Why Would I Ever Put God in a Box?

I was ordained eight and a half years ago by Glen Allen Baptist Church. I will be forever grateful to their trust and assurance in my calling as a vocational minister.  I am doubly grateful for the fact they believe and support women in ministry.  My “home” church, after 15 years of dedicated service to them, would not ordain me because I am a woman. Even though this Mechanicsville based church saw the growth and development of my work in ministry, this church would not support, chose not IMG_9199support my calling as a vocational minister. I pray that one day, they will grow and mature to a point where they recognize all who are called into full-time ministry and not limit anybody’s gifts.  I pray the members of this church will read, study and see, just as Jesus saw, the value and importance women have on the sharing and doing of the Gospel.  Jesus showed that women were important to His ministry. I hope some day, this church will too.  It will take time and a concerted effort on the part of the church and it’s leadership to study, learn and recognize the need to grow and mature, to transform their hearts and their minds to accept all the ways in which Christ taught.

Why in the world would I ever put God in a box?

“I AM who I AM!” (Exodus 3:14) This is what God told Moses, when Moses asked what to tell the people.  God said nothing more than that.  God is whoever God needs to be to the people.  If God isn’t going to put God in a box, why am I?

The paper I wrote for the ordination council was written by a naïve, inexperienced individual who was still new at building her own theology and faith.  Much like the home church I referred to, I was basing my theology on what was taught to me by them. I had no other references.  This is why I always recommended to my high school graduating youth to go to college outside of their hometown, or at least live on campus.  People need to experience the world outside of their homegrown bubbles.  When I wrote this paper, I was a year out from under the bubble of this church and three years into reading and discerning the scriptures with new colleagues.  Reading the 2005 paper in 2013, anyone with a background in research and studying scripture will attest to just how naïve I was.

My theology isn’t the only thing that’s different.  I have changed too.  In 2005, I was preparing for vocational ministry and serving in a church.  Today, I am working on my statement of Christian faith as I seek chaplain endorsement from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.  Through some hard work and life experience, this follower of IMG_9206Christ has accepted her calling as a hospital chaplain.  It is a calling and gift that God affirmed over and over again.  Romans 12:2 reads: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. We are challenged not to conform to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds. It is through the experience of life and the study of scripture that I find my mind and my heart renewed to a place where I am more open to where God is challenging me, rather than holding God back in my comfortable and safe box.  When we are challenged not to conform to this world, we are also challenged to get out of our own little worlds too.

As I work on my statement of faith, it comes with a disclaimer that this is where my theology stands today.  Life will continue to challenge me and I am called to seek God’s wisdom through the study of scripture and its relevance in today’s world.   We are all called to continued growth, maturity and love.  However there is something important that I recognize still.  My faith is built on a foundation started by that home church. They did introduce me to Jesus and for that, I am grateful. That foundation is and will always be a part of me and with that foundation comes two solid pieces that make that foundation a part of my personal transformation.

God does not belong in a box.

When Moses asked God to give him some information that he can take to the people, God said, “I AM who I AM!”  Why am I going to put God in a neat little box when God doesn’t want me to?  I am not God. I am not going to tell someone he is not welcomed in the church or that he is going to hell.  I don’t even know for certain where I am going.  When people ask me if I am going to heaven, I always say, “I hope so.”  I am not God.  I am not going to tell someone that God hates her or that she cannot be a minister.  I am definitely not going to tell someone that God appears to him differently than God appears to me.  Who is to say how God appears to others? I am not God and I refuse to put God in a box.

I no longer say that I am a “Christian”.  I am a follower of Christ.

That label “christian” has been taken over by folks who are using the phrase to defame the very ministry that Jesus taught us. “You are not a Christian if you believe THAT.”  We live in a world now that when someone says they are “Christian” people turn away.  Judgment, hate and hurt are words that hang on this phrase and this not only hurts us, but it hurts Jesus and what He was trying to do. If He saw how people and churches used His name and teachings today, I have no doubt a few tables would be turned.

Not long ago I had two similar conversations, one with a seminarian and one with an individual I used to work with.  When I shared how I interpreted what certain scripture meant today, they both said, “How can you call yourself a ‘Christian’ and believe that?”  We were talking about a topic Paul shared in Corinthians.  I simply responded that yes, Paul shared some important things, to very specific groups; however since I am a follower of Jesus Christ and not Paul, I chose to learn and follow what Jesus did and what Jesus commanded me to do. Therefore, I am a follower of Christ.

In my previous post, I talked about seasons changing.  A lot has happened for me since the first time I wrote my statement of faith, 8 ½ years ago.  I’ve grown up and have experienced life-changing events that permanently changed who I am.  I’ve worked hard at studying scripture, researching and discerning what it means today.  And the fact that we are called to love, to learn and to grow, there is no way I am going to keep a closed mind and closed heart to what God is telling me.  If I listened to that home church 15 years ago, I wouldn’t be where I am today, doing God’s work, being God’s presence for those in need and doing my best to live out the first and second greatest commandments as taught by Jesus Christ.

God doesn’t want me in box, closed up by someone else’s tape, and I’m not about to put God in one either.

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One Response to Why Would I Ever Put God in a Box?

  1. Ron Smith says:

    Linda,
    I am glad that you “thought outside the box” when you chose to be a hospital chaplain as opposed to a pastor of a church. I admit I do not know you that well, but I believe that you are where you are meant to be. Take care and best wishes to you.

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