When a Small White Man Says He’s a Tall Asian Woman, Listen

I’m a strong advocate of good, respectful conversations, and I think those conversations start by listening before discerning. Christians get too worked up about correcting people. We fear we’ve compromised our testimony if we don’t qualify and clarify our love for those who differ from us. We’re afraid we failed as a Christian if someone comes out as gay or trans or feminist or atheist and we don’t say something about how we disagree with them or worry for them. We judge and we speak…but the doubt comes when we’re lying in bed feeling guilty: “Maybe I wasn’t loving enough?”

We should listen first, and when we speak, ask questions. It’s okay to sit in silence. It’s okay to say, “Thank you for sharing your viewpoint with me, I appreciate it” — and nothing else. It’s okay to conclude a conversation with a handshake and a smile, having corrected nothing.

With that in mind, I wrote this response to the Family Policy Institute of Washington’s video, “College Kids Say the Darndest Things: On Identity” — “Being ‘Right’ About a Person’s Identity.” Let me know your thoughts on the video!

Coming Out Egalitarian: Reconsidering Complementarian Arguments

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This is the second in a series about my questions, fears, and experiences when coming out as egalitarian.

In my years of blogging, I’ve been developing a thicker skin. I’m a sensitive, thoughtful person dedicated to pursuing truth and expressing it clearly. Whenever someone questioned my beliefs, even if it was the same, old, worn out counterargument, I felt compelled to engage with their beliefs and reevaluate mine — all in the name of intellectual honesty. How could I expect my readers to consider my arguments and change their minds if I didn’t do the same?

This was exhausting. When I finally found something true, good, and beautiful to share, the critics forced me back to the drawing table, back to the confusion, doubt, and discouragement. I never felt like I could live my beliefs. I was always being asked to reconsider.

The egalitarian/complementarian controversy caused the most angst. Such conversations were always framed as the Biblical, black-and-white, literal interpretation vs. womanmade, squishy, hermeneutical gymnastics. There could be only one valid, sensible interpretation of passages on gender, and it wasn’t egalitarianism.

Those terms for conversation kills all interest in talking right there for me, but I felt guilty closing the conversation. I was 99.999% sure egalitarianism was the way to go, but what if I failed to consider that 0.001% — and what if that 0.001% was crucial to know the truth?

I’ve tried to find the balance between confidently living my beliefs without second thoughts but also being willing to admit when an opposing belief is right — and then I realized that I already knew how to do that.

For the majority of my life, I researched, believed, and promoted complementarian theology without hearing the egalitarian side. And then, after years of thinking complementarianism explained everything, it started making no sense within itself, with the nature of God, and with the women I knew. When I first Googled egalitarianism, I feared falling into false teaching, but I Googled it out of desperation, and I considered it out of intellectual honesty. Its interpretation of Scripture, understanding of the gospel, and affirmation of women seemed more good, true, and beautiful than complementarianism, so I switched allegiances — in a painful, messy, but good way.

Even in my close-minded ignorance, I could see holes in an argument. I started investigating those holes. I realized the argument was inadequate. I looked for another argument that satisfied the questions and emptiness in the first argument. And that led me to greater truth.

I’m comfortable not reconsidering complementarianism because I’ve asked hard questions before. I’ve walked hard paths alone for the sake of truth. If egalitarianism has holes (and I’m sure it does), I’ll find them and question them with the same intensity I questioned complementarianism, the belief system I initially didn’t want to give up.

I’m comfortable not reconsidering complementarianism because I took more than enough time to understand it. Check the archives of my old blog if you don’t believe me: I swallowed complementarianism hook, line, and sinker. From the ages of 11-19, I studied it, implemented it, and saw the world through it. I can still argue from the complementarian position just fine. That was my childhood, as a nerdy, theologically-inclined kid desperate to live a pleasing Christian life. Not only did I study complementarianism, I lived it and observed it and found it wanting.

I’m comfortable not reconsidering complementarianism because I haven’t been convinced by any of its arguments since coming out as egalitarian. I’m a pretty fair-minded, tolerant person who doesn’t mind conceding a good point, but complementarian arguments coming from someone else don’t look any more convincing to me than they did coming from my own mouth.

