I grew up in a home that genuinely modeled the truth of God to me.
Every morning, as we ate our cheerios, we read the scriptures together. We talked about God as if he were real, living in our home just down the hall. I came into self-awareness and my own need for redemption at a young age and was baptized in a creek, down in an actual holler. The community that surrounded me was light on doctrine but thick with love. We stood on the creek bank and sang a Petra song, and in that precious moment, a seed was planted within me.
Years later, at important intervals of crisis, the steady presence of the Holy Spirit would find me, like a thick cloud of humidity that I couldn’t escape. God was with me, even in my fear and my running. He would not let me go, even when I wanted to be lost.
I finally came to a moment of total submission and relented to the pursuit of God, and like warm water pouring from the top of my head on down, he was baptizing me once again for his purpose. He pursued me and won me over with his love and it changed me forever.
Soon after, a new wife and mother, I began to study the scriptures again (like I had done in my youth.) Picking up my old NIV bible and a journal, I would scratch out my prayers and simple thoughts about what I was reading. It started small, quiet, inconsistent. But I kept going back because it was like returning home. I was being fed by the words.
Awhile later, I joined a women’s bible study. What started as a way for me to get a little Tuesday-night break from mothering, soon became something so much more. We would gather around a plastic conference table and drink cups of tea and watch a video, or share answers from our workbooks, and we would always pray. It was a time for me to listen and learn, to allow that seed to break open and take root. To be watered and sprout the faintest signs of fruit. The women there were deep wells of wisdom and they overflowed with generosity for a young woman who was thirsty.
A handful of years went by and we moved house, left that church, and I went back to school to pursue my undergrad in Bible and Theology. I choose that major because the school I wanted to attend offered it at half price; I really choose it because I never tired of reading and thinking and writing about God. It seems almost silly to even admit that, but I just didn’t. He was endlessly fascinating to me– the scriptures were like a treasure trove that I would never see the bottom of. To think that I could go to school, practically for free, and study God? Amazing.
Now that I am getting to the meat of my program, the reading is getting good, but also more complex. The writing is stretching me. The work is difficult at times, but a satisfying kind of difficult. The way that I grew up wasn’t particularly heavy on dogma (and I am grateful for that) but through my studying, I am also discovering the theological roots of many of our beliefs. You see, even if you don’t think in theological terms -and most people don’t- you are still motivated by theological belief. We all are, without exception. Even those who have no interest in God, or who have a stern atheistic worldview, are still driven by their thoughts on who God is (or isn’t.) None of us escape the fact that we live out of our belief.
Furthermore, because we are human, and children of Adam, we naturally operate from our soul: our mind, our will, and our emotions. We can have theological ideas from the place of our soul that will drive our life in very practical ways: in our decision making process, in our emotional reactions, in our complex doctrinal statements. However, if we are born again, we become heirs of Christ and we are new creatures. We still retain the soul, our original stamp of created being, but we are now breathed on by the rauch of God, the breath of life. Our spirit-man is now alive in Christ and we have a new way to see, a new way to understand. We are being transformed by his life.
I’m beginning to see that it is from this place that we can think about God, write about God, and most importantly, know God. It is from this seat of communion that we can partake of Christ’s life and be fed in our spiritual center. His word becomes fire in our minds, blazing through all that we thought we knew about God. His presence becomes water, washing us of our selfishness, and refreshing us from within. To “do theology” from this place is to live life with the Spirit of Jesus Christ leading us, teaching us, and sharing with us from himself.
Francis A. Schaeffer said that,
“doctrinal rightness and rightness of ecclesiastical position are important, but only as a starting point to go on into a living relationship— and not as ends in themselves.”
It is good for us to wrestle with what we believe about God, but only if we are doing that coram Deo, in his presence. Apart from him, the study of doctrine will only feed our ego– it will never bring spiritual life. But before him, at his feet, if we read his word and listen for the Spirit’s guidance, if we remain humble and teachable before our elders in the faith, if we run to the wisdom of the Lord before the wisdom of man, then our theological learning can be worship. We can bring him glory as we savor his riches. We can go deeper because of love, by returning the love that he first gave us, and from that love we can grow in understanding of our great God.
Our education must go beyond frameworks of thought and become experiential. Without the presence of the living God in our midst, all of our theology is worthless. But by his Spirit, we are lead into all truth. May it be so for all who are hungry.