Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Date: May 2, 2004

evening

Noise from neighbors continued late into the evening. The evening brought a cool breeze, a welcomed relief from a hot day. Less trees around means a lot more sun on the house. This is fine, for it makes a person go outside and stare around. Some ravens are building a nest in the last remaining pine, a very tall one, just a little ways to the south. They are busy flying back and forth, carrying all sorts of items in their mouths, sticks, branches, and what appeared to be a small rodent. I wonder if this is the same pair who was building a nest a month or so ago, ravens are territorial. If this is true, then something happened to that nest, and they are starting over. This has not been a good neighborhood to build a new nursery in a pine. A fan in the window brings in the cooler air, as it always does, only it has not needed to for a while, ever in my case.

I get to this a little earlier, or at least a little more awake than I have been recently. I feel a bit of sloppiness again, loose discipline resulting in days which have not been as filled with progress as I would have liked. That’s fine, really, for I have learned other skills, and got other tasks done. Tomorrow, however, I feel like it would be refreshing to get back to the grind, to write in the early hours, to advance my way along the path which seems right.

And I did go to a new church this morning, the second new church in as many weeks.

It was a lovely experience, and the wide windows behind the stage allowing for a view of budding oaks, and birds flying around over the valley suited me just fine. A single raven soaring with the updrafts as communion was being passed around most likely was not an omen of any kind, but it was a moment of delight for me.

I don’t know what my plans are in this regard. I weary of trying to explain myself, my decisions, and to add a whole new group is not necessarily my hope. Indeed, I think strongly of the ancients, who really got away from it all, who actively pursued solitude. I am not of their measure to be sure. Of course, I wonder why at this point after all these months it felt not only right but in fact necessary for me to wander out. I don’t know. I was being obedient. And now, I still don’t know. I am open, if cautious.

When I was seventeen I began attending NewSong with my brother. It was the first church I ever chose to attend apart from my parents. It was also what could be considered one of the original GenX churches, which would now be called “emerging”. I went away to college the next year, never finding a home in the midwest, and certainly not a church to call home. Summers I returned, always excited about my home church.

After college I found the transitions from the founding pastor had taken their toll. The new head pastor was over his head, and more than this he did not know where to turn. Had he delved deeply into Scripture, found his authority in the words of Truth, let his weakness be turned into strength, much would have gone well. There were many, a great many able and willing to fight the fight. Only it turned to something else. People began to leave. About three years after this, the words of hope had lost their bite, and an exodus began. Everyone I knew left the church, finally weary of feeling weary of it all. Many have found new homes, many still wander.

I stayed, for the most part. I don’t know why. Loyalty I suppose, a yearning to do my part. From that point until near this, my wrestling was caught up during my Fuller years, studying more deeply about church and realizing more clearly what I was experiencing was wrong on many, many levels. I offered to assist, I took free internships (when others I knew had well paying gigs). It wasn’t received. This made me realize many things, all of which aided my theological growth, most of which were negative experiences.

At the end, after it all seemed done, it came down to finances. I decided to put up with the blast of discernment yelling that something was deeply wrong, to do my part to help, even if not appreciated by some, and outright disliked by others (who have since had their own issues). The problem was I was honest, and the second problem was that I was honest and gave pathways to assist and help solve the issues. This wasn’t appreciate. But, I stuck it out. Only, I couldn’t find a job, and last year, like this, gas prices rose a great deal. My new apartment was far away, and I had to choose: Rent and food, or ministry. I stepped away, and honestly feel it is okay. I did in fact hold on a little bit, trying my hand at ways to respond, to interact. I couldn’t force the issue, and no one lent a hand to pull me in.

The separation was mutual.

Being at a new church today, considering my involvement brought this all back to mind. For NewSong was the first church I chose to attend. It was my home. And like those who suffer disasters of nature or war, I feel my home was uprooted. I feel grief, sadness, emptiness. What should have been was not, what could have been was prevented.

It feels likes a divorce to me. I take membership really seriously, communion even more, and I feel that while the circumstances insist on this outcome, it is not a joyous victory or celebratory milestone. It was my home. They did not want me (welcoming words to the contrary). I still have friends there, friends I miss, and others who could have become great friends, great co-laborers as Paul puts it.