But most of all, I’m comfortable not reconsidering complementarianism because I find egalitarianism to be more true, good, and beautiful. Why would I reconsider something I found inadequate when I’ve found something fulfilling?

It seems pretty straightforward, but there were mental blocks that held me back. With my passion for egalitarianism, I didn’t want people to say, “I’ll never become egalitarian” with the same fervor I said, “I’ll never go back to complementarianism.” (I recently encountered somebody who was allegedly egalitarian and then switched to complementarianism. Awkward.)

Then I realized that I couldn’t change people’s minds, and that when I was a complementarian, I swore up and down I would never join the dark side too. Sometimes, life, time, other people, and the Holy Spirit are better persuaders than I. Currently, I have no problem telling content complementarians, “I’m not interested in arguing, but I’m happy to explain my viewpoint.” I like conversations and discussions, not debates and accusations.

Then there’s this other thing, so sneaky and subtle that it took me several years to uncover: Complementarians tend to assert that theirs is the default position, and egalitarianism is the aberration; that complementarianism is as old as the gospel, and egalitarianism is as new as third-wave feminism; that complementarianism is rooted in obvious gender differences, and egalitarianism is rooted in overreaction and rebellion.

To be honest, deep down, I still believed complementarianism was the default position too. It’s hard to think otherwise. My church supported it. My family practiced it. Newlyweds, older women, best friends, random Christian people all believed it. I let their assertions that complementarianism was the Biblical, natural, sensible position get to me. I was told I was throwing the baby out with the bathwater and swinging the pendulum the opposite direction (classic metaphors people love to use on anybody who questions their beliefs). I absorbed this insinuation that I was the outlier, the rebel, and the liberal for going against the complementarian interpretation of Scripture.

But actually, I’m not any of those things. I simply disagree with complementarianism. I’m carrying out the gospel to its logical conclusion in reference to women. I’m interpreting Scripture in its historical and literary context. I didn’t need to feel on the defensive, bowing down to an “older,” “less emotional” teaching. My view was valid, Biblical, and sensible too — even moreso.

All of this freed me to say, “I’m an egalitarian, and I’m not reconsidering or apologizing. I’ve found something good, and I’m holding onto it.” I’m not saying I won’t listen to alternative viewpoints. (I still follow complementarian personalities I respect on social media and RSS feed.)

I’m not even saying I’m right. I’m merely saying, I don’t see a need to reconsider right now, and until I have a reason to reconsider, I’m not reconsidering. I will write about and advocate for the full inclusion and equality of women in the home, church, and society without reserve; I will live out my marriage and womanhood with confidence; I will convince those who will be convinced and not be upset by those who aren’t; I will stay friends with complementarians and be frank and gracious about our differences; I will concede good points and ignore bad ones.

There’s a time to consider, and there’s a time to live a life already. And now I’m living.

As an egalitarian, would you or have you reconsidered complementarianism? I would love to hear your thoughts!

// The first article in this series, on getting out of awkward, unhelpful conversations, and why I submit in my egalitarian marriage

Chevron Accents

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I’m a sucker for bold accent walls. I stumbled across this chevron wall (pictured above) and got lost on Pinterest for a while.

I’m not sure I could live with too bold of a chevron accent, but the chevron kitchen backsplash makes me happy! And I’m digging the nursery wall the more I look at it (or maybe that’s my baby fever). Would you try out an accent wall — maybe even chevron?

PC: Apartment Therapy, Target, Decor Pad, Soshay, Betapet, City Farmhouse, Project Nursery

// My hunt for the perfect apartment and how I would spend mornings in it

Love Habits

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When we first started dating, Erich and I were lovey-dovey, sappy, and rom-com worthy. He walked me everywhere, picked flowers to put in my hair while whispering dorky nothings, and left me the cutest love notes. My favorite: “Dear Bailey, I like you a lot. From, Erich.” (The from gets me every time.) I wrote him love letters when we were apart and listed 5 “Reese-sons” I loved him on the back of a Reese’s pack. (He just ate the Reese’s a couple weeks okay. Flowers wilt. Preservatives last forever. Buy candy.)

