I am a huge mystery/thriller/true crime junkie. I love horror novels and police procedurals and pretty much anything that involves a murder. I’ve been this way since I was young, devouring Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, the Boxcar Children, and Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game.
I acknowledge that this is a bizarre thing for a Christian to enjoy. I’ve gotten some weird looks and some reminders to dwell on whatever is pure and holy and all that. But when I am at my most lost, it those books that I come back to, again and again. I’ve tried to make sense this over the years and come to many different reasons.
The books are fast paced, thus making for quick and engrossing reading.
I’m an Enneagram One and I like seeing justice always come to light.
Reading true crime is an act of witness-bearing, of telling victims and survivors that I know who did this to you and I won’t forget. I will remember.
It’s just a weird part of who I am – no rationalization required.
But lately I’ve been thinking that maybe it’s something else. I’m starting to wonder if my love of mysteries reflects my deep avoidance to rest in the Mystery of life and God.
Let me explain.
I like black and whites. I like knowing what the Right Thing To Do is in any situation – and any of my loved ones will tell you the deep anxiety spiral I go into when I don’t know. This is how Jesus made me. I am passionate about justice and truth. There is justice and injustice. There is truth and there are lies. No gray spaces here. And mystery novels reflect that. There is a good guy and a bad guy. The bad guy does bad things, usually for bad reasons (and even if his reasons are good, I mean, he still broke the law). The good guy always catches the bad guy by the end of the book or series. Justice served. Truth wins out. Black and white.
In my faith, I avoid the gray areas. If I have extreme anxiety about not knowing what to say to someone at a funeral, then I’m two steps away from a panic attack when I think about not knowing or doing the right thing when it comes to God. It’s easier for me to pretend that those gray areas just don’t exist. My faith has been so deeply focused on doing the right things, on being the right person, on simply getting it right.
Can you tell I struggle with perfectionism?
But life and faith aren’t just black and white. There is so much gray. So much it makes my head swim and I start to feel like I’m drowning. There are so many complicated questions and issues and I can never know if I get them all right. Some of my beliefs and convictions might be right to one group of people and wrong to another, so it’s less painful for me, it’s easier for me, to just pretend they aren’t real. To pretend that these murky issues just don’t exist.
In the Grace Church Broken Places Book Club on Facebook, we’ve been reading and discussing Does Jesus Really Love me? A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America by Jeff Chu in conjunction with Hope Month. We’ve been talking a lot about the broken place of Isolation, but personally, I’ve been doing a lot of wrestling with my faith. Chu’s book isn’t preachy – it chronicles his journey to several different types of churches in the United States and talks to gay people about their relationship with God and the Church, no matter what that relationship might be like. It’s a discussion.
Reading the book has forced me into a deeply gray area, in life and faith. Even reading the book shows you how many people believe something different about homosexuality and Christianity and they all believe they are right. There is no clear-cut right answer. It’s murky. And I’ve been sitting in it for the past three weeks.
I don’t like it. It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable. It’s scary. But one of the pastors Chu talks to says “the cross is big enough for all our misconceptions” and it straight-up stopped me in my tracks. I had to put the book down and walk around for bit. Because it’s true.
What if being a Christian is less about always getting it right and more about just trying to do what Jesus would do? What if, when we die, Jesus is less concerned about the exact words we said and more about what was in our hearts when we said them? What if there is grace enough for all our mistakes?
In one of our discussion posts, Michelle Williams said “Spiritual maturity requires holding the tension produced by belief and mystery.” Again, I had to stop. So much of my avoidance of difficult issues has been a refusal to sit in that tension, denial that it could exist. But how could it not? We believe, even though we don’t have the answers. We believe that Jesus loves all His children, even though the minutiae of sin are always going to be a mystery. I believe that all Jesus wants from me is to love like He did, even though just how to do that can be a mystery. I believe that I can try my hardest to always get right, and I will still get it wrong.
I believe that the cross covers all of my mistakes, even though that depth of grace and love is a mystery. The tension is hard. But maybe it’s also far more beautiful and kind than black and white could ever be.