Bunyan, have been tempted to tempt the Lord their God upon the strength of this saying, just as Satan sought to tempt our Lord on the strength of the passage he quoted from the Psalms. They think that as long as they have faith, and believe earnestly enough, it is possible to do and accomplish anything to which they might set their hand.

Happily for such, the assurance to which they would give the name of faith generally fails them in time. Faith is not the fervent setting of the mind on “believing” for such-and-such an outcome — more often than not a desire generated by the man’s own soul — as if we, and not God, were the orignators and initiators of faith by the strength of our passions, the fervor of our prayers, and the forcefulness of our mental processes. True faith, rather, is that which, knowing the Lord’s will, goes and does it, or, not knowing it, stands and waits, content in ignorance as in knowledge, because God wills. Faith neither presses into the hidden future, nor is careless of the knowledge that opens the path of action. It is faith’s noblest exercise to act with uncertainty of the result when the duty of obedience is certain, or even when a course seems with strong probability to be duty. Even if a man is mistaken in the honest effort to obey, though his work be burned, by that very fire he will be saved. Nothing saves a man more than the burning of his work, except the doing of work that can stand the fire.

But to put God to the question in any other way than by saying “What will you have me to do?” is an attempt to compel God to declare himself, or to hasten his work, or to imagine it his work what our own soul desires to accomplish.

— George MacDonald, Knowing the Heart of God, p. 274-275


When you recognize that you will thrive not in spite of your losses and sorrows, but because of them, that you would not have chosen the things that happened in your life, but you are grateful for them, that you will hold the empty bowls eternally in your hands, but you also have the capacity to fill them? The word for that is healing.

— Cheryl Strayed, Brave Enough, p. 10