Now we’re old and lethargic and can’t think of cute things to say because we exhausted them all three months into dating. We tend to walk around saying, “I love you!” at various decibels: “I love you.” “I LOVE YOU!” “I love youuuuuu.” These are the top three words in our household, and they convey everything from, “I’m hungry” to “I’m bored” to “I’m sleepy; let’s cuddle,” depending on our inflections.

But when we got married, I noticed we rarely said those words at the end of the night or before getting up — the good night and good morning kiss — the kiss every successfully married couple employs. So I instituted love habits — things we train ourselves to do to show love even when we aren’t feeling loving, hungry, bored, or sleepy.

Our most followed love habit is kissing each other good night and good morning. The second is giving each other our full attention when the other person is speaking. We’re both lost in our own worlds, I about justice, theology, and emotions, he about rocks, video games, and Hamilton lyrics, so when I start talking about my emotions, he’s still thinking about the Immortals’ loss to TSM (League of Legends, anyone?). We’re not tracking. I’m the worst at this. I’ll say, “Uh huh,” maybe even ask a question, but all I hear are syllables and technical terms I don’t know. Once he stops talking, I’ll look up and say, “Wait, what? Can you start over?” And the process repeats itself until I say, “That’s awesome!” and fake, to both of us, that I was listening.

I’ve had this problem since I was a kid.

With our “love habit talk,” we made focusing on each other’s words a priority. Now, whenever the other person opens his or her mouth, the other stops, looks at the talking spouse, fully engages with what that person is saying, and then we drift back into our separate worlds. And a few minutes later, somebody shouts, “I LOVE YOU.”

These are our two love habits that we actually keep. Do you have any love habits that stuck with you and your SO?

// More on introvert marriage and more on #stegersrus marriage

PC: Elena Marie’s Photography

Something to Talk About

If you’re anything like me, you struggle with small talk. Every Friday, I put together a bunch of different things to talk about as you head into your weekend. Hopefully they’ll spare you a few awkward silences!


Three things to watch/read after hearing about the Stanford rape: Ann Voskamp’s letter to her boys, why asking God’s forgiveness isn’t enough, and the Brits explain consent in the simplest terms.

The most controversial post I’ve ever written.

Post-nuptial depression is, sadly, a thing.

The cereal companies have deceived us all! But now I want fruit loops….

Enjoy your weekend!

An Egalitarian Wife’s Submission

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On Monday I asked for your thoughts on a wife’s submission to her husband in an egalitarian relationship. I’m passionately egalitarian, and I am passionate about submitting to my husband. But this submission has nothing to do with his “authority” over me. My submission is about being Christ to him — showing him the grace, patience, and sacrifice Christ showed us in his Incarnation. I think marriage is sacramental, a conduit of grace directly from God’s heart to Erich’s and mine.

Before reciting our vows, Erich and I read this prayer together:

May we submit to one another out of reverence to Christ, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind; doing nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility counting the other more significant than ourselves; looking not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of the other; having this mind among ourselves, which is ours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

Crazy, right? Egalitarianism did not make submission any easier or less radical; it just made it clearer to me the necessity of being a little Christ to my husband, just as he is to me. Egalitarian marriage is not each partner giving only 50% and no more — there, all equal and fair. We give 110% and more. My submission isn’t a part of a role; it’s an extension of living Christ’s life — an emptied life, a giving life.

As I empty and give for my husband, I’m learning to empty and give for others — and vice versa. The call to submit takes over my whole life and all my relationships.

When I look at Paul’s commands to husbands and wives, I am more rebuked by his challenge to the husbands. I live in an almost-post-patriarchal culture and post-cross reality; my husband has no societal or spiritual authority over me. But as the more visionary, talkative, and authoritative partner, I am reminded that my spiritual gifts are not for lording over my quieter, service-minded husband. I tend to demand respect and attention — my way or the high way — but Ephesians 5 tells me to lay down my pride. It tells me my gift of words is for “nourishing and cherishing” my husband as my own body, one flesh, not for hating.

