Thursday’s Thought – Rachel Evans … Accidental Fences

Today’s thought is actually a link to another blog post.  Almost a year ago, blogger and writer Rachel Held Evans started a project she called “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” in which she committed one year of her life “to following all of the Bible’s instructions for women as literally as possible.”  Each month, she has focused on a different theme and for the month of August, the theme was silence.  During her time of silence, she visited a Benedictine monastery where it hit her that she has no home for her faith (in the sense that she has never been able to settle into one faith tradition.)

This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about, lately.  The church has split itself into thousands of pieces over doctrinal issues both great and small.  According to one statistic, there are almost 4,000 Christian denominations in America alone and in many cases members of one denomination refuse to associate with members of another.  When fellowship does happen, it’s often in an effort to convert another to ones own way of thinking.  I know in my own life, until very recently, it was nearly impossible for me to believe that God would set me on a certain path while setting someone else on an entirely different path and yet both of us were exactly where God wanted us to be.  It was impossible for me to believe that God might tell me to do something (or not do something), while encouraging something completely different in someone else.  But I’ve come to understand, at least in some small way, that each of us has a different relationship with God, and He doesn’t just tolerate our differences, He authorizes them.  (There is a part of this that still blows my mind.)

The week after visiting the Benedictine monastery, Rachel visited a Quaker meeting house and while she was there, God spoke to her heart about “accidental fences” as she remembered a quote by William James (a psychologist and philosopher):

“Our lives are like islands in the sea, or like trees in the forest, which co-mingle their roots in the darkness underground. Just so, there is a continuum of cosmic consciousness, against which our individuality builds but accidental fences, and into which our several minds plunge as into a other sea or reservoir.”

She writes:

It occurred to me that the distinctions between Catholics at Quakers that seem so pronounced on the outside are but accidental fences in the endless continuum of God’s grace. Perhaps my frantic search for a denominational “home” was an attempt to build fences where there needn’t be any.

After the service, she spoke with some of the Friend’s about these things and a young man said to her…

“I spent quite a few years journeying through a variety of religious traditions, looking for a place to fit.   But now I feel perfectly at home here with the Friends, in a Catholic mass, meditating with Buddhist, and even jumping around clapping my hands at the African American church down the street.” (He showed us a few of his dance moves.) “I feel at home because my home is inside of me. I’ve made a place in my heart for the Spirit, and it never leaves.”

She goes on to write:

On the drive home, I thought about these weighty words.

I think that ever since our church plant failed, I’ve been trying to recapture the sense of belonging…no, control… I had when I was such an integral part of creating our community’s identity. Now, when I visit other churches, all I can see are the fences—the doctrines, traditions, and idiosyncrasies that rub me the wrong way and make me feel isolated from my fellow Christians.

But the truth of the matter is, I can’t make my own tradition in my own image. I tried that, and it didn’t work. However, I can connect to the Holy Spirit and to the people with whom the Holy Spirit resides at every wayside shrine I encounter along the way. And I can cobble together an eclectic assemblage of favorite hymns, rituals, images, service efforts, and theology to adorn the little sanctuary in my soul.

The point of the Church has never been uniformity, but unity.  Perhaps we honor it best when we joyfully refuse to conform to anything but the image of Christ, and when, without even knowing the final score at the end of the day, we can turn to one another and exclaim, “What a great game!”

(See the entire article Here.)


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3 Responses to Thursday’s Thought – Rachel Evans … Accidental Fences

  1. Mrs. Jones says:

    “It was impossible for me to believe that God might tell me to do something (or not do something), while encouraging something completely different in someone else. But I’ve come to understand, at least in some small way, that each of us has a different relationship with God, and He doesn’t just tolerate our differences, He authorizes them. (There is a part of this that still blows my mind.)”

    Wow! This really encourages me and is exactly what I’ve been trying to put words to in my mind but couldn’t. I have struggled in the recent past, especially since the Lord told me to cover my head years ago in comparing myself with other women who are genuinely in love with Jesus and walking with him…wondering why they were not covering but I was. Questioning myself, even God, thinking either they must be wrong, or I must be. So then I would go through doubt about what he was calling me to do, etc. But this is exactly the thing that I needed to remember and realize, that each of us has a different relationship with Him and that He authorizes our differences. Just because they are not doing what I’m doing doesn’t mean they are necessarily wrong or that I am wrong, I just need to worry about what God is calling me to do, not worry about others (if that makes sense in this instance). That was awesome Rina, thank you!

    • Rina says:

      Meghann, thank you for sharing this with me. First of all, I know EXACTLY how you feel when it comes to comparing yourself with other women and wondering which of you is wrong. I went through this for such a long time, and still go through it to some degree and catch myself either being judgmental about others or insecure about myself. In fact, RIGHT AFTER I posted this, I found myself questioning some things that I do not because God had placed it on my heart that I shouldn’t be doing them, but because outside sources have made me question myself. Lately, I am holding a lot of things up to God and asking Him “did this come from you, or from someone else?” It’s an uncomfortable, but wonderful place to be. I also want to thank you for sharing this because one of the things that I was questioning myself over was whether I should have posted this particular article at all. When I called to share it with a friend, it wasn’t received all that well, and it made me wonder if perhaps I shouldn’t have written about it at all. That, on top of the fact that lately I’ve been wondering if I should even keep a blog (oh, the way’s Satan is trying to beat me up lately!) makes me very thankful that you’ve shared this with me. So THANK YOU, friend!

  2. Mrs. Jones says:

    Yes, please do keep writing! I know I am not the only one you encourage with your authenticity and love for the Lord! I’m glad my comment blessed you :)

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