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An Argument I'm Willing to Take On

“Are you going to break up with me next?” she cried in frustration and anger. That anger should have been directed completely at me but it was also directed at God.

I will never forget the look on my sister’s face when I told her I had broken up with my boyfriend. Disbelief mixed with pain and anger flashed in her eyes. I had caused that.

Four years older than me, she was no longer in high school as I was, but we were in the same circles and shared a lot of friends. We held a lot in common­—except my Christian faith. There were other reasons this guy and I parted ways, but my sister got around to asking me if it was because he didn’t share my faith. I admitted that contributed to our issues.

It always came back to this with us. I pushed (hard). She pushed back (harder). Disagreeing never accomplished anything except for driving a wedge between two people who couldn’t see the world the same way. I imagined I could argue her into believing. I think she would have stopped herself from believing just to spite me… and she would have been right.

I cringe when I remember the headstrong and arrogant youth who saw the world one way and expected to debate others into the Kingdom of God. I can blame the teaching I received from church leaders who said this was the way to navigate the world. But they were teachings I chose to follow. I wish I could change this part of my history, but what I can do is learn from it.

Unfortunately, one thing I learned in response to this history is the fear of disagreeing altogether.

I spent so many years mending the damage from my ignorance and never wanting to harm another, especially in the name of God. I took the backseat of being a learner and became more comfortable there.

I still have strong opinions. Just ask my small circle of friends close enough to hear my unfiltered opinions. The thought of airing these opinions publicly recalls memories of that unkind girl and makes my heart beat faster than it should.

Enter social media and the fact that I am a writer in Christian circles—both of which these days mean airing opinions and feelings, writing them out for all to see. I would say I picked the wrong vocation if I had indeed picked it. Ask most writers and they’ll tell you it picked them, that they can’t help it. But that doesn’t negate the dread I feel about disagreement (especially about matters as deeply personal as faith and how we express it).

I have rarely seen minds change through this kind of disagreement between two people who care about each other. I’ve seen even fewer people who can challenge total strangers online in a way filled with love and grace. It can happen, but it isn’t the norm and it’s not a practice I’m willing to participate in.

And yet, I think the answer is somewhere between the two extremes of being a battering ram or conveying a false image of ourselves through our silence. Indeed, there are times when our silence on issues that impact vulnerable populations or people we love does more damage.

In recent days, I’ve felt the conviction to use any influence I possess to shine light into dark places, even in online spaces. This is, after all, where many of us spend much of our lives these days.

My sister who had her healthy share of disagreements with me (and who, unlike me, loves to stir things up) taught me to look for balance. Her faith doesn’t look like mine and it doesn’t have to. We love each other and found a safe space to support each other and that does not look like agreeing all the time.

I may not be engaging in online debates anytime soon, but I am trying not to shrink away from transparency out of fear anymore. Differing opinions or even deeply held beliefs don’t have to look like arrogance and pointing fingers.

If we are willing to engage with love and respect, it can look more like bearing witness to the God who is transforming us. It can look like holding out our true selves in an effort to be truly seen by others and be willing to see them in return.

I am working to find that middle space between humility and conviction, between faith and fear. If you are too, I believe we can have a conversation instead of a debate. Instead of driving a wedge between us, I think our differences can start a dialogue instead…and that’s an argument I’m willing to take on. 

*Originally published February 14, 2018 at The Mudroom. Updated and republished on May 30, 2024.

My heart breaks for the frightened woman who appeared on the page in the original version of this essay I wrote 6 years ago. I had struggled with anxiety for years because of battles with the theology of the evangelical church I felt bound to in love and years of history, but I couldn't reconcile myself with the way this faith was lived out in the world. Back then, my bold move that prompted the writing of this essay was the willingness to write about the yoga practice that sustained me through my anxiety, knowing certain members of my faith community would push back on the eastern origins of the practice. I couldn't even be honest about simple parts of my journey without fear.

Today, I still tremble when I am honest about aspects of my life online, but not because I'm afraid of how I will be perceived or if my community will reject me. I've found a community that honors diversity and transparency and to those who cannot accept all of me, I am learning to walk away (with deep grief, yes, but with regret, no). But, my hesitancy is that I never want to hurt another out of arrogance or ignorance. Yet, I will make mistakes. And I hope you can bear with my fumbling attempts to learn.

I also know I must speak because, in the past, my silence has hurt others and closed doors on relationships with people I loved. It took me too many years to speak up about things like how women, people of color, immigrants and refugees, and my LGBTQIA+ siblings were being treated in spaces I inhabited.

To those who needed my solidarity, I am sorry for my silence. For the blindspots I still have, I am praying God would open my eyes and give me the courage to confront them. Thank you for all you are teaching me, dear brothers and sisters. I am grateful we never need to walk alone.


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