So last night I had the pleasure of hearing Rob Bell speak in person. I also had a short convo with him hoping to relay how much I appreciate his ministry. Not entirely sure I was able to articulate that in my sudden nervousness (OH MY GOSH! THIS IS REALLY ROB BELL???). But I wanted to make contact especially since there are so many people who take him to task on orthodoxy or his popularity. I find it amusing in as much as it is sour grapes but I do sometimes feel hurt for him because some of the criticism is harsh ( like for his book Love Wins) and it is no easy task to put yourself out there. My husband was with me last night at the State theatre in Ithaca, NY. One of the things I said to him as we got there was, “I am either going to know he is the real deal or I am going to be disappointed and concerned that I have encouraged his work.” But I was mentally prepared for either. I am happy to say, he is the real deal. He is simply a person who has the ability to articulate the Gospels in the modern experience. He is passionate about his work, he sets high standards and asks hard questions, but he is genuine. How do I know??? I don’t know…I just know.
There are few things I am good at, but I am good at seeing God’s work in front of me. (Or I should say being open to God’s work in life?) Perhaps that sounds haughty…it shouldn’t. I have spent my life seeking God, trying to be in tune with God, and just as with anything else, practice makes all the difference. Well, I do hear the Gospel message conveyed and it was in the context of stand up comedy…he was hysterical! (Ironically, we wanted to go see Seinfeld at a local theatre the day before…there was no need, Rob was killing us!) That, I didn’t see coming!
What he spoke of was grace, the ability to let go, to laugh, to not take yourself so seriously, to be open to where God is leading you…to understand that when you fail it isn’t final. To see endings as also beginnings. To live with your palms open to the opportunity of God’s love. Sounds quite Ignatian don’t you think?One image I was moved by was the flashlight vs. the lamp. We are a generation of flashlight users…we can see quite a ways ahead of us when we are navigating the unknown darkness. But the people of the Bible only had a lamp…which only lights your next step. We have to trust that each step leads to where God wants us to be. We may not have any idea what that means today or tomorrow but if we proceed not so much with caution, (and this part is my editorializing) but with trust, we may find a whole new life we never imagined. So wow, was any of that really heretical? No. I feel grateful to be in the presence of someone who has made a difference in the way people relate to their God. I think that we need to bear in mind that Jesus warned us, not only in the Gospel but in the example of his own life, that there will be people who hear the Word but not know the Word. I think that the people who are so wound up in the idea that his message is misleading need to go back and internalize the message of the Gospels. Read them with your heart as well as your mind. Bearing historical reference and context in mind while looking for the greater love with which we are called to accept from God and to extend to one another.It was a night well spent though the journey was a little perilous as we in NY got an early snowstorm. But I think that is the way it is, at times, as believers, the journey can be perilous for many reasons, but you keep going and when you come to rest, rest in the Lord, it will be time well spent.God Bless his ministry.