I am United Methodist because I choose to be. I was baptized and confirmed United Methodist, but only attended church sporadically in my youth. I was a spiritual free agent when I began to follow Jesus in my early 20s, available to whatever denomination or free church “grabbed me.” Why, then, did a twenty-something seeker with little church history choose to become a United Methodist, and why do I affirm that choice over and over again? I’ll tell you.
I didn’t come to church with my mind made up. I saw church as a mixed bag of pitfalls and potential — a life-saving message constantly on the verge of being messed up by the flawed people who shared it. The community appealed to me and it put me on guard; I couldn’t decide whether to trust it or to run away as fast as possible.
But I also saw myself as a mixed bag. I was spiritual and reaching for the stars. I was a skeptic who didn’t believe in anything I couldn’t touch, taste, or evaluate. Some days I was in on the whole “faith thing” only to be out moments later. Jesus fascinated me and I wanted to learn more, to follow, to experiment with living in a radically different way, but I didn’t want to leave my brain at the door when I did so.
Some people come to the doors of the church as murderers and abusers, and the church accepts them. Some come as liars and cheats and the church accepts them. I came as an honest, confused, doubting person who wanted to learn without promising to agree with everything the church said. I wanted to hear stories of the flood while pointing out the logistics of such a story were outrageous. I wanted to pore over the good news of the gospels while pointing out that they disagreed with each other on important points. I wanted to live a life of resurrection while being honest that I struggled with whether I believed it could happen. I wanted to explore faith while being honest about who, and where, I really was. Would the church be willing to accept me?
I became United Methodist because United Methodists wrestle with questions. We are a community that never accepts “just be quiet and believe” as a good answer, that would never speak of a God that created you with intellectual gifts and then asked you not to use them. We honor the many ways that God reveals God’s purposes to us: through scripture, sacred tradition, human reason, and personal experience. We are a community defined not by conformity but by commitments. Commitments to grow as disciples, to experience the means of grace, to remain open to what God does in the world around us. I became United Methodist because I couldn’t conform but I could absolutely commit. I came because of questions, and I stayed because I began to find answers.
More from Lance at lancemarshall.net.