Friday, November 30, 2012

1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy

1 Thessalonians 5:21
Test all things; hold fast what is good.

I think life verses are dumb. People pick one verse that's supposed to support them forever, no matter what, but life changes all the time, and we change with it. The things that encourage me today may be powerless to move me tomorrow. You can pick a verse for a particular year or season or event in your life, but a whole life verse is a little naive.

But if i had to pick a life verse, it would be this one. Because this is me. This is what i do.

I test everything.

You can ask my boyfriend. I am incapable of leaving well enough alone. I always ask more questions, always want more information, always want explanations and progress reports and references. I want to see the annotated bibliography. I want to hear the director's commentary. I want to read all of the footnotes. I explore hypothetical situations. I answer rhetorical questions. I over-think everything. I don't like to take anything for granted. My default mode is cynical mistrust.

And none of that is necessarily bad. Some of it could maybe stand to be reined in a little (again, you can ask my boyfriend for confirmation of that; i'm sure he'd be happy to provide a whole list of ways i can rein myself in), but it's not inherently bad to be cautious.

Even (or maybe especially) when it comes to faith and religion, it's good to test things. The fact that your pastor said it does not make it true. The fact that your particular translation of the Bible (viewed through your own cultural, historical, personal, gender, etc. lenses) says it does not make it fact. It's okay to ask questions. It's okay to doubt. It's okay to try things out and put them to the test before making a commitment.

The key, however, is that you do commit. Test everything, and when you've found something good, attach yourself to that. Test the doctrines of your church. Test the teachings of your pastor. Test the different translations and commentaries carried by your local book store. Test your own experiences and feelings. Test the leading of the Holy Spirit. Never assume that you know everything. In fact, never assume that you know anything. Keep asking, seeking, knocking. Someone has defined fundamentalism as holding on to your beliefs so tightly that you leave fingernail marks on the palms of your hands. Don't injure yourself in your desperation to be right, to hold onto something right. Let yourself be wrong. Let yourself be uncertain. Let yourself test all things.

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