Do you remember that show “The Facts of Life”? I had an older sister so I had to watch it growing up. I can’t remember too much of the plot or characters (thankfully) but I do remember the theme song.
Sing it with me folks!
“You take the good. You take the bad. You take them both and there you have the facts of life. The facts of life!”
Nothing like an 80s sitcom to speak truth into your life. There you
go; it’s plain and simple. There’s good and there’s bad and that’s about
it. Well, maybe not quite.
Any of you that really know me probably know that I grew up in
church. Under the pews, finding frogs in the bushes, hitting people’s
cars with footballs; just all of that good, old church living. From the
time I was born I did most of my thinking about life from the view
inside of the walls of a church. Wasn’t really told to do much thinking
Now just to be clear, I could talk for hours and hours about all the
good I have seen in the church and in the people involved with it. This
is in no way a letter bashing what I was born into; I love the church
and I will defend it as long as I have to. But that being said, I think I
would be doing a disservice to myself if I didn’t at least bring to
light some of the things I am learning and that might not coincide with
what I grew up being told was true. I'm finding in my own life that one
of the best methods of teaching is not necessarily saying, "This is what
I've learned," but rather, "This is how I am learning." Not that I in
any way claim to be a teacher, but I do think we can learn from each
One of the things that I feel I grew up hearing a lot was basically
that there were always only two sides to everything. Just like a coin.
The good and the bad. The right and the wrong. The truth and the lie.
Life is made up of clear sides and dividing lines. There is no room
between the black and the white areas.
For a very long time I was fine with that. I did what I was supposed
to do and things pretty much worked out. I had a great faith in a great
God and what I knew him to be. My best friends were people who believed
basically what I believed, and we all encouraged each other in our own
views. We were pretty happy. People are usually happy when things go
according to plan.
Then, I went away to college.
College was a bit different. As you probably know, you get people
from every walk of life at a university, especially one as diverse as
the University of Florida. Even in the Christian circles I was in I
realized that not everyone believed the same things about the Bible that
I did. Now, I’ve never been one for confrontations or disagreements
because I never really had to be in them; I was surrounded by people who
agreed with me. But as I interacted with people I grew to love, I found
that we could disagree on issues and beliefs but still work together in
accomplishing the same common goals. Diversity at its finest.
How can that be possible, though, if there are only two sides? How
could there be more than two ways to look at something? May I submit to
you an area beyond just black and white? An area I have taken to calling
All right, get all your 50 Shades of Grey jokes and Liam Neeson references out of your system right now.
You may have heard of “the grey” before, and perhaps you have heard
it called by some other name. I heard about it once or twice growing up,
but I concluded that if I had any doubts about anything then it
belonged on the “wrong” side of the line, because the Bible had clear
answers for everything.
Fundamentalists, go ahead and pick up your stones because here goes…
the Bible does not answer all of the questions most of us have. It just
doesn’t. And I don’t believe it was intended to.
The Bible in itself is made up of ancient texts. Things that people
wrote thousands of years ago. Can we really expect those same words to
give us answers about practices and decisions that would have never come
into play back then? If you read the Bible’s words as only black and
white, you can’t. But as you look into the grey, you may come to see
that the words are indeed “living and active” and they can remain
relevant in an ever-changing world. God could have outlined every single
command and every single answer to life in the clearest way possible,
but he didn’t. He gave us brains. And more importantly, he gave us his
I get frustrated sometimes because I want things to be laid out a
little more clearly. I want answers explained better. I want to know if
I’m doing things right or wrong. Most of my troubles can be attributed
to the fact that I am terrible at waiting and I also have a brain that
doesn’t shut off. The combination of these two disorders can make it
very difficult to live life when you’re only seeing things in black and
I think thoughts like, “Well, a little bit of faith can move
mountains, and I have a little bit of faith. So… why is this mountain
not moving? I must not have faith. Or maybe I’m screwing something else
up and God is upset with me and unwilling to back me up?” When you think
black and white you may tend to think thoughts like that.
