I was recently told that I suffer with analysis paralysis. I let the comment sail by without offering a rebuttal but it felt like salt in a wound. It seems I keep getting the same message: these thoughts, these questions, aren't really okay. People might say it's okay to question things but their subsequent words or actions usually betray their (often subconscious) true feelings. Not everyone is a "thinker" and I get that, I really do. I don't have a burning desire to change or challenge every Christian on my radar. Some followers are content to trust the Bible and accept traditional teachings without much thought. That's okay. I don't understand it, but I can (usually) accept it. Sometimes I even envy it. Where I start to feel defensive is when it is implied that my questions betray a lack of commitment or faith; that eventually, as I mature spiritually, I will no longer ask so many questions.
Wiki defines analysis paralysis as over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation, so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome. I am hurt and disappointed that someone has made this assessment of me. I wish I were secure enough to let people have their opinions without feeling the need to defend my position. Unfortunately I'm just not there yet. So I sat, a little stunned, and changed the subject.
But this is what I wanted to say:
My relationship with God, my decision to and the action of following Jesus, is not dependent on me wrapping Christianity up in one tidy little package. I prefer to unwrap this precious gift again and again; examining every last inch. I am okay not always having one definitive answer and I thoroughly enjoy exploring the plethora of possibilities. But that doesn't make me any less of a follower. I have made the decision and I do follow. That is why I am alive, here and now, living a new way of life, surrendering all my shame and hate and loneliness and failures to the One who loves and leads and takes pleasure in my questions. That is why I make choices everyday that go against my desires and instinct. I am certainly not paralyzed; I'm more free than I have ever felt in my whole life. Please don't clip my wings or knock me down a notch.
Yes, I am struggling. Every day I wake up and think, God, I am so broken, please help me do something useful today instead of hurting myself and everyone around me. Please help me love well. This is me making a decision, this is me following. I am very self-centered but (when I humbly ask) God gives me strength to get out of the way and do the next right thing. I'm not saying I do it perfectly, or even well, but this practice is very much a part of my life.
I've read a lot of dialogue (online) between more conservative and progressive Christians and what I've observed is that most conservatives perceive questions like mine as an avoidance of truth because we don't like the traditional answers; i.e. we don't like what the Bible says so we'll keep twisting and reinterpreting it until it says what we want. Like every good lie this one has a seed of truth, but this same accusation can be made of any group or individual who tries to interpret the Bible. We are all human -not mechanical, objective creatures. Dismissing my search as an attempt to distort truth is a convenient way of sweeping my questions under the rug and I don't like that. Truth should stand firm against scrutiny. If progressives are disregarded as relativists who try to impose 21st century values on a timeless message then conservatives are blind to their own cultural baggage and warped lenses. Just because a lot of people believe something to be true doesn't make it so. The church used to think the world was flat, used the Bible to prove it and punished those who thought otherwise as heretics. Our understanding of biblical "truth" is constantly evolving; it just happens more slowly among conservatives.
I suppose the point I'm trying to make here is that my questions are anything but a denial of truth, they are a search for it, in spite not only of the challenges and discomforts of not having quick and easy answers but also the criticisms of those who don't understand my journey. I don't believe I suffer with analysis paralysis. I think my analysis enriches, not diminishes, my faith and I'll go so far as to say that it is more likely that it is those who don't have questions who suffer with paralysis.
I really wish all this didn't bother me so much. I know a big part of the reason is that I am still learning to give myself permission to be me -to keep exploring that which puzzles me. It's tempting to keep it all to myself and just focus on the similarities. But man, that would be so boring and phony on my part. It takes a lot of guts for me to say what I really think and it brings me down when I feel misunderstood or judged. A few days ago I came across this sad website and immediately wondered how many of my Christian friends would have my photo up there among those who need to be evangelized to: Michelle the Heretic! Hopefully one of these days I'll stop feeling the need to defend my position and these kinds of posts will become less frequent. Until then, I still need to vent and work through the mess. It's just part of my process right now.