Monthly Archives: October 2013

Denominational Identity Crisis

I grew up catholic.  Catholic school, burning my fingers dipping them in candle wax as an altar girl, going to confession..    When I went to college, I went to the catholic church on campus, got involved in their choir (being a music major, finding a place in church among the musicians has always been a natural fit.) And then the fall of my Sophomore year, some mostly-baptist friends started inviting me to their officially non-denominational church.  I finally went to one of their services where I heard the bible story of how this really religious pharisee guy Nicodemus sneaks off to see Jesus at night (so he doesn’t get caught by the other religious people who don’t think Jesus is legit) and Jesus tells this dude that he has to be born again.  (There’s something else in that same story I’d heard before about how God so loved the world, but it didn’t make sense until that day.)  That night in my room, one of my mostly-baptist friends led me through the sinner’s prayer over AOL instant messenger (I feel old, talking about AIM!).  Suddenly, I was born again, ‘saved’.  (And since they were mostly-baptists, I got fully dunk-baptized a few weeks later in a water-filled feeding trough.)

Now growing up catholic this idea of being ‘Born Again’ was something those strange people who might lift their hands in the air during the music at church might have talked about, and up until then I always thought they were weird.  But here I was, having my own salvation experience, being born again, getting saved, seeing the light, or however you want to put it.
At first I was angry at the catholics. I thought they’d been hiding this powerful truth from me all this time I’d been trying my best to be Christian by going to catholic churches.
But then I went back to a catholic service after being saved – and I wept as we read the liturgy together, full of the same messages about God, His sacrifice to forgive us and His glory I heard at the basically-baptist church.  It had been there all along, staring me in the face, but I had been blind to it.
My journey hasn’t been back to regularly attend Catholic church since, but my appreciation and understanding of the high church tradition has grown since my early-salvation days.  God is big, and to me seems to be seeping through high church traditions, simple explanations of the gospel, and everything in between.
Having gone through several church transitions in the past 10 years, from Catholic to mostly-baptist to presbyterian to trailer church to REALLY baptist..  I can’t really say I identify myself as any one of them, but I am thankful and keep looking for (and finding) God in all of them.  I am finding that I belong with them as a member of Christ’s Church (big C church intentional) even when my culture or choices or preferred version of the bible might be different.  I don’t fit in completely now with any of the denominations I’ve been a part of.  But by the grace and mercy of God, It’s turning out that I feel I belong in places I don’t really fit in.   
Jesus,  you did not fit in here on the Earth – you were made to belong to something much bigger than we can imagine, fitting in the trinity in a kind of unity we humans can’t yet achieve.  Help us remember the Church is yours.  Help us find windows of unity and belonging to each other.  Let my prayers join Yours:   
“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”  John 17: 20a-23

Exhaling

At a recent yoga class I attended, the teacher began with instruction to focus in on our breath and become aware of balance: were our inhale and exhale both even and balanced?  I was surprised as I began to pay attention that my exhales were less steady and shorter than my inhales.

I started thinking about how our body uses exhales to let go of what it doesn’t need.  Perhaps in life I am used to taking in so many good things: a LOT of information, teachings, friendships, spiritual and religious learning.  But this reflects in my schedule: I have so traditionally been over-involved and over-committed.  Steady at inhaling, at committing to all these things that feed me in various ways, but unsteady in letting them go: exhaling feels a little like carrying too many things at once and being surprised when one occasionally drops.  I almost feel afraid or reluctant to exhale, to let things go.

I’m becoming aware of this unsteady tendency of how I let go of my breath and so many other things in life.   I’m learning to accept letting go of good things, of transition, to make space for my next inhale, for my next friendship, for the next company or church I will be a part of.  I’m letting go of the way life was as a single person to make room for the way life is living in union with my spouse.  I’m letting go of the way I connected with my church as a single person to make room for the way Jeff and I connect with our church as a couple.

God, I believe you are the center, the balance of my life.  Guide my intentions, how and what to let go and exhale, and to inhale and pick up.   

Indifferent

Sometimes I get this (wrong) impression of God as being indifferent.  

I think in our culture it’s perceived as politically correct to be indifferent: this idea that I should ‘not care’ what other people do or believe as long as it isn’t hurting themselves, others, or most important, me.  We don’t want to give people the idea we don’t like them or disagree with them, so we quietly disengage and live our own (lonely) lives.  

Admittedly, sometimes disengaging is necessary instead of fighting unprofitable battles – but I can’t help but wonder if we (I) am more often too disengaged.  If being indifferent is ‘not caring’ about other people – then we have a lack of truly caring for one another.  

Truly caring can be exhausting and difficult, like disciplining your children or having the courage to (respectfully) tell a friend you believe the choices they are making are not good for them.   

With God, I think I fear His indifference because it is often so hard to recognize how He is engaged in my life.  Sometimes He feels very distant, and it becomes hard to believe He cares about what I have to tell him or ask Him.  

And I think in order to truly care for others, I need to first let God care for me.  He is not indifferent and cares for me, for us in a way I do not yet fully comprehend.  What kind of care would I show people if I first let God overwhelm me with his care for me? 

 

God, help us know You with clarity, that you care deeply for us and are engaged and with us in the details of our lives.  Fill us with greater and deeper understanding of Your love and care for us that we would overflow with that love to others.  “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ…” Phillipians 1:9-10