Christ Lives in the Grey, by Kenzi Komenda
CHRIST LIVES IN THE GREY
By Kenzi Komenda
As a Christian, my loyalty and love for Christ is the foundation of my faith. It has been a great source of strength to me and has connected me to many of the people that I love. But, how do I respond when my loved ones choose a different path? It is this conflict that has broken down my spiritual foundation and given me an opportunity to rebuild in a way that I hope has led to a deeper understanding of the nature of Christ, His unconditional love for all of God’s children, and the unfathomable depth and breadth of His atonement.
I have been blessed with an incredible family that I adore in every way. I am the second of four children, two boys and two girls. Each of them and my parents are, aside from my own little family, the most important people in my life. When I was a freshman in college, my parents separated and a few years later, divorced. I had, and still have, a strong testimony of eternal marriages and families, but at the time it felt as if all of that was falling apart around me. I was angry, deeply saddened for my parents and siblings, and the eternal perspective I was taught to focus on felt shadowed by confusion.
My parent’s divorce was not the genesis for what most of my family and I experienced next in our faith journeys. Coincidentally though, it was around this time that all members of my family, including me, were gathering and reconstructing our faith as we coped with the ups and downs of our new family dynamic and other individual life trials. In the end, a few family members felt the faith system we were a part of wasn’t a good fit, and chose a path that felt very different from the one we were once unified under. As there began to be faith differences between us, I felt guarded and defensive. Looking back now and reflecting on why that was my impulse, I’ve realized that I was afraid. I was afraid for my own faith that I was so desperately clinging to. I was afraid for the salvation of my loved ones. I was afraid to hear or consider different points of view that might challenge the faith I was sheltering in what felt like an already stormy climate, and I allowed myself to be guided by that fear in my interactions with those I loved the most.
We would talk about things. Some points of question and conflict I related to, and others we heatedly discussed but respectfully disagreed on. I remember having a conversation with my dad as I tried to understand his particular point of view, and he said something that has now become the capstone of my testimony. He kept reiterating, “It isn’t so black and white.” At the time I was frustrated by that answer, but I have since come to realize that this statement is perhaps the most profound thing he could have shared to buoy me up, draw me closer to Christ, and nurture love and understanding for my loved ones and all of God’s children.
My dad was right, it isn’t black and white. There is a grey, and Christ lives there. He sweat great drops of grey, black, and white in the Garden of Gethsemane. His earthly life was a novel of betrayal, abandonment, misunderstanding and tragedy. He lived and died in all of the colors of pain, suffering, joy, and redemption. He suffered loss with the passing of John the Baptist and Lazarus. He was abandoned in His suffering in the garden and on the cross. He lost the faith of dear friends. He acquainted himself with the adulterer, the unclean, the apostate, the sick, and the destitute. His love and mercy were extended regardless of the level of devotion or belief from its recipient. And that is my charge as a woman of faith and a child of God striving and struggling to be His disciple–to see all of the colors, to love them deeply, and to be a vessel for Christ’s healing.
In the beginning, I felt so heavy with my own faith battle and so concerned about preserving myself, that both my husband and I went to one of our church leaders for guidance. Truthfully, I thought he would encourage me to keep my faith armor on and barricade myself from any influence that didn’t support my testimony. I hoped he might justify the need I felt to put my faith before anything else. Instead, he started by saying, “Your family needs your love now more than ever. By disengaging, you are thinking about YOU and blinding yourself to what they are going through. If they are going to feel Christ’s love for them, let it be in you.” He went on to explain that love can overcome fear, and that family ties are critical to us and our Heavenly Father. The Lord would never encourage us to abandon those ties, or to cut out important relationships in our lives based on faith differences. It was this inspired advice that has reshaped who I am and guided my discipleship every day since.
I recently revisited the account of the Samaritan woman at the well. The contention between the Jews and the Samaritans is mentioned multiple times in the New Testament, but I was unaware of the historical context. The Samaritans were a “mixed people”, containing both Israelite and Assyrian blood lines. They denied the doctrine of the Old Testament because they felt they had been mistreated in its teachings and fought for their status as Israelites by claiming they were descendants of Jacob. Because of this, the Jews, who considered themselves God’s chosen people, considered the Samaritans to be more unclean than a Gentile of any other nationality. The divide between these nations was so severe that there was a separate and far longer path paved around Samaria between Judea and Galilee in an effort to avoid contact. Tensions between the Jews and Samaritans were at their peak during Christ’s ministry, which makes His response to this people even more significant to me.
On Christ’s journey to Galilee, He purposefully took the shorter route through Samaria and stopped at a well for water. He asked a Samaritan woman for a drink, to which she responded “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” (John 4:9, ESV) It was then that Christ made it His mission to testify to her that He was the living water- something she qualified for regardless of her belief system or nationality. Even in her doubt and questioning, He persisted in His desire to share Himself with her, until eventually there was a gathering of Samaritans at His feet. Some of them stayed and some of them didn’t, but He made this specific people, considered apostate and unclean, an important part of His ministry. He came to them where they were and offered the most sacred and powerful parts of Himself freely.
Much like Peter as Christ was taken by the Pharisees before His crucifixion, I have often felt the impulse to cut off the ear of those who see Christ differently than I do. Christ, however, led by example in immediately attending to and healing the wound. For too long, I thought the call to be Christlike gave me authority to judge, correct, and inflict punishment by withholding my love and acceptance from those who I felt were attacking or opposing my Savior. I have since realized that this response works against His nature and the purpose of His sacrifice. Christ’s most important calling for us is to “love one another; as I have loved you…” (John 13:34, KJV) and let all other feelings, specifically those stemming from fear, fall away. If I could go back in time, I would tell the girl who felt so confused and so afraid that it’s ok to let Christ’s love be more powerful than her fear. Instead of succumbing to the impulse to inflict or deepen wounds, I would encourage her to heal instead.
Things have not been perfect for my family since then. We continue to have our ups and downs with life and faith. But through the years, I have grown to appreciate some of the suffering my family members have seen in their lives; things I can’t begin to understand or fix, but it is my faith that He can. I believe that all sources of love are actually just Christ’s presence in our lives, and this love runs deep to the core of the relationships between my family members and I. Each one of them has taught me that Christ’s atonement is not just for repentance and forgiveness, but it is also for compassion, understanding, and empathy. It sustains the scale of difference in circumstances, life experiences, and paradigms. It validates mental and emotional trauma. It understands specific life plans and obstacles, and it encircles every single one of God’s children, whether they want it or not. It sees all of the wounds and all of the colors. I will continue to pray for eyes that see the fullness of that in His children so I can extend Christ’s love and healing unconditionally.