Where I Need to Be9:00 AM
|The Athenian Marketplace (i.e. Fellowship Hall)|
What I want more than anything right now is for my theology to match up with my spirituality, my spirituality to match up with my church life, and my church life to match up with my theology. Over the years, I accidentally invented my own little system of belief that coincides with no church ever splintered in the two millennia of Christian history. I'm not comfortable with "going it alone" -- partially because there is no way I can be right about everything I believe and mostly because I want a walking buddy. (Fortunately, God blessed me with a boyfriend similar to me theologically and spiritually, and understanding, patient friends, family, and mentors. I'm not entirely alone.)
Sometimes going to church feels like a kick in the face. I've cried (more than once) at a Catholic mass because of how frustratingly exclusive it was. I've got pretty miffed at Baptist churches for subtle jabs against Lutherans and people who dance and drink alcohol. And I've been to more tolerant churches who just don't give me any meaty truth to wrestle with.
It's also hard transitioning out of various Christian tribes as I question, explore, and pray. My shorts and criticism of creationism scare fundamentalists. I no longer am comfortable with some of the borderline legalism and snottiness found in many hardcore Reformed/Presbyterian circles. There are so many awkward moments when friends bring up beliefs I once solemnly defended, and I just end up frowning and nodding, unsure whether to drop my bomb of disbelief.
You get the point -- this is a big, emotional, spiritual deal for me.
So every day I get on my knees and pray this prayer (by Thomas Merton, obviously):
"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone."One night, I was faceplanted in my bed because I was tired and discouraged with this church thing. My professor had told me that the questions I was asking would take years, maybe a lifetime, to answer. I felt the weight of all those years of unanswered questions as I mumbled this prayer.
Then God made it clear to me: Look at where you are.
I was on my knees facedown in prayer before the presence of God. I was on my knees facedown in humility. I was in prayer out of love. I was experiencing the quiet, unseen presence of God. And isn't that exactly the place I wanted to be?
Church, Christian friends, and doctrine are crucial things in my life, but they're crucial because they're supposed to partner with me to help me love God. They were there to direct me on my knees facedown in prayer before the presence of God. And here I was, already there, already arrived -- on my knees facedown in prayer before the presence of God.
Well, that was easy.
I'm not going to give up searching for a church tradition that strengthens my faith -- but I'm also not going to worry about it quite as much as I did. As long as I'm walking with God, I'm where I need to be.
Have you felt like a spiritual outsider? What has God taught you during that time?