The Estates, Part I

When The Owner began, the land was wild. 

All manner of trees and plants grew every which way.  Wild animals wandered about the place.  Thorny flowers and poison ivy over ran it. 

The man first built a shelter.  The shelter became a house.  The house became a home that was almost a mansion.

The land near the home was cultivated.  Long, long rows of trees grew.  Fields of fruit were there.  And farm animals.  It became something of an estate.  It ran efficiently.  It was nearly perfect.  And so it was for some time.

But the man saw that it was missing something.  There was no one to enjoy the harvest with him.  There was no one to learn His ways… Really, what was the point of it all?  Just simply to perpetuate itself? 

And so The First Helpers came.  They lived in the man’s mansion. 

Some of The First Helpers did not understand.  They were spoiled perhaps, because they had never known how things were before.  They thought that the man was unnecesary.  They did not see that his rules were what gave the place its beauty.  With a heavy heart, he cast out those among The First Helpers who would not submit.  They took up residence in the wastelands beyond the estate, in the wilderness beyond the farm.

The First Helpers who remained grew in harmony with the place.  It was almost as if they were a part of the place itself, so smoothly did they integrate themselves to the day-to-day running.  But there was a wall, an upper limit.  They loved each other, the old man and The First Helpers… but there was this limit on the communion they could enjoy together.  It was something about the fact that they had been brought into the mansion.  Somehow, they had become disconnected from the very ground that was underneath it.  Somehow, they failed to grasp that there was something larger than the four walls they lived in.  They listened carefully.  They learned from the man.  They took his word for it.  But they couldn’t actually experience the truth themselves.  As wise, benevolent, and loyal as they were, in some way they were simply stunted.

And so the man hired a servant.  And the servant lived in the garden.  The man would come down from his mansion each day.  They would spend time together, the man and the servant. 

“This is your home.”  The man said “Perhaps some day you will join me up on the hill.  But that is another day.  For now, I would like you to live here.  Lie in the cool shade of my trees.  Discover who you are, in this place.”

What the man and the servant discovered is that the servant was lonely.  He was a social creature, the servant.  He would discover who we was only with the help of another servant to help define him, to help him understand himself.

And so the old man welcomed another servant.  He spoke to them both.

“Pluck my vegetables from the ground.  Pick my fruits from these trees.  Slaughter my animals when you are hungry.  Make this place your home.  Discover who you are: together.  But know this, too: This place was made by my two hands.  No one knows a thing like the one who built it.  And I did build this place.

You may feel that you could build a place like this.  I will tell you that you could not, but I fear that you will not take my word for it.  I love you.  But I also love this place that I have made.  If you will not work in harmony with this place I have made, then it could all be ruined.  So I will tell you this: there are rules here.   If we can not agree that my ways are the ways which make this place operate, then we endanger the very fabric of this estate.  And so I will set this rule before you: There is a tree which is mine, and mine alone.  There is only one tree, in the whole of this place, which you must leave alone.”


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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