It All Came Together.

For the first time, maybe ever, Last week, I could not sit in church through a service. I love my church. I love the idea of worshipping God. But these life circumstances I am facing, they were like a pile of tinder. My attitude was a spark.
I had a splitting head ache. The lights felt like icepicks going after my temples. The guitars were digging into my ears. The sound of the vocals grated, and the words were such a cruel joke to me right then.
I don’t actually think the band was doing anything different than it ever does.
But I wasn’t able to see how it all worked together, as I sat there. Recognizing how God is at the middle of everything, that can make that space sacred. But it wasn’t. Because I wasn’t able to see how it all worked together, as I sat there.
By “it” I mean the music. And also everything else.
I left the service and retreated to my car. I eased the seat back and shut my eyes and their was the crackle of fire, the rising of smoke.

It’s been a hard week. Yesterday, I went for a hike.
I do all of my best yelling at God in the outdoors.
I have yelled at God during rough times for a while now. Even before I was a Christian, I was a fan of Madeline L’Engle’s young adult fiction. In one of her books, a pastor counsels a teen-ager. He observes that God is big and tough and he can handle our anger.
As I have developed a relationship with Him, I have seen first hand the wisdom in that. I have found that all of our relationships flourish when we can be open about being upset. This does not mean rage is in the driver seat. But also, we can’t lock it away in the trunk like a kidnapping victim.
I was walking fast. I was, like the guy in that comedy movie (Dewey Cox, maybe?) walking hard. I was walking angry. When we are angry, we are hardwired for tunnel vision. I was not taking in the wholeness of where I was. I saw some things that were directly in front of me. And that was all.

Just as I couldn’t hear the beautiful thing that was made by the guitar, drum beat, and vocals intertwining, the wholeness of the forest was not soothing me at first. Usually it does. It’s not only the breeze, or the fresh air, or the sounds of a burbling river that do it. It’s the way they all come together.
Somewhere between me and God came the idea that walking is running in slow motion. It’s symbolic, some times, of fleeing. And I found, from somewhere, the courage to just sit. It was this little stone bench.
I realized what I needed to do was to hold the pain. Just sit with it. Stop running and own it and accept it.
We don’t have a word, I think, for when all your senses gather together to come into focus at the same time. We should.
As this focusing, this converging, happened to me on that bench, I had this sense that there was somebody sitting next to me. And He was holding my pain with me.
I know that I am halfway to that cheesy “footprints” parable. I wish I could say that Jesus carried me, and I am simultaneously repulsed by the cliché of all that. He didn’t carry me, though. He sat with me, and He held my pain with me. And everything seemed like maybe it was going to be o.k.
As I walked back, there was this little boy. He darted around like gravity had no claim on him. He moved in this awesomely unselfconscious dance. His arms and legs moving in ways that defied what our joints should do.
He was just a part of the whole thing. It was a perfect moment, watching his joy as the sunlight filtetred green through the canopies, as the freshened oxygen filled my lungs, as Jesus carried my pain with me.
Church was a lot better today.

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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.

3 thoughts on “It All Came Together.”

  1. Thanks to you both. Jenn, I was so taken with that little metaphor, I tortuously stretched it into an entire paragraph. I shrunk it back down, but am glad you like it. I did too.
    Jeff, thanks for your kindness. Love is a pretty groovy thing, Doing my best to live by it. It’s cool to have it noticed, now and again.


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