Monday, September 1, 2008

A New Kind of Post . . . a new blog to accompany it

Here are some thoughts I have had of late in regards to faith, the church and life. I will post my first of these blogs here and then I am going to have a blog that is more spirituality specific, it can be found at: http://themessinessoffaith.blogspot.com/

I wrote this last week in response to some readings I had for school:

Roots

I want for tradition, I long for roots. In my life I have craved many things, but none so true as these: the peace that I have experienced in the presence of God, my need for true community and the taste for history in my faith. As a Christian I am tied to millions of people that I do not know. As a teenager I found great comfort in this – I knew that no matter how alone I felt that there were kids in other cities, in other youth groups, schools, homes that had similar struggles, but that also shared the same hope and faith. When I was lonely this brought me a strange sense of community.

Now I am 30 and I still long for community and roots; those in friendships and in worship. I have not attended church in a long time, and lack in community. My lack of attendance has much to do with my decision to claim myself as a non-practicing Christian, though not a non-practicing believer. This is a matter of practicing in the public sense, I felt that since I do not exemplify what I have been taught, and have in turn taught others, that I should not attend a church because I would feel dishonest. I preferred to abstain from church unless I was living by the rules that I have prescribed to fit God, though many of these rules are based in the tenets of Christian biblical teachings –they are also to fit man’s incarnation of God in the modern church. Which leads me to this question: Would God have me be separated from His people (through my own actions mind you) because I do not than abide by these precise rules?

Some have deemed this an act of self-condemnation; because I believe that I do not meet the standards that I once set for myself. But the question is: Are those standards or are those legalistic rules? Having previously lived in what was possibly a relatively black and white view of the world and of Christianity I have struggled greatly with what it means to experience the different colors of the world in light of the pure beauty and light of Christ. I was asked today why I thought things had changed for me and I said that I feel I once lived in a safe box, things made sense. In that box I knew right from wrong and could define the difference – it was not supposed to get this messy. “Why then,” she asked, “did you not go back into that box?” And the answer is both simple and true, “Because I no longer fit.”

For the last few years I have found that when I crave God I also crave community and history. It is as if there is a call for tradition woven into my bones. I blame Madeleine L’Engle for bringing into focus my want of something more ritualistic, for craving something liturgical. And now this desire for something with a calendar and prayer book, something of an active history in a living church has grown and the more I read the more I long for it in my life.
The problem? I have always misunderstood the practices of what I defined as “traditional” churches. I was brought up to believe, or at least with the room and often guidance to interpret, that the role of Saints in a church, for example, was usually an act of idolatry. Perhaps in some cases this is true – but in many cases it is not.
When my sister began to attend All Saints, the “mecca of liberal” (I quote) Episcopalian Church(es) there were a few things I did not like about it. First was the liberal stance of the church, the churches permissiveness (or what I viewed it as). Second was what I perceived as the role of politics in the church – essentially mixing church and state in a way I was uncomfortable with. The third and final reason, it seemed painfully boring. The rising and the kneeling, the script that was handed to you when you entered (25 pages! Detailed, word for word outline of the service!!). And if that was not enough, communion that felt forced and condemning instead of freeing and that, well, used real and relatively bad wine. I could not see any imagination there – I did not feel alive. But I also did not want to see anything I liked there, which may have had an influence on my experience.

That aside, at the heart lay this: My longing is for roots. Now, I don’t mean to say that the contemporary protestant church is lacking in roots because it is not, but perhaps those I have attended are lacking in what I desire to practice. In reading Kathleen Norris’ book The Cloister Walk she discusses the saints and their presentation at the Institution in the monastic community. Sharing the story of Saints is anything but idolatry. It is an example of God’s work in the lives of His people. They are people who lived with such depth that sharing their stories is a beautiful opportunity.
I want an ecumenical calendar. I want a prayer service. I want a Sader. I want a community of imperfect people that I can love and who, despite my poor and improper practices, will love me.

Negative capability . . . [is being] capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries,
doubts without any irritable reaching after fact and reason. – John Keats

2 comments:

Jenny said...

I like this entry.

Walter said...

Great entry - I think you capture perfectly what a lot of people are feeling.
Have you read Sara Miles' 'Take This Bread'? I think you would get a lot out of it. I also get a lot out of reading the 'Subversive Influence' blog.
And I'm SO excited about Kathleen Norris' new book!
Bless you.

About Me

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Portland, OR, United States
I am a daughter, sister, friend, wife, counselor and colleague. I am a work in progress. There may be some pieces out of place and things might be messy, but it's okay. I would rather accept that I am still unfinished than think that this is it. You can find my comments on faith and spirituality on my blog: http://themessinessoffaith.blogspot.com/ And my comments and anecdotes on life at: http://sheisaworkinprogress.blogspot.com/

Books That Matter. Well, some of the many that matter.

  • Magical Shrinking: Stumbling Through Bipolar Disorder, Chris Wells
  • Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen
  • An Abudance of Katherines, John Green
  • Dave Pelzer
  • Franny & Zooey, J.D. Salinger
  • I Was Told There'd Be Cake, Sloane Crosley
  • The Cloister Walk, Kathleen Norris
  • The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are, Daniel J. Siegel