I have self-identified as a Christian – a follower of Jesus Christ – for some thirty years now; truly, all my life. I’m one that “grew up in church”. Yet the label and the theology began to hold a deeper meaning for me during a time of change and growth in my early twenties, and since that time the influence of the church, the Bible and the teachings of others about the Bible have had powerful sway over my beliefs, my attitudes, my sense of place, my values, my relationships and my focus.
I’m far from perfect; in that regards there are glaring examples to be found in the details of my life experiences and history thus far. Hello – in MY DAILY LIFE. But I am not claiming – or even in search of – perfection.
I am, quite simply, following.
And an interesting thing is happening lately, a ‘morphing’ of sorts; something that feels new and fresh and vigorous and yet, in fact, is nothing more than the connective blooming of all the past years of attaching myself to the things of the church and spirituality and Jesus.
I spend a good deal of time entrenched in music – for the weekly church meetings I help to lead, but also for my own soul. When given the opportunity, I stand in gatherings and sing – loudly – and express my spiritual longing with my body, engaged in lifting hands and waving arms and swaying a good bit and some sort of white-girl, mildly inhibited ‘dancing’. It’s ridiculous, and I need a little space around me or I’ll likely hit someone. We call it ‘worship’, loosely, but it’s breathing and presence and exhaling and inhaling deeply. It is fuel for me.
Sunday night services – new this summer – have given me this opportunity on a regularly basis – to be part of a gathering with little thought to my responsibility for it (which is not always the case in church work) and simply engage. I’m grateful.
But not just because it was a nice moment, or because it felt good or satisfied some emotional need. It’s all part of working out this life I have been given, walking out my opportunities to grow and understand and reach and dig deeper and live. I return home after 13-hour days on Sunday feeling utterly spent; and yet totally filled. These unique worship experiments are engendering change in me, a freedom and freshness that is welcome and needed and causing things to grow.
Also, I am recently reading voices other than the usual (in my experience) cultural icons that pervade the evangelical culture. Compelled by a dissatisfaction that I can’t really circle, I’m looking. Seeking. Searching. At other times in my life, this search would have be on the surface – looking for some filler of the human variety. Different friends, new relationships, a new job, a new church. I am prone to rearrange the furniture in the house frequently, in search of a better fit, a new approach; I’ve done that in my life too often, as well.
It is not always a good thing.
But those days have passed, at least in terms of friends and jobs and the major contents of life (although I still rearrange the living room furniture every few months. Because change…) I am content, settled, at peace. Something in my soul has been satisfied and filled with trust and a necessary acceptance of self.
And yet I am still searching, and it has become an exploration of the depth and breadth of spirit and the point of community and church and Jesus and worship and all such things. I stand on solid ground and yet I find myself cartwheeling off the cliffs on a weekly basis. There was a time when the thought of jumping would terrify me; today, it is a joyous explosion of energy.
I always land, safely. That is my understanding of the depth and breadth of God, the Creator, the One who was and is and is to come. It is solid.
I’m reading a good bit of Richard Rohr these days, and quoting him in various settings; but mostly reading and reaching for the bits of bread left behind on his journey, because somehow I know that I am walking an unfamiliar yet well-populated path, and that he is one of many who left the midway of theological culture with all its bright lights and fancy prizes earned by valiant efforts to win and win and win again to walk slowly, carefully, wildly, desperately toward the eternal something. It spirals downward and upward and from side to side – but always, the anchor holds.
Mixing up these metaphors and influences is drawing all things together in my soul that I can feel but can’t quite articulate or understand just yet. The infusion of ‘grace, every day’ that has marked by journey since 2003, the relentless reciprocation of grace in the form of honest, authentic people working out their salvation with fear and trembling; the steadfast harmony of the hymns of the saints and the determined request for a relentless, fire-filled God. These things come together in my days and nights, wrapped in the words of a writer whose hot pursuit of God leads to statements that mark my mornings; it’s like I watch the interactions, the songs, my thoughts, and the indefinable sense of something coalesce into a brilliant “Yes!”.
“God hides, and is found, precisely in the depths of everything, even and maybe especially in the deep fathoming of our fallings and failures. Sin is to stay on the surface of even holy things, like Bible, Sacrament, or church.” – Richard Rohr, Falling Upward
It’s fascinating, to me; there is indeed nothing new under the sun, and yet to experience identification and validation to what I am sensing in my soul brings incredible joy and excitement. I am a seeker, and the road stretching before me pulses with the very real energy and experience of those who are up ahead. There has never been a time in my life where I have been more excited about the promise of the journey ahead. I am not speaking of maturing and growing older and grandchildren and all of the wonders that await my daily life – although certainly the realization of those things within the circle of my family fill my heart and soul with indescribable joy, and are likely deeply connected to the deeper, spiritual tugging in my soul.
Grace and divine love; it is so much bigger, so much beyond – and yet completely and totally encapsulated by where I am right now.