A few years back I realized I had been living in survival mode for so long that I didn’t even have a dream, a vision for the future. I couldn’t even make a bucket list on a cheesy facebook poll. My entire life had become, just grab a shovel and get through this one day.
I’ve been slowly realizing that the Lord has been revealing a vision to me, preparing me, giving me glimpses of what I feel passionate and curious about. I’m not quite sure what a druthers is, but if I had my druthers, I would travel all about the country just researching, celebrating, and experiencing the diversity within our faith, visiting various churches and Christian sub cultures. There is something really beautiful to me, really sacred and wonderful about how different people experience and express our faith.
What binds us together? What separates us?
I come from a long line of Italian Catholics, my parents leaving the church of their youth and becoming vehement atheists. My Father later became an Episcopalian, and I eventually became a rather staid and reformed Presbyterian. My faith was not really born in the church however, but from experiencing God as a child, from pretty much walking with Him alone through many years of rough seas.
It never ceases to amaze me how well I was taught, how clear my understanding was. That is simply supernatural, mysterious, unexplainable. And many people don’t trust it, don’t believe it. We say the Lord changes everything but so few us believe He is real and active, and working in the lives of people today. Absolutely, I was rough around the edges, unrefined, but I knew the Lord like nobody’s business, and I was just hungry for more of Him. That’s what began this adventure, this journey I’ve been on. I used to sneak into various churches, just enamored, fascinated by how they worshipped, by their rituals and styles.
I am infinitely curious about Jesus, this Jewish Messiah who laid down His very life for us, who built this church, who changed the world. I am curious about His vision and what it all looks like coming together a few thousand years later.
Let me tell you, catching a glimpse of what the church actually looks like has sent me into a tailspin a few times, an anxiety ridden panic attack of grief ridden repentance. Oh Dear Lord, I am so sorry for what we have done with what you gave us. We have made such a mess of things. We have just taken what is beautiful and made it all so ugly. True story, that truth has totally derailed me more than a few times.
However, having now plod through those depths of despair, the Lord in His kindness has said, Hey, look over here. And here. And here! Don’t look at the divisions and schisms, ignore the fear and control and the gossip, and look deeper. I am here among these people with the fog machine, electric guitars, and disposable communion packs. I am here with the dippers and their communal cup, with the leavened and the unleavened bread. I am here in the rituals of liturgy, in the Lord’s prayer with it’s “trespasses,” “debts,” or “sins.” I am here.
I study your flowers, your candles, the size of your cup, who you invite to His table and who you do not. I study where you have placed your tissue boxes and who is allowed to cry. I notice the words up on the wall or the insistence on hymnals and whether the Bibles in your pews have ever been read or whether there are even Bibles at all. I’ve been visiting churches and gathering this data for a long, long time, not in an unkind or judgy way like a food critic might visit a restaurant, but because I can often see evidence of Him in the ordinary and the mundane and the broken and dying and it continues to amaze me.
The modern world speaks a lot about diversity, of multi culturalism, but when it comes to Christians we tend to just stereotype, to toss them all into one single category, all dressed the same, all marching in lockstep. We often miss the fact that there is no more diverse a place than the church. There are people of all races, of all backgrounds, all kinds of cultures and sub cultures woven into this giant tapestry.
Not long ago I was in a Catholic church and then over visiting the Methodists and then off to stream a watching party with John Crowder and Godfrey Birtill, because what is a wedding feast without some crazy new wine?? Chuckling here because I am uncertain what would make the pearl clutchers faint more, the thought of a Catholic mass or the horror of the charismatics?? And yet, I love them all in different ways and I often find evidence of our Lord there among them, in the midst of them.
I have the voices of so many pastors in my head, the gasps, the “but doctrine!” Confessions, creeds, false teachings, oh my! The cooties. Beware of the cooties, don’t get any of that Pentecostal or Bethel on you! Sigh. I have to love them all too, I have to try to understand their fears, but I also have to leave these voices behind and follow where the Lord leads me.
From the Eastern orthodox to the Pentecostals, from the Baptists to the independents, to the independent Baptists. Do you know how many Presbyterian sub divisions there are? Did you know there are actually Catholic charismatics?? Don’t ask….
So anyway, this truth, this reality, this vision, has put me at odds with many groups of people within our faith, it’s gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion, and yet it persists. While there are indeed some doctrinal hills I am willing to die on, I have learned that some 90% of these divisions and schisms have nothing to do with doctrine at all, or perhaps worse yet, a good chunk of those hollering about doctrine the loudest, don’t even understand their own.
I’ve probably now alienated myself from enough people for one day and I doubt I will be heard by those who really need to listen, but for goodness sakes, lighten up people and taste that the Lord is good.