The meanings of it all

Michelangelo's painting of the sin of Adam and...
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At church today, I was struck hard by one of the songs.  Particularly by these lyrics, “Where you lead me Lord, I will follow/ where you heal me Lord, I will go.”

I don’t quite know why I was so struck by these lines.  It doesn’t hurt that Laurie, who song them, it’s like her voice was made for this part of the song.  Whatever it was,  it practically left my weeping. 

I had this  realization that the fall happened on so many levels, and the redemption as well means so many different things.

One of the many ways we try to put God in a box is that we pick and choose one thing that the fall and redemption meant.  For example, there is a traditional strain of Christianity that has been all about the idea that the fall of mankind meant that individual souls are destined to spend eternity in Hell.   On this account, the redemption of Jesus opens up the possibility for individual souls to end up in heaven.

There is a more contemporary, social-justice minded strain of Christianity that says the fall of mankind was about a brokenness in the social fabric.  The redemption of Jesus, these people say, is about the restoration of a political, collective reality.

Others might point to the cosmic, external ramifications of the fall.  The external world was broken when Eve and Adam ate the fruit.  As Paul tells us, the whole of creation is groaning in anticipation of Christ’s return.

The unlikely bedfellows post modernists and born-agains focus on the fall as a place where a relationship was broken.   Jesus life and death were the place where that relationship gets restored.

Permit me, if you will, a little digression on that last thought.

I think it’s worth being a little catious when the preoccupations of a certain place and time appear to explain something outside of that place and that time.  It’s been pointed out that hydraulic systems were all the rage at the time of Freud, and this influence plays itself out in how Freud explained consciousness.  In the early 80’s, holograms were a new and nifty idea.  I remember a book came out which explained the way the brain works by referring to the nature of holograms.

Similarly, relationships in general are incredibly important to post moderns.  It’s worth getting a little skeptical, when post moderns make Jesus’ sacrifice about relationship.  It’s important to ask, “Did it take the post modern lens to identify the importance of relationship?  Or did the post modern lens lead us to project an emphasis on relationship that was already there.”

I’m not saying that viewing the fall as a place where relationships were broken is all wrong.  Especially if the term “relationship” is used in the widest possible sense: not just about the interaction between two different personalities, but the interaction between one personality and the world around it.

(We use the term “personality” in this second, wider sense, when we say things like “I have an unhealthy relationship with food.”  Nobody thinks you’re suggesting that food has a personality.  They get that it’s about your interactions with the impersonal food.)

It seems to me, at the bare minimum,  in the Garden of Eden, our relationship with each other was broken; our relationship with our creator was damaged; our relationship with our future destination was imperiled; our relationship with the outside world was shattered.

This is to say nothing of our relationship with ourselves.

It’s so hard to wrap my brain around the fullness of it all: the utter devestation caused by the fall, the amazing glory of Jesus life and death.  Actually, I guess that it’s more than just hard.  It’s impossible.

That’s why it’s so awesome that my thoughts aren’t really what counts.  The whole thing isn’t a brain thing.  It’s a faith thing.  Faith means that my heart has to be ready for the truth, it doesn’t mean that my mind needs to comprehend it.


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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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