Honestly, as a four-week-old wife, I’m still at the start of living Christ’s life of submission: I’m still asserting myself, afraid to be humble, scared of being double-crossed and controlled. I’m still insisting on my own way because I know better. I’m still stuck at giving 50% and no more — fair and equal. I’m still using my ease with words and abstract thinking as bludgeons of power, not instruments of healing.

For me, submission means having the mind of Christ, asking, “How can I serve you? How can I understand you? How can I love you?” instead of, “Is this fair? What will you give me in return?” It means viewing egalitarian marriage as 110% sacrifice, not 50% and no more.

When it comes to dealing with selfishness, I use this mindset, combined with “nourishing and cherishing” words, to probe our disagreements. Instead of shooting back a hurtful zinger when he spouts off a harsh word, I try to nourish and cherish, heal and love: “Why did you say that? Did you realize your tone came across like this?” Then I share my wounds: “I dislike when you say things like that or say it in that tone. Can you please avoid those words in the future?” I married a humble man, so in our relationship, unless there are underlying issues or misunderstandings, a gentle answer really does turn away wrath.

When we disagree, we think of all disagreements as unfinished conversations. I’m extremely opinionated, but I consider his ideas as good as my own, knowing he also considers my ideas as good as his own. (In theory. In reality, we say, “No way” and “That’s stupid” to our ideas until one of us hits on a good one.)

Sometimes when things get “off” and somebody’s been selfish far too long, one of us might end up asserting himself or herself bluntly: “Stop being rude. You’ve been getting your way all week without considering my opinion.” And in those cases, where one of us is being a selfish tyrant, a coup is necessary, and we assert ourselves and our opinion — but only to reestablish wholeness.

My tl;dr of Ephesians 5 is, “Husbands and wives, be united as one flesh just as Christ is one with the church by elevating each other and humbling yourself.” When I have the mindset of “equal and fair,” I’ll overcorrect and assert myself above Erich — tyrannizing the tyrant. When I have the mindset of Christ, I just tap him on the shoulder and say, “Knock it off,” and he humbles himself. We heal whatever wounds happened during the tyranny until our one flesh, our wholeness, and our unity is restored.

And that, to me, is ultimately what submission is for — restoration and redemption.

What experiences have you, as a wife, had in mutual submission? I’m only married a few weeks; I’d love your wisdom!

// More on marriage: falling in love and dinner for two

PC: Madeline Barry

Coming Out Egalitarian: Responding to Personal Criticism

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Last week, I received several emails and messages from people concerned for my salvation, spiritual life, and marriage, all more or less stemming from my newly-professed egalitarianism. I was getting around to writing a series on coming out as egalitarian, so now seems as good a time as ever to start.

Coming out as egalitarian, a no-no belief in much of conservative Christianity, often paints you with a big red target that just begs for unsolicited alarm. It ranges from uncomfortable, qualified support to “Please tell me your backstory so I can assure myself you’re not going to hell.” Also, they all conclude with “I’m praying you.”

Side note: When you come out as egalitarian in a conservative community, by golly, woman, you will have so many people praying for you that you’ll be unstoppable.

If all the concern came as blog comments, it’d be easy to cheerfully say, “Thanks for your concern, but I promise I’m doing great!” But many times, these people who genuinely care want to enter into your personal life story and hold a conversation about their judgment of your dangerous beliefs, putting the pressure on you to prove egalitarianism doesn’t stem from your lack of faith, emotions, or impending apostasy. They tell you you’re wrong; that the truth is obvious; that they don’t agree with anything you say; that they’re genuinely worried about your soul — and then they expect you to spill your guts out to them about everything.

And of course, you feel awful, because you know they care and don’t mean to be condescending and because their caring condescension doesn’t make it feel any less like the Great White Throne Judgment: Show me the fruit of your faith now, or egalitarianism shall be the shackles that drag you to eternal suffering.

One of the worst feelings in the world is being on the defensive after someone says, “I doubt your faith.”

Another is, “Tell me all the personal reasons you believe egalitarianism. I feel called to correct you under the guise of pretending I won’t lecture you after you bare your soul.”

