15. We see through a glass only darkly and know our understandings to be merely provisional. We hold our convictions (which are few) without wavering, but hold our opinions (which are many) lightly. Therefore, there must be a great willingness to change — being slow to judge, never condemning, quick to acknowledge mistakes and move on. There is yet more light and truth for us to become aware of, to assimilate and so to be transformed.
This is the last Understanding of the Lindisfarne Community and it’s one of my favorites. It’s the second sentence that really gets me: “We hold our convictions (which are few) without wavering, but hold our opinions (which are many) lightly.” For a long time, I held many convictions and very few opinions. But, as my faith in Christ grew, and my walk with G_d and others continued, I realized that I had this backwards. The Lindisfarne Community really spotlighted that for me. I noticed that a lot of what I had deemed “non-negotiable” was now open for debate. Matters like women clergy or the inclusion of LGBT people or my view of other faith traditions had all changed over the years. I know. I was as shocked as the next person. These weren’t “all of a sudden” changes, though. It took a long time. But once we start walking with Christ, a lot that was once considered “unclean” is now clean.
This changing of views always reminds me of the story of Peter and the food that’s recorded in Acts 10. The context of this story is that G_d has spoken to Cornelius, a Roman soldier. Cornelius is a Gentile, a non-Jewish person. He was told in a vision that his prayers and his “compassionate acts” didn’t go unnoticed. Cornelius was then told to send messengers to Joppa for Peter. And so he did.
Meanwhile, Peter’s in Joppa on a rooftop praying. Since it was getting close to lunchtime, people in the house were preparing a meal and Peter started to get hungry. And in the midst of this, Peter has a vision!
A huge tablecloth comes down from heaven, opened up, and on it are all kinds of animals that Law abiding Jewish people didn’t eat. A voice called out to Peter to kill some food and eat it. Peter quickly refused, “Absolutely not, Lord! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice told him, “Never consider unclean what G_d has made pure.” This happened three times.
Immediately after that, Cornelius’ messengers arrived asking for Peter and G_d told Peter to go with them.
When Peter gets to Cornelius’ place, he realizes what G_d was showing him with the vision. He told Cornelius and those with him, “You all realize that it is forbidden for a Jew to associate or visit with outsiders. However, G_d has shown me that I should never call a person impure or unclean.”
In the same way, we find out further along on our journey that a lot of the convictions we think are “essentials” really aren’t. Some of the things that we thought were “unclean” - like the faith traditions of others - may just be as “pure” and “clean” as our own traditions.
This Understanding lets us know that it’s okay to ask questions; to say we’re not comfortable with some of the views we grew up believing. I know that I’m not alone in this. All one has to do is read through the Community’s recent book, Secular Monasticism, to see that several of our member’s convictions have changed to opinions.
While I know change can be an unsettling thing (to say the least), it’s necessary for our growth in Christ. I encourage you to ask the hard questions. You might have to just whisper them at first. Or write them in a secret journal. Or, better yet, find a friend that you can confide in; someone with whom you can walk this journey of discovery.
In Celtic Christianity, this person is called an anam chara or “soul friend.” This person is someone who knows you - I mean really knows you, warts and all - and she love you anyway. Someone with whom you can confide your fears and sins. Someone that isn’t judgmental of you but wants what’s best for you. Also, this person needs to be able to be honest. Brutally honest. If you’re making a mess of you life, this person needs to be able to say so.
From my experience, this can be a hard process. It’s taken years. And it’s been painful. I’ve been blessed to have a couple of soul friends with whom to walk on the journey. And though we have butted heads many times, our lives are richer because of each other. Our love grows stronger daily.
I honestly don’t think I could be where I am today if it weren’t for the people G_d put in my life - to challenge me, to guide me, even to tell me I’m off my nut at times. But it’s helped me see what’s really important - the essentials - of following Christ. These essentials are summed up in the prayer and motto of the Lindisfarne Community:
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC