Perhaps one of things I’ve struggled with the most in my theological journey is the unlocking of a new way of thinking. Like many folks, I have tended to think in linear terms. If x, then y. It’s clean and neat and provides that contentment which often accompanies solving a particular problem. Like many, I take comfort in answers. There is this cognitive satisfaction that comes with resolving what was once an unknown and transforming it into something which is now known. Once this movement has taken place, I can confidently move forward, assured of my newfound knowledge. A faith life, however, teaches something entirely different.
Oftentimes there is more than one answer or meaning to a particular event.
Take, for instance, the crucifixion of Christ. To most Christians, this is THE event. What happened on the cross informs the faith and theology of the person reflecting on it. In theological circles, we refer to this as “atonement”. As a result of this event, we believe we are now “at one” with God. It is not a light and easy topic. In fact, there are many theories and interpretations about what exactly this means, or rather how, we are now reconciled or at one with God.
Or take the incarnation of Christ; the understanding of God becoming human and living among us. Why would God do this and how? What does it actually mean, that God assumed flesh and blood, fully taking on human form? That God, in very real terms, chose to break in to our lives.
I am not going to even attempt to examine and weigh in on the various atonement theories, and I am certainly not going to attempt explaining the incarnation. That’s really not my point. What I would like to encourage reflection on, however, is the challenge of holding multiple understandings simultaneously. It is no easy task, and it is what I mean when I referenced unlocking a new understanding.
Anything you read, see, hear, or experience will almost always hold multiple meanings. As art evokes various interpretations and emotions, faith experiences do as well. It does not make it easy, but it makes it rich. Theological questions seem to trigger the most passionate responses. There is usually lots of finger wagging (is that a thing?) and emotionally-charged debates. Various camps claim to hold the “right” answers. I invite skepticism when anyone claims to hold the one and only answer.
Because between the question and the answer is where a life of faith thrives. It is this space between where we can live and be, wrestling with the questions and dancing with the creativity that comes with imagining various “answers”. In faith we can suspend this need for concrete resolution. (In fact, I would argue you can map this over to your daily life, but that is a discussion for another day).
I once read that the meaning of a text often lies in the white space between the letters and words. Our imagination is evoked and we are given license to dream. The words and concepts truly take life in this space and move us forward.
Friends, this is a life of faith. There are no easy answers, although we often crave them and search for them. In the same way, life has no easy answers, although we seek them. A life of faith, and the imagination that is born when it is pursued, unlocks a new way of thinking. And it is a beautiful and fruitful life.