A little over ten years ago someone handed me a CD with a sermon on it and said, "listen to this." I put it in my backpack and forgot about it for a few weeks. I pulled it out though one day and popped it in my CD player and listened.
I was mesmerized. I listened to that sermon over and over again.
It was about Jesus and his disciples. It was about the Jewish understanding of "rabbi." It was about who this group of men were before they followed Jesus and who they were afterwards.
That sermon changed my life. Literally. I started believing different things about God and me. I didn't know it then, still deeply rooted in my conservative Bible-belt Christianity, but that message made me look at the Bible differently.
Not long after that, I sat in the garage-turned-classroom of the college aged Sunday school class at my home church and listened to the teacher talk about scripture as a prism. How the ancient Jews viewed scripture that way, knowing that if you held it up to the light of truth, the colors would refract out in an array of angles, and if you turned it ever so slightly, the pattern would completely change.
And a few years later my heart got broken. By a boy, yes, but mostly by God. I had been as in love with the boy as I knew what love meant then, but I had trusted God. I had thought I heard God and ignored some warnings in my gut in favor of the "divine guidance" I thought I heard. In favor of the "voice of God" I had learned to divine through years of pew-sitting and Bible-reading.
So when my heart got broken I was bruised and scarred by the boy for a season, prone to the habits and feelings most broken-hearts endure I am sure. But with God the brokenness felt like a shattering. Stained-glass perfection in a thousands shards that poked and pricked and drew blood no matter which way I stepped it seemed.
I sat in church pews with white knuckled grips on my Bible and left in the middle of more than one "just trust God" sermon.
The broken heart healed first, the shattered soul a while later. Neither are ever the same of course, but I kind of think that's a good thing.
Today, the preacher who preached that sermon on the CD is nationally known, though few knew who he was back in 2003. He's known for a progressive view of Christianity. He probably gets called a heretic as often as he gets called a saint. I don't agree with all of his views and have never heard another of his sermon's that changed me the way that first did, but that's ok. I needed that first one.
In the years where I struggled to stay committed to a God who I thought had failed me, I kept trying to turn that prism and see the light a different way. It took a while, but I finally got it to move a bit, finally saw another possibility. It didn't wipe away hurt, but it brought some healing.
I am thankful for that now-controversial preacher and for my Sunday school teacher - for daring to suggest that there were other ways to see God, to see scripture, to see myself. I didn't "need" the message on those days, but God preserved the truth in my soul and they served as strings gently tugging me back, holding me tight, during the years when nothing made sense.