And it’s always the people who don’t know you well, isn’t it?

In light of this sort of personal, judgmental, but kindly meant criticism, I’ve developed two rules. The first is this: Never engage in a conversation that puts you on the defensive about your own spiritual journey or personal beliefs.

It’s a psychological nightmare. Your first reaction to such criticism is, “Actually, I’m not in danger of hellfire?” But then you question that, because of course you would say that if you’re not actually following God’s will. If you act confident about your beliefs, it just proves their point that you’re not open to hearing the truth. If you don’t act confident, you practically send an open invitation for further preaching. You lose either way.

It struck me that I didn’t need to prove to anyone that I was saved, sane, or anything else. I didn’t need to give strangers and acquaintances assurance that I was not walking off the deep end or slipping down a slope. I didn’t owe it to anybody to share my feelings, life story, or convictions unless I wanted to. I didn’t even need to engage in a conversation if I felt like it’d be unproductive or harmful.

Ten times out of ten, a conversation that starts like, “I’m right, and you’re wrong, and you need to convince me otherwise” is not going to be productive. The same goes for the opening line of, “I’m concerned about your salvation. Maybe you’re not actually a Christian?”

To such conversations, I have the freedom to politely say no, thanks, and go on my worry-free way.

The second rule is, Don’t put yourself on the defensive. And by that I mean, don’t play the victim. Don’t shut down valid criticism or questions. Don’t develop stereotypes out of the people who hurt you. Don’t give yourself an excuse to mock, assume, or dehumanize. Don’t become hardened. Stay soft, humble, and open to healthy dialogue. Be the bigger person. Experience the grief of being misunderstood, falsely accused, and patronized…and then let it go.

I’m terrible at this.

I try to remember that even in closing an unhelpful conversation, I can still model gracious dialogue and a humble spirit. As much as I hate hearing “I’m praying for you,” I try to sincerely say thanks. As much as it kills me to hear condescending words phrased as care, I try to genuinely appreciate their concern. I try to keep the door open for a better conversation in the future: “We can talk about this if you acknowledge that my viewpoint is valid too” or “I’m happy to discuss specific questions if we drop the subject of my personal salvation” or my favorite, “I’d be glad to hear your story.” And I remind myself that this sort of humility is good and needed.

During your coming out period, as you experience unsolicited personal criticism about your faith and your beliefs, join with me in praying this brave and humble prayer. We’ll need it.

Bless those who hurt me, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Those who hurt me have driven me into Thy embrace more than friends have.

Friends have bound me to earth; those who hurt me have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.

Those who hurt me have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world.

Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath Thy tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless those who hurt me, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world.

They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself.

They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments.

They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself. They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance.

Bless those who hurt me, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish.

Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a dwarf.

Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.

Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.

Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep.

Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out.

Truly, those who hurt me have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of Thy garment.

Bless those who hurt me, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me:

so that my fleeing to Thee may have no return;

so that all hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs;

so that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul;

so that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins: arrogance and anger;

so that I might amass all my treasure in heaven;

ah, so that I may for once be freed from self-deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

Those who hurt me have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself.

One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.

It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies.

Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and my enemies.

A slave curses those who hurt her, for she does not understand.

But a daughter blesses them, for she understands. For a daughter knows that her enemies cannot touch her life. Therefore she freely steps among them and prays to God for them.

Bless those who hurt me, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Amen.

— St. Nikolai of Ochrid, “Lord, Bless My Enemies” (modified)

What has been your experience with coming out as egalitarian? How do you respond to this sort of personal criticism?

// An important thing to know about complementarian women and why I became egalitarian

My Dream Apartment

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Erich and I just inquired about our first rental! We came up with a list of non-negotiables, like lots of natural light, a safe neighborhood, a washer and dryer (please please please), and no weird wall colors or patterns. (I came across this horrible Victorian-1940’s hybrid of a kitchen, and knew right then and there that no way could I live with weird floor tiles or wall paper!)

