The breeze was soft and the air outside just a bit sticky, which meant the curls in my hair were curlier than usual. Never a bad thing from my perspective, particularly for a first date. As the sun set, the sky shone bright with pinks and purples and expectation. Founders Red’s Rye IPA provided me with a taste of familiar amidst a whole lot of nerves.
So far we’d talked about favorite road trips, buffalo style hot wings, and David Foster Wallace.
So far, so good.
And then, with a casual reference to first communion, the subject matter took a sharp turn. Coming from different faith backgrounds, we could feel our traditions bumping up against each other. As we sought to be honest, we found ourselves confessing where we currently stand with our faith.
“I don’t exactly know what God and I are doing right now,” he said. “I just have a lot of discomfort with what I find in the Bible. And it’s easiest for me to avoid God in the midst of it.”
“You mean, you don’t know what to make of a book that actually carries instructions regarding the slaughter of other peoples and the taking of their women?” I had cocked my head and was playing with a smile as he stared at me.
“Well, YES!” he admitted, and we both erupted with laughter.
“Me either,” I agreed.
A couple of weeks passed, and I started to sense that while this man and I carry a lot of the same questions about God and the Bible, we’re carrying them in different ways…one of us leaning into the tension and one of us preferring to stay out of it. One of us ok with our differences and one of us still tentatively finding her way back to risk. The alarms in my head start to buzz when I see this much of a gap in between us.
There goes the Bible, taking perfectly enjoyable conversations and turning them awkward with purity laws, genocide, and some xenophobic ideologies.
Remind me why I’m pursuing an MDiv again…
My Old Testament class just muddled our way through Deuteronomy.
To be frank, this book and it’s opinions on what a woman is and isn’t allowed to do with a man’s genitals in order to save her husband during a fist fight (Deut. 25) has never been a source of refuge, comfort or vision in my faith. And to be fair—of course that is my perspective. These writings reflect the experiences of a people who wandered the earth thousands of years before I ever existed.
So I don’t know what to do with this book. But I also don’t get to walk away from these writings—they’re part of the faith I claim, and they belong in the story I’m walking.
When I sit with Deuteronomy, there is something about it that moves me. It’s the great Shakespearean monologue of the Bible—Moses has learned he is going to die, so he gathers his composure and takes his place at center stage to speak with the people one last time.
And do you know what he says?
Over and over again.
“Remember the day you stood before the Lord at Horeb” (Deut. 4)
“Remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years” (Deut. 8)
“…remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you” (Deut. 15)
Moses parts from those he has loved so long with a deep and passionate cry—remember the name of your God. Remember how he moves. Remember that he loved you first and heard your cries. Remember that we obey him now out of gratitude. Remember that a life without Sabbath and rhythm is slavery.
For Moses, remembering involved the people differentiating themselves with some very particular instructions about not sleeping with sisters or mother-in-laws and not playing dirty in order to rescue your man from a fight.
That is not what remembering requires of me. But the spirit of exhortation found in Deuteronomy does apply to my world—remember God has entered spaces that felt hopeless and dark to redeem his people. Remember that you are God’s people. Remember they, whoever they are, are God’s people. Remember that God journeys with all of us in wilderness.
Remember that God has not forgotten your story.
As I sip my beer here on a patio wondering why exactly it feels so difficult to stay alive to hope and alive to the Word and alive to longing all at once, remember that God is here in the tension, meeting me day after day.
And next time, remember that maybe I don’t have to jump into Deuteronomy on a first date.
Katy Johnson lives, dreams, writes, and edits in a messy, watercolored world. She’s a 28 year old seminary student, discovering her hope, her longings, and the wild spaces in her own heart. Her favorite creative project right now is called Will I Break?, and someday, that manuscript may see the light of day. For now, she shares her thoughts here.