So, faith can move mountains, but what about when it doesn’t? What
about when the sick are not healed and the poor stay poor? Does it mean
that there was not enough faith in the prayer? I mean, the Bible clearly
says that faith moves mountains. If the mountains aren’t moving then
something must be off with us, right?
I think many of us struggle with the idea of prayer being something
like water being put into a water balloon. The more we pray, the more
water is deposited into our balloon. We keep filling it up and
eventually, after we’ve prayed and fasted enough, the balloon will pop
and what God really wanted to happen will finally be done. But I am
learning that what I want to happen and what God wants to happen can
seem to differ quite a bit. Can prayer force God to do something he
doesn’t want to do?
Well, yes it can, right? Prayer changes things. That verse 2
Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people pray…” Look, I believe prayer can
change things, but what if the greatest power of prayer is not the power
to change our circumstances but the power to change our hearts, our
minds, and our motives.
Black and white can only see a mathematical system: Prayer + Faith = God’s will. But the grey throws out the formulas.
So maybe some of you are thinking, “Listen, hippie. I get what you’re
trying to sell us. ‘Question everything. The truth is out there,
maaaan.’ But what am I supposed to do with that?” That’s not what I’m
saying. I’m not saying we cannot ever be certain about anything. I am
just trying to say that maybe it’s all right to have a few questions
every once in a while. I question things all the time, and it doesn’t
mean that God is upset with me. God is bigger than our questions.
I understand about two percent of all of this, but I believe it.
Maybe that's all that faith is. Maybe honest faith that God approves of
can only at times say, “I don’t understand this, but I trust you.” What
if we only have two percent faith, but it’s enough to get us to act as
if we had 100 percent faith? Does God accept our decisions even though
we don’t have everything figured out and have some doubts? And do we
trust God enough to be wrong?
If we believe in Jesus then we believe that God loved us enough to
come to us as Emmanuel, “God with us.” We serve a God that wants to be
known way more than we even want to know him. If you seek him, he will
find you because he's looking for you, too.
If we are called to come to him as children then that is about as
ignorant as you can get. A child doesn’t have it all figured out and a
child doesn’t know how things work; they just do stuff. They don’t
question the laws of gravity; they just go down the slide. They don’t
know how mom and dad are going to get them dinner, but they know they
are going to get it. Is that really how God wants us to come to him?
Isn’t that blind faith?
Yes. It is.
We are so afraid to have blind faith because our society demands
proof on all accounts, which is what makes the grey so hard. But blind
faith in God is exactly what he calls us to have. To be able to say
things like, “I really don’t know the answer to that, but I trust that
God is good.” And say things like, “I don’t like going through this, but
God knows what he is doing.” I know those are hard words to say in the
thick of it, but in essence that is what we must live out. To say, “I
don’t really understand this, but I believe it and I trust you.”
The Word of God pulls no punches. It clearly says, “The wisdom of the
world is foolishness to God,” (1 Corinthians 3:19) which can only mean
the other side of that is true as well—“The wisdom of God is foolishness
to the world.” No wonder we feel so dumb sometimes. We have human
brains trying to figure out the far superior mind of the Creator.
Read the Bible and you will find many stories of men and women who experienced the grey.
They wandered in it.
They wrestled with it.
They walked on it.
They endured it.
It seems to me that the grey is an essential part of our faith, and
possibly a requirement or right of passage for all true believers. To
know God is to know his mystery. To understand that you will never fully
understand him and be okay with that. He is a God who is bigger than
our doubts and fears. He can handle a humble heart that is searching for
truth, because he is the Truth.
I don’t think God is as afraid of the grey as many might think he is.
The grey is where we search for him because we don't know the answers
to life’s questions. The grey is why we seek him. The grey is why we
need him. And the grey is where we discover beauty we never could have
seen in the black and white.
Don’t run from the grey, run towards it.