My news feed: Rob Bell, Ferguson, tragedy in the Middle East and the Dark

photo credit: qousqous via photopin cc

photo credit: qousqous via photopin cc

I am afraid of the dark. I wish I wasn’t. I grew up with a case of insomnia that made me afraid to be alone at night. I would sit up alone at night and imagine someone breaking into our house. I had this difficulty sleeping around the same time that a show called “unsolved mysteries” was popular. My older brother would watch it right before bed. It was scary. The show featured unsolved mysteries (I know the title kind of gave that away.) The mysteries included murders, robberies and lest we forget the ultra frightening ghost episodes. Even the theme song would have me shaking. As penance for my brother watching the show I would cry until he would let me sleep on his floor. On my brother’s floor I felt safe, somehow knowing that he was asleep right beside me made the night bearable. I can’t imagine how much my presence annoyed him. I remember one night he rolled over and said “Look you can sleep here but I still hate you.” I smiled I knew that because he let me stay he didn’t hate me. I was in fact pretty sure he loved me- some nights, he even waited to turn out his light until I was all set up on his floor.

I have grown up from those days and my brother and I live across the country from each other, but the dark still scares me. I am pretty sure I know why; I have a deep fear of the unknown. I don’t like not knowing what is on the other side of the dark. Without my brother to ward off whatever is there I feel afraid and vulnerable. It probably doesn’t help that a few of my friends aware of my fear use it against me. Including some pretty crafty dates that have hidden and popped out forcing me to scream and hold on tighter to them. So what does all of this have to do with my Facebook news feed? Well I have noticed something in the last couple of weeks. There seems to be a lot of fear. As I have kept an eye on the Ferguson tragedy and the horrible murders in the synagogue in Israel, I can’t help feel that same fear. I don’t know what is on the other side. I don’t know where all of this will land. Praying seems to be the answer but even that doesn’t seem enough. It feels as though the dark has crept in…

How does that all tie to Rob Bell? Well Rob is someone I greatly respect and consider a mentor. He is a wonderfully kind, creative, and thoughtful person. I have witnessed his faith to be deep and profound. And yet I have read some pretty odd statements about him lately on my news feed. I have also read great support of Rob, but the critique is what fascinates me. People worry about his theology and worry that he is leading people astray. As someone who studied theology and someone who has read much of the early church mothers and fathers, I will tell you Rob really doesn’t say anything that hasn’t been at least suggested before; and, Rob wouldn’t say otherwise. He also doesn’t force his views on anyone else. One of my favorite things about him is that he simply asks the question “What if?” Even that question seems too much for people. I asked a friend of mine why folks he knew didn’t like Rob’s views and he said simply “fear.” People are afraid of what it might all mean. When you are raised with absolutes “what ifs” cause fear. You don’t know what is on the other side so you would rather stay where you are. This fear seems everywhere on both sides of any debate.

I was chatting with a good friend, Kendall, and lamenting about how we can’t seem to all get along as Christians, she shared about a deeply conservative friend and some pretty liberal friends. The liberal friends were asking her why she even bothered to listen to the opinions of the deeply conservative friend. My friend replied “what is there to fear in hearing the other side?” Having been raised in Canada and moving to the bible belt in Mississippi you can imagine that my newsfeed gets pretty filled with messages from both sides of any debate.

My Facebook news feed is filled with fear. I am aware that we live constantly feeling pulled between two forces fear and peace. I have so much I could write about “false peace” and how there is a long history of people profiting politically and financially by promising false peace. False peace is a the peace that lasts only when a force is forcing peace. Pax Romana was the Roman promise of peace by the edge of the sword. But that peace never lasts, because no one has been changed just silenced. I think when we are brought into something new and unknown we can and must choose peace over fear. I know it’s scary and I know that sometimes it’s easier to close our eyes and go back to what we know. I felt so safe on my brother’s floor but if I am honest I wasn’t comfortable. I knew that wasn’t where I was supposed to sleep, but I was too afraid to risk the unknown of my own dark room. It wasn’t comfortable, but it was what I knew. I think that when we allow ourselves to experience something new we have to choose to go in knowing where our peace lies and that is in our faith. Not in a way that says my faith is greater than yours and what I think is right but in a way that says I am secure in where I am in my faith and so I can hear your side and honor it and ask what if? Eventually I was able to sleep in my own room, but it wasn’t until I was aware that no matter what room I was in my big brother was still there just a yell away. That’s the truth with my faith and belief in God I take it with me into the dark and that brings me peace in times of trouble.


For a great response to Ferguson check out

  1. Christine Heath says:

    wonderful assessment of this social media driven world we are all contending with these days…thank you

  2. Brandon B. says:

    Great post. I think people take the mandate to “work out your faith in fear and trembling” to an unhealthy place. Focusing too much on fear can rob you of working anything out. You simply adopt a faith that is easy to stomach …something you can systematically arrive at. Fear in this verse doesn’t mean petrified terror – it is awe and wonder. If we can get some of that back in our pursuit of God, we would approach the issues of life from a much better place.

  3. Cathi says:

    love this Sarah- thank you!

  4. Jonathan Heath says:

    Ahhh, the memories 🙂

    I can openly say I love ya now

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