faith, quotes

The Exhilarating Slippery Slope (an #OutofSortsbook synchroblog)

November 5, 2015
"May you be an explorer..." Sarah Bessey #outofsortsbook

I used to think the slippery slope was dangerous, now I think it’s the ride of a lifetime.

Growing up in the church, I heard frequent warnings from the pulpit, the youth conference stage, many of the adults in my life, about The Slippery Slope.

There was a right way to think and believe and live. And there was very definitely a wrong way. The wrong way included mostly premarital sex, drinking too much, and any support for LGBT people. There were other things in the “wrong” camp of course – universalism, praying to Mary, not reading your Bible every day, women in positions of leadership, abortion…

And the Slippery Slope was the little steps that you might take towards the wrong side. You might think they were entirely innocent, not-going-to-hurt-anybody steps, but all of a sudden you’d find your feet swept out from under you and you’d catapult into the wrong side – probably swearing all the way.

I was legitimately afraid of the slippery slope. I loved and needed this childhood faith of mine, and so the idea of losing it, of being sucked out onto the wrong side of the faith line, was truly scary. I loved Jesus, I didn’t want to lose him, didn’t want to lose his church I was a part of.

I’m also not one who can easily bury the questions. They came up slowly, I guess, but before long they would not keep quiet. I started wondering how exactly the Israelites heard God telling them to go commit genocide in the promised land – could they have misheard? I started wondering what was so wrong with a woman falling in love with another woman and committing themselves to honour, support and love each other for as long as they both shall live? I started wondering whether God might not be already speaking to and meeting with the loving and passionate Muslims and Buddhists and Jews that I met? I started swearing a bit more often…

But questions are dangerous. They take us too close to that slippery slope. And I was afraid to go there. Until I realised that I did not want a faith that was based on fear.

“We are afraid of our questions, afraid of finding new answers, afraid of a new way of thinking about or living with or relating to God. What if it changes us? What if we go the wrong way?… There are consequences for new answers and new understandings.” – Sarah Bessey

Jesus famously declared, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” And I am still wrestling with what on earth he meant by that. But if he holds out the truth to us, then no question is too scary, to risky to ask. There is nothing to be feared in bringing every doubt, every question, every thing that doesn’t seem to add up, dumping them there at his feet and saying, help me, how on earth does this fit in, I don’t understand. 

I’m learning how to lean into the questions. I haven’t found answers that satisfy for many of them yet. But that’s also OK. Because the truth about the slippery slope is, it’s kind of exhilarating. The wind in your face, so many new and utterly fascinating landscapes to take in as you go, a sense of such freedom.

“And there is usually rest waiting at the bottom. There is something wondrous about flinging open the door to the thing that scares you and saying, Bring it on. Let’s hop onto this toboggan and ride all the way to the bottom; let’s see what we find.” – Sarah Bessey

I’m learning how to release the fear and enjoy the ride. It’s rarely comfortable. I’ve wept many tears over every new question and doubt, I’ve ranted angrily to family and friends, I’ve gotten in trouble for voicing half-formed opinions that I’m in the middle of processing, I’ve sometimes felt like I’m in danger of losing everything if I keep asking, keep challenging.

But I’m finding more of God here, on the ride. It’s like I can feel the Spirit sitting behind me, arms wrapped tight around me – she’ll not let me fall – and whooping as we push off down the slope. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear (1 John 4:18).

“The Spirit is often breathing in the very changes or shifts that used to terrify us. Grace waits for us in the liminal space.” – Sarah Bessey

Reading Sarah Bessey’s new book, Out of Sorts, was like a massive tension release. Sarah telling me, through her own unique story, her own questions and faith shifts, that I’m not alone. We’re part of a long history of faith-filled people who have wrestled and questioned and doubted. The real danger is not that we’ll lose something valuable, for we can’t be lost. The Good Shepherd will come after his sheep if she ever gets too far away from his presence. There is room to explore, room to seek and to find a Kingdom that is truth and goodness and peace and love.

“Set out, pilgrim. Set out into the freedom and the wandering. Find your people. God is much bigger, wilder, more generous, and more wonderful than you imagined.” – Sarah Bessey

This is the heartbeat of my life now. Not to get everyone to think like me, because I’m not even sure what I think myself half the time. But I want to create space for the questions, create space to explore and discover, not with a foreboding sense that it might be about to implode at any moment, but with the joyous curiosity of a child.

Kaya and I set out each day on adventures in our new neighbourhood. We find parks and old cemeteries and quirky cafes and African shops spilling out fresh vegetables and fish. She embraces all of it with a beautiful fascination. She has this little frown that comes to her face every time something is strange to her. She’ll stare at people, study them. She’ll pick up sticks and leaves, chose to take a different path than I ever would have chosen. She looks back to me frequently, checking I’m still there. But she lives for this exploration, for getting out of the familiar safety of the house and discovering this brand new world. 

What might it be like to live with that same sense of impatient excitement to see what new things I am going to discover today? To get out of bed every day saying, God, be bigger today, be wilder, be more wonderful. Break open another box that I’ve tried to shut you up into. Don’t ever let me get comfortable. Challenge all my preconceptions of you and your people and your world. 

That’s the life, and the faith, that I want. And so I push off again, down the slippery slope.

 

//

OutofSortsCover

This post is part of the synchroblog celebrating the release of Sarah Bessey’s new book, Out of Sorts. We were invited to write a post filling in the blanks, “I used to think _, now I think _.”

