Pastrix - Letting Go

A few years ago, Nadia Bolz-Weber came out with a book titled "Pastrix".

According to the books promotional leaflet, it is meant to be "Outrageous, rich, and remarkable...sardonically irreverent and beautifully honest...portray[ing] a woman who is both deeply faithful and deeply flawed, [while] giving hope to the rest of us along the way."

I didn't read it then - maybe I wasn't unconventional enough to appreciate her ideas, or maybe it was just a little too hyped up for my taste. Whatever the case, I eventually circled back, and I can now say that I have indeed read the book.

Sardonically irreverent? Check.

Outrageous? Check.

Beautifully honest? Check.

Would I recommend it? Not to everyone, no. It is the kind of book you likely have to be in the right frame of mind for, and even then it doesn’t exactly digest easily.

Here are some of my big thought processes while reading:

  • Inner turmoil!

  • Nadia says some things I have thought, but would never say. Never in a million years. Saying things makes them more real, and then you actually have to deal with them. Thinking it in your head is easier to dismiss, and you aren’t accountable for those things like you are for words that come out of your mouth. Some of the statements I reacted most viscerally to were statements that, if I’m honest, I have thought before. The difference between us? While I hide my possibly heretic thoughts in a deep dark hole and go one living a life that looks right, Nadia throws it out into the world with a bravery and abandon I envy, but rarely, if ever, emulate.

    It is very likely that believers would be so much more united, free, and grace-filled if they could only be honest with others about where they are in their faith journeys. What if we could trust each other (and trust God) enough to actually say, “I struggle with that – I want to believe it but I just can’t.”? Or even, “I know love (or hope, faith, mercy, grace, etc) is the right choice here, but all I have right now is hate (envy, spite, anger, bitterness, etc)”?

    Sometimes I think the worst part of growing up in the church is that you can easily get this sense of having the right answers and knowing the right information, and somehow it turns into this façade of simply knowing which mask to wear at an appropriate time. When did we exchange truth and grace for half-baked cover ups and condemnation?

    Of course the other side of me is arguing that constantly airing dirty laundry can easily turn into reveling in sin and seeing no reason to change our ways or truly repent. I don’t think that is being advocated here, but Conservative Hannah sees it as a possible threat so I’ll just put it out there.

  • Black and white is easy. Shades of grey is hard. Isn’t it nice to be able to go to God and say, “Look! I have DONE IT! I am in the clear.” And when that is our attitude, it is just as easy to start scanning the room so we can direct God’s attention to the poor fool who hasn’t done IT, whatever that is.

  • As much as I don’t want to live a life governed by arbitrary rules, there is something so easy and familiar about meeting preset standards that it can be an easy trap to fall in to. It is no trouble at all for me to understand why many religious Jews had a hard time letting go of the law and accepting Jesus, with His new ways and refusal to judge based on outward appearance. The absolute hardest thing for one person to judge about another is the intentions of their heart, so of course we substitute those for clothes, and language, and life choices. We can only judge what we can see, and we do that incredibly well.

    Clearly, the book challenged me. I thought about all manner of things – female religious leaders, smoking, drinking, tattoos, homosexuality, suicide – and I tried to see through the lens Jesus would use, which means throwing aside outward appearances and looking at the heart.

    All of this introspective thinking ultimately led to an interesting connection in my daily Bible reading.

    You know that story in the New Testament? The one where the Pharisees jump all over Jesus and the disciples for doing anything on the Sabbath day?

    Yes, that one – where you get a chance to shake your head at how short sighted and ridiculous those foolish religious hypocrites are.

    Well, I tend to agree with you. The Sabbath is all well and good, but when Jesus is doing His healing work, or the disciples need a bite to eat, the religious folk need to back off and get some priorities.

    Hang on to that thought and jump over to Exodus 31, verses 12-17 with me. Listen to this:

    “And the Lord said to Moses, “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore, the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’”

    I read these verses, and I made a note about what a beautiful picture that was – a day of the week set aside as an actual covenant between God and man, preserved for rest and refreshment. And as I was waxing on about how beautiful a picture, a covenant, a remembrance this was, it struck me – Jews would have had nothing but the highest regard for this day, a literal covenant between themselves and their God.

    The Sabbath – A covenant with the Lord.

    The Sabbath – A soul can be cut off for not observing it.

    The Sabbath – Jesus openly ‘profaned’ it in front of those whose livelihoods were set around protecting and honoring it.

    Can you blame them for being offended?

    For shaking their fists and condemning him?

    When an essential element they had built into their faith practice was thrown to the side by a carpenter nobody knew, they turned on him immediately, and to be honest….I would have been right there with them.

    I don’t like my traditions, and beliefs, and values to be threatened. After all, I need something to hold on to!

    Jesus knows this. I think His hope and desire for us is that we would let go of all the “things” we hold on to prop ourselves up and choose instead to cling to Him.

    He is everlasting, He is faithful, He is merciful.

    He is Love.

    Would your life be changed if you chose to cling to Christ and His love alone?