The Challenge of God’s Voice

By Geila Rajaee

I can clearly remember the moment that I decided I was going to become a Christ follower – I was in church one Sunday morning and I simply thought, “Yeah, this is it.” There was no fan-fare, no warming of the heart, no conversation with anyone about what I had just acknowledged to myself. Truthfully, it was easy. It’s been everything since that moment that has been incredibly difficult.

Over the past fifteen years or so, there have moments that have called for seeing the world differently, to being invited into a life that asks for so much more. While in college, I learned from one of my professors about the nuances of conversion and that work of becoming in one’s faith life takes a lifetime. He talked about the importance of personal conversion, of finding new life in Christ but only as a first step. This, for me, was the easiest since it felt the most natural.

But there is another part that was and is more difficult for me – allowing God to renew my perceptions of the world and challenge what living as Christ follower really looks like. For me, it meant challenging my understanding of what it meant to care for the ‘other’ and realizing that perhaps there is no ‘other’ in the eyes of God. During the start of Afghani war I remember sitting at my desk and drawing two stick figures – one of an Afghani person and another of an American person – and being terrified to realize that both were people made in the image of God.

The categories of ‘American’, ‘woman’, ‘Christian’ are valued (or de-valued) in the eyes of some people but when God looks at us, we are simply “child of God.” Being a Palestinian, Israeli, immigrant, gay, straight, or any other ‘identification’ that we use to categorize others sometimes only disconnect and separate us from our innate belonging as children of God.

This has been the more difficult ‘conversion’ over my lifetime because it asks me to look deeper and relate to people with the eyes and heart Christ would have for them. For me this means celebrating the diversity of God’s beloved children and welcoming them into my heart. Honestly, it can be a struggle sometimes to love people who are so different than me or have different values than my own…. But this is where God works. Challenging me to see them as my sisters and brothers.

Where have you been challenged to be converted or transformed? Does God continue to call us to something more…?

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  9 comments for “The Challenge of God’s Voice

  1. August 11, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    Thanks Michelle for the excellent reflection upon the lifelong conversion of the soul. Paul’s verb in Romans 12:2 is μεταμορφοῦσθε, metamorphousthe, or “be transformed”, an ongoing, present tense imperative. Ongoing conversion comes through “giving up, waving the white surrender flag, opening our lives to God for the healing, cleansing, forgiving, renewing work of God’s Spirit deep within our souls. This is the true purpose of fasting. As a result, we begin to live with less violence, less selfishness, less corruption, and thus make room in our soul to live with more kindness, more selflessness, and more compassion to those around us, even if those around us are our enemies.” Quoted from Jonah Project Week 37, written by Covenant Minister from Cannon Beach, online at http://cannonbeachcommunity.blogspot.com/2014/08/jonah-project-37.html.

    • August 11, 2014 at 4:09 pm

      Oops, I refered to Michelle, but see now that this fine post is written by Geila. Lovely and thanks!

  2. Michelle
    August 12, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    Geila – you are right about identity markers that take the wrong place in the hierarchy of identity markers. I think things such as nationality, gender, and religion matter, but they are used more often as sources of power and control as well. I think your challenge – called to something more – is precisely about that. Power. New birth is about a God who divested him/her/their-self of all power to become human. Christ did not count equality as something to be grasped – not the point. The point? God redefined what it means to be divine (giving up power) – which is a crazy concept for other world religions. So why then do we born again people assert our power within those categories you name (nationality, gender, religion)? Fear? A lot of questions – Geila, anyone, feel free to weigh in!
    PS. No problem David, I’m happy to be confused with Geila :).

    • August 13, 2014 at 11:18 pm

      Two basic reasons, IMHO, Michelle: first, as you write Michelle, insecurity–we cling to what is temporal out of deep fear and insecurity that God is not sufficient; second, idolatry–we put anything other than God in the Center and then nationality, ethnicity, gender, religion becomes what we worship.

    • Cathy Norman Peterson
      August 17, 2014 at 8:39 pm

      So interesting to talk about new birth in the context of relinquishing power…I never combine those two conversations! As a younger person, I think I assumed that my conversion confirmed the fact that I was “in,” and thus innately gained some power in being right. Clearly a travesty of what Jesus called us to…yet all too common, I fear.

      • August 18, 2014 at 11:56 am

        You aren’t a younger person anymore, Cathy? This distresses me as we are the same age!

  3. jengillan
    August 14, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Thank you, Geila, for bringing up the issues of power and identity into this conversation. In light of the recent events in Ferguson and so much hate toward otherness in the world lately, I think that this topic is so fitting and crucial to what new birth means. I don’t know what is at the core of this issue of power/identity, but I agree that fear and perhaps self-preservation are near that core. Fear and self-preservation seem to be so instinctual to our human nature that it requires a process of de-conversion from that and a daily, life-long conversion to openness toward the ‘other’ and becoming like our God who, as Michelle reminded us, relinquished power out of love. I’m reminded that I need to be reborn daily into this new identity and way of being that is so contrary to what we have been taught and or have been wired to be.

  4. August 14, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    I was raised with the phrase (or some semblance of it) that “the ground is level at the foot of the cross”. However, the distinctions you point out are real and divide us into a caste system that was never intended. I wonder, especially in the light of the happenings in our world today; religious and race wars, racial inequality and rioting in our country, discrimination on so many fronts, whether or not we will ever really see clearly the level ground at the foot of the cross, as I believe Jesus saw it from the cross. So, Lord save us from ourselves?

  5. August 18, 2014 at 9:58 am

    This is an interesting conversation from the original post. I was reading Richard Rohr on Gender and Spirituality this week. He discusses the genre of initiation rites (invitations to discipleship) and the differences the rites have for men and women. Men’s rites are all toward “powerlessness” and women’s rites are toward “empowerment.” I read similarly for Native American rites with men and women that occur during puberty. I think there is something here for our reflection on new life, considering that this is a blog by phenomenal female writers. Instead of reading “kenosis” without the gift of womanhood involved (which too often reduces to classic male normativity readings), how is it to read kenosis as a woman? What is power beyond a destructive force?

    As a male seeking greater feminine capacity (ala Ken Wilber) by reading womanist and feminist theologians, I render “kenosis” as an act of generosity (giving away and not giving up). Christ did not grasp his power, he gave it all away knowing the cup will always overflow (even in the face of suffering and persecution). #amanisansweringaquestionmeantforwomen

    Thank you for the invitation to read this blog, I am impressed with the company of writers!

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