Missy Wallace is a proud Texan by birth and a proud Nashvillian by choice, with stops along the way in Charlotte, Chicago, Southeast Asia, and New York City. She and husband Paul now love their home deep in the woods. She likes the animals, the sunsets, the chirping of the birds, and the wind in the branches of the trees. Less terrific are the drive to the grocery store and the annual ladybug infestation. While at the grocery story, Missy stocks up on chips to support her habit. Her favority guilty pleasures include chips and salsa, chips and guac, chips and queso, chips, and then more chips. You might find her – when not snacking – playing a game of Boggle or on a long run; you might find her in her office as college counselor at a local high school or taking evening classes in theology; you will always find in her an abundance of warmth and generosity of spirit. Missy says she has learned a lot from her three children:
My oldest reminds me to fear nothing and hope in everything. My youngest reminds me that comparison is the thief of joy. My middle keeps me laughing and reminds me that curiosity is a gift. And since they are ages twelve to sixteen, they are all pretty good at reminding me of my weaknesses. I love them for it…usually.
Today, Missy thinks about A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story, by Michael W. Goheen.
From Missy: Paul and I worked in Southeast Asia for a few years, and I will never forget a trip to Myanmar in 1997, the first leisure travel we did while there. It opened me to the power of understanding who I am by seeing places that are radically different. While touring, we serendipitously stumbled upon a demonstration rally in the streets led by Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s most famous opposition leader. It was mind-blowing to see her valiantly speaking about democracy while perched on a wall, having been only recently released from house arrest. Observing her passion sparked me onto a still incomplete journey of trying to understand my own strong beliefs.
On a separate outing, a filthy, poor Cambodian child made me question my faith. I remember thinking what a minuscule chance that this small boy would ever hear the story I believe, yet my faith can preach that ours is the only way. As I have aged, my faith has grown stronger and deeper, but I cannot shake the little boy, who must be around twenty now, and the billions of other precious children just like him. Are deep faith and open-mindedness mutually exclusive propositions? It is certainly confusing to synthesize deep conviction and true tolerance; there is an inherent paradox.
I recently read a book called A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story, by Michael W. Goheen, and though it is not the focus of the book, I found a sliver of peace in my attempts to integrate a deepening faith with my world experience and desired tolerance. While written for seminary students considering the role of the church, it is theologically light enough that it did not lull me into a slumber after driving miles and miles of carpools in southwest Nashville traffic (translation – an easy read). The book explores the role of the Christian church in the Western world and how it has gone astray. Specifically, Goheen focuses on the entire biblical narrative from Genesis to Revelations as one story, and very aptly argues that the role of the church is to reveal that God’s great plan is “to redeem all creation” – which leaves quite a bit of mystery in its execution in the final days. If Jesus makes you squeamish, yes, this book is full of Jesus and his role in God’s great mission. But whether you are Christian, atheist, Jewish, agnostic or a member of another religion, I wish you would read this book because it clearly portrays a view of Christianity that is antithetical to the one portrayed in the media. It is not a book to persuade those in other religions to come along or be left behind. It is not a book that argues against other religions. Rather, it is a biblically sound expression of a Christianity that is often misunderstood. It is a call for radical change in church culture. This book argues that the “salvation culture” of Christianity and the church is missing the point if that is the overarching point. As we live in an increasingly secular and diverse world, Goheen’s view of Christianity and the role of the church helps me blend a deep belief in the story of Jesus Christ with tolerance. The book envisions “what it might mean today to be a ‘come and join us people,’ inviting others to unite with us as we embody and journey towards God’s shalom at the climax of history. It also points to what it might mean to be a ‘so what’ people, blessed so that we might in turn be a blessing to the world.” Inclusion and loving others? Who doesn’t sign up for that? So I do think tolerance and deep conviction can coexist. Tolerance does not mean ignoring what you know to be true just to make someone feel good. It does not mean avoiding hard questions to escape discomfort. But tolerance does require us to avoid judging people or treating them differently when ideas differ. Tolerance means holding onto truth but loving others regardless. And with Goheen’s nudge, I better understand trusting God with the big picture of how that all unfolds. Because in the end, the “redemption for all creation” is God’s work, not ours.