We’re so used to living in run-down off-campus houses and cramped dorm rooms that it feels odd getting a say about what we want in an apartment. Erich’s got his heart set on an “enormous three-bedroom home” for only $755 per month (utilities included!). I’m thinking that’s too good to be true — it mentioned aluminum siding, after all. I’m a skeptic, but we inquired for more info and photos today.

When dating, Erich and I would take walks around his neighborhood, pointing out what we did and didn’t like about each home. We both agreed that ranch-style houses were out of the question for our future, but other than that, we have opposite dream homes. I was thinking of a cozy one-bedroom apartment overlooking Milwaukee’s open-air Bayshore Mall — something modern, quirky, and full of color, white space, and life, like this:

apartment living

Erich wants a traditional home with extra rooms and corners, located in a quiet, introverted neighboorhood, and heavy on wood decor. (At least wood’s better than aluminum, right?) He finds the huge mansions fascinating; I think they’re terrifying and lonely. He probably wouldn’t mind a deerhead or two; I want all modern decor.

I’m interested to see what the mash-up of our dream home looks like. Honestly, I’m not too picky. I just want a roof, a couch, and air conditioning — and a kitchen without weird wall patterns.

What’s your dream home?

// A morning routine and some dishwashing advice if you end up without a dishwasher

PC: Cup of Jo

Was I Ever Saved?

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A friend asked for some advice sorting out her past relationship with God. As a child, she begged God for salvation, but it never seemed to “stick.” She never felt at peace about it. She thought her doubts were evidence that she wasn’t saved. Not only does this weigh heavy on her today, but she also feels awkward when people ask for her testimony. I think many of us can relate to these fears, so I’m sharing my (edited) response here.


These are heavy things to work through. I’ve been there, done that with the doubting my salvation thing.

Let me tell you something that’s both terrifying and freeing: you can’t judge your own salvation. Nobody can judge it. You’ll go crazy trying to figure out if you were saved at this time or that time or at all, because salvation isn’t a one-time thing.

Salvation is a healing process. The word “salvation” comes from the Latin word “salvus,” which means “safe, well, unharmed, sound, saved, healthy.” The early church developed their soteriology off this health metaphor.

Think about how health and illness work: sometimes you’re feeling strong and capable, ready to run and dance and persevere. Sometimes you’re curled up on a couch suckerpunched with the common cold. Sometimes you contract terrible illness, and you wonder if you’re going to survive. But your immune system is still working throughout all of this. You’re always in the process of getting well and getting healthier. Sometimes you seem closer to that goal, and sometimes you seem further.

And that’s okay! That’s normal. That’s how salvation works. Salvation isn’t just a one-time thing — BAM, you’re saved, end of story. Salvation is a process. Salvation is a healing. Salvation is a past, present, and future thing: you have been saved, you are saved, and you will be saved.

We’re also told that you shall know a tree by its fruits. The Spirit of God brings about good things. Your desire to be saved — that’s not from the devil. Your desire is so great that you’re willing to face up to all your doubt and work through it. That’s from God. That’s good fruit. As Thomas Merton prayed,

…the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road…

Friend, God is a merciful God. Trust in his mercy. Be certain of his mercy rather than of your own salvation, if that makes sense. He promises to save those who call on him. It’s not complicated. It doesn’t have to be perfect or doubt-free. It’s not your believing that saves you, but God’s mercy. Be certain of his mercy, and these doubts will go away (and come back again at another time, and then go away…). You don’t need to fix yourself or pray another prayer or “be saved”: you just need to find him again, find his mercy again. It’s a lifelong process, and it will be awful and wonderful, just like getting and staying healthy.

And about sharing testimonies — don’t worry if yours doesn’t wrap up into a neat little story with a beginning, middle, and end. Your entire life is a testimony. Your love, your struggles, your existence. Personally, I don’t have a lot of tied up ends right now. There are lots of gaping holes in my “testimony.” I talk about what God has done and what I wish he would do and where I’m at, but what God’s doing in my life is so massive and complicated that I could never shrink it down to a five minute soundbyte. Plus, probably the best things God’s doing in my life are the things I don’t even know about yet.

What further advice would you give my friend?

// The rest of Thomas Merton’s beautiful prayer and a suggestion for seeking the truth