Friday, December 19, 2008

Oh faith, where art thou?

Well, it's time to make my blog debut. All you guys have been pretty raw and I guess I can't help but follow suit. To be honest, the last few months have been hard for me spiritually. I haven't been as interested in reading as I usually am, or talking about things, or even thinking about things. I've distracted myself with 1000 pages of Sherlock Holmes short stories (don't make fun, Sherlock is cool, but I think Sarah is still mortified that I just shared that).

I've been satisfied to engage on a purely surface level much of the time, and for that I apologize. I haven't been "showing up", and am having trouble getting past feeling apathetic about so many things. I've been getting by on things I read or thought about months or even years ago.

Sarah and I have been talking about what Carrie shared a few weeks ago, when she said that when church culture was stripped away the state of her faith scared her. Carrie's words stuck with me, and I talked with Sarah, and I re-read that Detoxing from Church article (at Sarah's prodding), and together we made a few realizations about ourselves and our faith that strikes to the heart of what following Jesus has been about for me, and kind of calls me out and leaves me staring uncomfortably at the state of my own faith, asking myself, "Is that really mine?".

My connection to God has always been an intellectual one. The primary expressions of my faith have been reading books and discussing theology with others. I've always found it easier to read the book about prayer, and recite 7 reasons about why having a healthy prayer life is essential, than to actually pray. Feeding myself in that manner has worked for a long time. But being the whiz-bang intellectual guy just isn't working anymore. I'm exactly where Carrie is, only for slightly different reasons. I'm seeing what my faith looks like when stripped of the intellectual element, that it's really made of paper-mache, and that's frightening.

As I see it now, I've had a glorious history of sitting comfortably behind the facade that I've so painstakingly erected: little known Bible factoids, quotations "just right" for the moment, or thoughts that make me look deep and vulnerable and in touch with my inner self but mask how terrified I am of going there for real. It was a good run while it lasted, but it's not working anymore. The good news is that with this realization comes hope and chance for true transformation. It's good to be able to share this.


maventheavenger aka jamie said...

Hey Ron, thank you for being so open about what's going on inside your head. I can honestly say that it feels really good to hear you say those things. I can really relate. And I can also offer my thoughts on my own journey (perhaps a little farther down the road). It gets better. It feels good to actually enjoy going to a movie or reading a book or doing anything that "normal" people do without guilt. I can't say that I have done the hard work of redefining exactly where my intellectualism fits in, but I see myself starting to pick up the Bible here again and being able to read with fresh (and contextual) eyes.

carrie said...

I've been feeling a lot of realization and acknowledgement of where I am equals hope for change this week. I can relate to not feeling like reading/talking/thinking. A few weeks ago I was so happy to find that I was not the only one having problems with church culture, and it motivated me to read everything I could get my hands on. But right now I'm really tired. I'm tired of reading and thinking and discussing and processing and I am very tempted to go for the easy way instead of finding and walking through the narrow gate. To echo Sarah's comment from my last post (and they were like a salve to my tired soul)..."no words of wisdom here, just companionship."

Thorn-67 said...

this is exactly how jim and i felt as we moved from the church we attended together (for over 15yrs) to another church...we found it difficult to even contextualize our 'christianity in a new and different church' at first. but soon we found ways to get back on the treadmill that we were so comfortable with.
then, the move out of the 'church' all together was even more devestating and troubling for the very reason you spoke so honestly about. stripping away all of the things we went to church to be and do...left us very little in the way of what I felt a real connection to Jesus should look like. no more holy spirit(?)chills in corporate more more dropping that 'big fat' tithe check in the 'bucket' more missional 'field trips' to the hood wearing matching more dispensing scripture and biblical wisdom to people less 'mature' than us. that has all vaporized.
now we(i)literally cling to the jesus we can know from the gospels...the few truly miraculous things that have happened in our lives that we can only attribute to "GOD" and the support of our fellow sojourners in this place.
the tiny strand of hope i feel i cling to is thread bare...but i am SLOWLY learning to accept this place as ultimately more honest and and real than any other time or place i have been in my spiritual journey in Christ.
i hope that you will find solace in this place as well because you my friend, are not alone.

D L said...

Ron...Sherlock Holmes is the coolest! I've read all the short stories myself.

While you may think your connection to God has always been intellectual, I believe you are discovering that, in fact, God's connection to you has always been much, much deeper. So you are learning more about God's connection, rather connections to you! He connects differently than what we expect therefore it is only natural, expected really, that everything feels different. That's okay. Cause it IS different. And that's okay too!

Even if you do have a paper-mache faith, God connects. As will others who are with you on this journey... who are with you in this conversation.

Ron, I am glad you posted. I am happy you are a part of the cohort. Hope for a true transformation is a wonderful thought for the season we are in.

Yard said...

My faith has been under constant scrutiny for about two years, just prior to my joining the emerging church conversation. My connection was a little like Ron's, intellectual in nature (from my college years), and a little like Carrie's, bound up in my views of church (from my ministry years). I'm so confrontational that I welcomed this change, and tried even to catalyze the process.

Being forced to write papers on ministry methods and systems fueled the fire of confusion and anger.

Here's where I sit today: on vacation, listening to all of your voices, feeling so thankful for each one of you. The openness is astounding, and I think this is the basis for true relationships. The medium, a blog on the internet, is a little different setting than I would have foretold 5 years ago, but such is life. I'm glad we're able to do it at all.

And my faith is here: I'm upset that God, through all of this, has himself been silent. Even in giving him credit for what this movement and more specifically this group has done for my soul, I still feel overwhelmed by his silence. I don't ever hear him. I've found that loving people, as I think Jim, Joy and others pointed out, is as close as I've come to experiencing God's presence.

When I was younger I was content in knowing that more maturity was needed to hear him. This no longer satisfies. I find myself getting even more upset the more I become aware of suffering around the world. Not hardship, but SUFFERING. And yet his silence prevails. What is so damn important that causes his mouth to stay shut? Free will? But I thought I gave up my free will in obedience anyway?

Some have asked, "well what do you want, something audible?". I dunno. Maybe. Something other than silence.

Matt said...

It has never felt right when I hear people say they talk to God. I'm not discounting that it happens but I don't think people sit down to coffee and have a conversation with God about the auto industry bailout. For me it's much more suttle. Something feels right or wrong, or I feel "nudged" to do something. One of the biggest ways God "speaks" to me is through other people. Different people in my life bringing up a certain subject I'm thinking about.
As an intellectual myself Love is a hard subject for me. One thing I've noticed is that over the past year or so what I love has changed. I care about different things and I feel drawn towards changing the world around me. Maybe loving the things God loves IS loving God. Maybe it's as simple as that.
One of the driving forces in my life the past several months has been the idea of the New Exodus. Like God led the Jews out of Egypt to be an example to the world we as followers of Christ are lead out of sin to be an example to the world. We are redeemed to redeem the world. Sure God could set everyhting right tomorrow but what if he set everything right through the body of Christ. That would be the real miracle.