I've had rumors spread about me before.
There was the one about me being pregnant at 15; a rebellious teenager determined to destroy her parent's reputation in the United Pentecostal church. According to my church-going peers, I also smoked, dyed my hair black - even though it was clearly dirty blonde - and had a motorcycle-driving boyfriend.
When I was 15, I would lie on my back in the middle of my bedroom floor and listen to The Cranberries and Alanis Morissette and dream of being a rock star. So obviously the rumors were true; my character called into question because of my music taste.
- There was another one when I was 21 about me faking surgery to get time off of work, and pity.
- There was the rumor that circulated for a year before I found out about it; the one about me and a friend falling out because I was secretly trying to get with her husband. Incidentally they divorced and I was blamed, but wandered around ignorant of my apparent indiscretion. I didn't know my reputation included being a cold, heartless home wrecker.
- When Mat and I were engaged, rumors spread at the office I worked in - how I must've just met him because who is he, did anyone know about her dating him? They are rushing to get married because, ooh, I bet she's pregnant!
These are just a few, and they all stem from misinformation. I've gotten used to people not wanting to communicate directly with me to ask questions, clear things up. The rumors are definitely more entertaining than what's really going on.
- I've never been pregnant; not at 15, not ever.
- I didn't smoke a cigarette until I was 23, not 15.
- My hair has been dyed black, but again - I was 24, not 15.
- I didn't fake surgery. I've had two fibroadenomas removed from my breast - at 18 and 21 - because back then, the doctor said it was the best way to be sure they weren't cancerous. Because of a roommate issue - I only ever existed a single month in my life with roommates, hello introversion - I was homeless, and recovered from my very real surgery in a hotel room.
- The friend I had a falling out with? Her husband asked me if she was cheating on him and being taken off guard, I couldn't answer him. Because I didn't know. I told him I didn't believe she would do that. Turns out I didn't know my friend like I thought I did.
- I dated Mat on and off for five years before we got married, the last two and a half being long distance - him in California finishing school, me in Washington working and waiting - so no one at the office had the opportunity to meet him.
I'm no stranger to rumors.
Last night I saw someone I've only seen once since moving back to Olympia. Concerned, she confided, "My sister called me up worried because she heard from someone else who heard from someone else that you and Mat don't believe in God anymore. And then she read your blog and freaked out."
I could only laugh.
The rumors of misinformation are one thing, but rumors about what we do or don't believe are simply a waste. Why does it matter? What if we don't believe in God anymore? The rumor stops there, and you have to decide if you care that much about something as personal as our beliefs. And then what?
Just to be clear, for those who won't ask, Mat and I both believe in God.
I would say more, but I don't have to. Because a friend and fellow writer, Addie Zierman, has already said it so well.
It’s lonely and sad and hard and frustrating when you find yourself diverging in your faith journey from friends and family. And the cynicism and nastiness, I have to tell you, is a pretty natural part of the whole thing.
Our hearts are made like pendulums, and when we swing away from one thing, we tend to end up on the far opposite site. Passionate devotion to a certain viewpoint turns to total disdain, even embarrassment. "I can’t believe that used to make sense to me. I can’t believe I used to say 'epic' so much. I can’t believe I wore a t-shirt with a giant bloody picture of Jesus on the cross on the front. To school. (He did this for you, the t-shirt said.)"
It’s easy to be hard on the person you were; it’s easier still to be hard on the people who are still there, who still see it this way, who still find comfort in the phrases that make you chafe.
It’s easy to believe that they’re wrong and you’re right; that they’re stuck, and you’re enlightened. It’s easy to look back at them with a mix of pity and pride, as though they are somehow behind you on the journey.
I don’t think that’s true.
The more I walk this path of faith, the more I’m convinced it’s not a straight line – start at Point A, end at Point B, whoever gets there first wins.
Rather, it’s a spiral, a labyrinth. We’re circling the hidden heart of God. We’re revisiting, relearning, going around the whole thing again and again, seeing it new every time.
And maybe the fact that there are so many different churches and denominations and books and worship styles and blogs and websites and points of view isn’t actually because we’re a bunch of blowhards who can’t agree… but rather because we’re all different people at different parts of the journey.
Maybe it’s because God is more multifaceted than one church or denomination or book or worship style or blog or website or point of view can articulate.
Maybe it all belongs. Maybe there’s room for us all.
You can stop perpetuating the rumors by having a conversation with us.
We don't bite, and we're not angry or annoyed if you want to talk to us about what you like about church or the scripture you read that was like a light bulb coming on. It's where you're at; it's where we used to be, and where we could be again - but I don't know.
It's okay if you're worried about Mat and I, and it's okay to pray for us. That means something to us. But instead of praying we'll "return to the truth", ask us what exactly is going on in our lives and pray for that. Because we are seeking truth, and this labyrinth we are in is beautiful; we are sliding the spiral and growing our faith in new ways. It might not be your way, and it might not always be our way, but this is where we are in our journey.
If there's one thing I can guarantee you'll always get from us, it's honesty. And if I hear a rumor about you, I'll come to the source.