I have grown weary and worn and discouraged and even hurt by the dividing that happens in this "kingdom of God". Wheat or tares, sheep or goats... Driscoll or Bell... in or out... weren't we told by Jesus that was a job for the angels???
I am far from the place I began my journey sitting with my head covered, silent in that little Bible Chapel on Walworth Street in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
I have felt the sorting. The dividing, the parsing into clubs that so many need to feel safe. I have been made to feel many times that I have stepped off that straight and narrow path I was raised on... how tragic it is that for me personally this path I tread now has lead me deeper and farther into my own heart and the heart of God than I have ever had before.
I found at a time, when everything tasted like dust, words and thoughts that very few in the kingdom would dare to utter. They were life to me. A clarion call through the fog that my spiritual life had become. Creativity and soul and poetry and art were supposed to be a part of this journey, not a trivial waste of time or effort?!?! I found those words in the mouth of a boy named Rob Bell... he was a punk kid at a conference I attended, in a little room at a big hotel, late at night while rock concerts were going on in the big room. He had made a movie, it was like 6 minutes long... and nobody knew who he was. He was humble, quirky and deep. I liked him instantly. There were only about two dozen of us in the room. He talked about his idea to tell the truth, but tell it slant (not his words, but mine...errr. well Emily's) And I have followed him since.
I never really had a pastor before that time, mostly they were my husbands bosses, or back in the old days pastors were not "biblical"... so Rob Bell became a pastor to me, far away, words listened to through my computer, films watched on dvd... words read on pages of quirky weird postmodern books, but they fed a part of my soul that had been starved since I was a child. Life became much more full, I became much less morose and God incarnated within me and gave birth to a soul that I never dreamed could be possible.
Is this the path everyone should be walking? I don't think so, but for me I honestly can say it changed everything. It may have even saved my life. I have felt great shame for my emerging soul. I have kept much of my writing and passion to myself because of that severe judgement and wrath sent upon the heads of those who stuck their necks out. I have lost friends, family and relationships because of my journey.
My word for 2012 is BRAVE. As a part of embracing that word I have decided that I'm going to let the chips fall where they may. I'm tired of feeling ashamed for something that brings me great joy and life - and I'm done hiding my self, silencing my voice and folding myself into tiny little pieces to keep others mollified. I will not argue. I will not debate. But I will not be silent any more. More light than heat is what I long for. I'm weary of that age old division, that snide looking down the nose of those who hold their faith in exclusive clubs. I don't belong, I never have, but I have found a place where I have community, and deep conversation and inspiration and real life. I am of Paul... I am of Apollo... I am finished. I am beginning.
This morning I was pushed by the words I read, again, by Rob Bell in his farewell to his church, many of them have had to sit with the same judgement and disdain that I have felt - his response and encouragement to them took my breath away.
"i write this to you because of how many of you have been
challenged about your participation in the life of this
church, often with the accusation: but what do they believe
over there at mars hill?
as if belief, getting the words right, is the highest form of
faith. Jesus came to give us life. a living, breathing, throbbing,
pulsating blow your hair back tingle your spine roll the
windows down and drive fast experience of God right
here, right now.
word taking on flesh and blood.
and so you've found yourself defending and explaining
and trying to find the words for your experience that is
fundamentally about a reality that is beyond and more than
so when you find yourselves tied up in knots, having
long discussions about who believes what, a bit like
dogs doing that sniff circle when they meet on the sidewalk,
take out a cup
and some bread
and put it in the middle of the table,
and say a prayer and examine yourselves
and then make sure everybody's rent is paid and there's
food in their fridge and clothes on their backs
and then invite everybody to say
'yes' to the resurrected Christ with whatever 'yes' they
can muster in the moment and then you take that bread
and you dip it in that cup in the ancient/future hope and
trust that there is a new creation bursting forth right here
right now and
then together taste that new life and liberation and
forgiveness and as you look those people in the eyes gathered around that table from all walks of life and you see the new
humanity, sinners saved by grace, beggars who have
found bread showing the others beggars where they found it
remind yourselves that
remember, the movement is word to flesh.
beware of those who will take the flesh and want to turn it
back into words"
Beware of those who will take the flesh and want to turn it back into words...
I welcome you to break bread with me - to find the common in and amongst
our uncommon ways. I bless you on your path, and know that mine is
mine alone - and I walk with those limping, misfit, rag tag bunch of
ragamuffins I adore.
You can find the complete farewell here: Rob Bell's Parting Epistle to Mars Hill: Grace + Peace