I received an advanced copy of Out of Sorts, which released in N.America on Tuesday and is already (whoop! we’re never first!) out in the UK (kindle edition here). She writes that “this is a book about making peace with the unanswered questions and being content to live into the answers as they come. It’s about being comfortable with where we land for now, while holding our hands open for where the Spirit leads us next.”

And it’s wonderful.

I underlined so much of this book. She writes her own story of the faith shifts, the doubts, the questions, and her crazy love for Jesus that lasted through it all. This is a book for anyone who feel alone in their wrestling, for those who are scared to start voicing the questions in their heart, for those who are embracing the free fall.

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  • Alison Bradley

    Beautiful writing. I resonate so much with feeling like my questions might be too much or too risky. But I love this line: “But if he holds out the truth to us, then no question is too scary, to risky to ask. ” The slippery slope gets to be an adventure with Jesus riding it with us. -Alison https://courageforabetterstory.wordpress.com

    • fiona lynne

      Yes. Let’s ask away in total security.

  • I’m right there with you with the doubts and the BIG questions, and I too am a product of the Slippery Slope thinking. I love this: no question is too scary or too risky to ask. Our God is so gracious!

    • fiona lynne

      Amen!

  • Such imagery! The slippery slope is really the funnest, biggest, snowiest sledding hill ever! I agree to all of it. Especially the part about hardly getting any definite answers. Because God is that big!!

    • fiona lynne

      You know, I had this image of Calvin and Hobbes in my head while I was writing this?! Where they’re pushing off down a snowy hillside with such excitement despite the risks. I want that!

  • Love this! Ask the big questions, take the risks, let go of the fear! God won’t let us get away. I need this book.

    • fiona lynne

      You will love it, I am sure! x

  • This resonated so much with me. What was once terrifying is now exhilarating. So true. This reminds me of a few of my favorite lines from the John O’Donohue poem The Coronation:

    “It was a long time ago in another land.
    Who could tell how it really was before belief
    Came towards you with a hunger that could not see you
    Except against white air cleansed of the shadow of earth?
    No inkling that you were a free spirit who loved
    The danger of seeing the world with an open mind,
    How you strove to be faithful to uncertainty
    And let nothing unquestioned settle in your heart
    You loved to throw caution to the wind when you danced.”

    Thanks so much for sharing, Fiona.

    • fiona lynne

      Oh wow, I love that. You always have such good words and quotes to share! x

      • You often seem to write about the things that have been on my heart. 🙂

  • I loved this, I especially loved what you wrote about not wanting a faith based around fear. And the picture of your little one searching out new paths. Thank you.

    • fiona lynne

      Thank you Lisa, I am so glad it resonated.

  • Stopping by to say hi from Sarah’s synchroblog! I’m realizing now how much of my life I have allowed myself to be motivated and controlled by fear, somehow convincing myself that was God, telling me to get it right. I know now that was the enemy, and that was my ego. God’s love is the very opposite – He loves me just as I am. How incredible is it for the veil to have been lifted and to be able to know and walk in freedom?

    “God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day—our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.” – 1 John 4:18

    • fiona lynne

      This being controlled by fear is something I have been working through the past years. In 2012 I chose “brave” as my one word, and dwelling on that word through the year revealed to me just how many decisions I was making based on fear. It’s been so good to face up to some of those, bring them into the light, and begin to chose courage and love over fear. Thanks for being here!

  • Sarah Scott

    Fiona! I would give you a big smooch if you were right beside me! I love this blog post. Alas the slippery slope is one of my pet peeves in the church community. I heard recently “The opposite of faith is not doubt, it’s certainty.” Questions are so healthy and freeing.

    • fiona lynne

      Oy, I missed your comment when you first posted. So lovely to see your face here! Yes to the questions and the freedom to believe in all it’s doubting beauty. x

  • I am another one making my slow way through the synchroblog after having posted my own. This is such a true post – there s such a push that you can’t accept or affirm the right of LGBTQ people to marry who they choose without damning yourself in the process, that you can’t support women in leadership, etc and so forth. And it’s all just people spending so much time staring at the little fiddly bits that they just can’t see Jesus trying to get their attention. I grew up with a very rigid faith, too – and part of the enjoyment I find in my faith now is that it ISN’T all ridges and boxes and black & white thinking.

  • Fiona! I understand that feeling of needing the “slippery slope.” I grew up hearing those words as well. Thank you for writing this. It’s great.

  • Loved this, Fiona and love you! Every word here is a testimony. Your prayer there at the end just moved me mightily! “God, be bigger today, be wilder, be more wonderful. Break open another box that I’ve tried to shut you up into. Don’t ever let me get comfortable. Challenge all my preconceptions of you and your people and your world. “

    • fiona lynne

      Your book has been a gift to me. And to friends. Just yesterday a dear friend was sobbing through your chapter on lament. It is cracking us open in all the best ways and allowing the darkness to be poured out and the light poured in. Love you and so grateful for your words. x

  • Baby Boy is sleeping soundly and I am catching up on some blog reading – SO glad to have read this, as I have had several slippery slope convos lately that left me feeling discouraged. I will be picking up a copy of this book when we’re back in Canada. Our God is so big, I think we could spend our entire earthly lives trying to get to know Him and we’ll still be surprised in Heaven. Thanks for this post.