Only it was not to be. The only path led up here. After six months of being here, I finally see my heart willing to look around, rather than down the mountain. What seemed transitory, now appears more permanent. Not this specific situation, rather this specific area. So, now I feel it is possible for me to look around. Church holds no attraction beyond involvement. There is nothing a Sunday morning does which attracts my casual attention. I tend to jump in, and if they accept, I will see what happens.

This is one of those night I consider the road behind me. I stop and pause, turn around, and take in the view. I look to see if there were other paths, other directions. Maybe there were, only not to this present goal.

I also take stock and listen to those who are the only people to whom I feel accountable, who have enabled my presence here, and who I am obliging myself upon. They are the ones who most would say should demand my finding a practical outlet. Yet, they are more confident than I am, they tell me that not only do they think this is right, they think this is profoundly right. When they pray, they say, they feel confidence, assurance, that even I do not feel.

So, what is community? What is walking in the Spirit? If it is not taking stock of our own hearts and trusting God is at work, or if it is not trusting those who pray for us, who seek wisdom on our behalf, then I don’t know what it is. These are the elements of the fluidity of the Spirit, which will be revealed as truth only in the end. History shows that those who walk thusly, walk peculiarly, different than the rest, until the time of reckoning. So, I continue to walk, not knowing anything, trusting that I, and others, are not fully deceived. What is wrong to the world, seems to be the only direction I can go. I would not have chosen this way, I would have chosen to stay at my home, my only church home in my adult life. Yet, God himself seemed to pull me away, as he pulled others. There is only obedience, for only there is peace.

morning

Birds sing joyously, ravens go out and back from a large dead pine, a nest in the upper branches. The sun reflects off my water sitting next to me, making the light dance on the wall. Webs abound in all sorts of places, visible signs of spider wanderings. It feels like it will be a warm day, though not quite yet, and thankfully not as warm as where I was last year at this time.

I’m going to church again this morning, a different church than last week. I’m not really sure what I’m looking for, which makes expectations significantly lower. I’m not even sure why I’m looking, or if I’m looking. It is purely a reaction to what I feel in the moment. I know it is the right thing to do right now. What comes is out of my sight at the moment.

There is the sense that I need a community to gather around. Though I am not really sure this is a matter of strength for me, or a concession to weakness. I’m not away from the body, really, so maybe I am needing to find a place of affirmation, a place where my vainglory and pride could be religiously commended.

The fact is, I know this to be true, if it is not of God, as Gamaliel said wisely, then it won’t go anywhere. So, why am I worried. I worry I suppose because I want everything to become free and easy, for God’s hand to be lifted, to have doors open, to have fruit. My worry is that this again is a situation where I find more doors closed, the paths blocked. I weary of God’s “no”. That’s my issue. Not that I haven’t kept trying, it just wears on the soul.

This, though, as I write discourages, so I’ll change direction, back to the present, back to hope and light. I do trust God is at work, I do believe that the door will opened, I find great truth in the ol’ Garth Brooks song, Unanswered Prayers. Not just in romance, as he sings about (which is also very true for me as well), but in all areas of life. I would have easily settled, and the more I walk this difficult path, the more I see the possibilities open up broader and better. Or, I’m just an optimist, looking at the bright side of life.

It really depends on the end. The path is tricky for some, easy for others, and only at the end of the race do we see who wins the prize. If I am locked in a cave for my whole life, and that is the will of God, then my success will not be determined by how much money I make… it will rest solely on how I endured the cave, and grew in the darkness.

This all does force us to gaze at the present in a unique way, though not without looking to the future. It is not our personal future we are supposed to look at, however. Yes, this is a part, but as a whole we are to keep our eyes on the end, on the goal, the prize which is heaven, the truth that will be revealed in the last days.

How would we live if we really believed in Christ’s return and victory? If we really understood our citizenship lies in heaven, our hope is not in this present world. I’ve come to realize how all of that is purely rhetoric, to me, to most others. Very, very few people actually live as though what is taught about the End is really the case.

That is a secret, I think, of living in the present, realizing the Eternity all around us, realizing the fleeting nature of this present life, understanding the hope and glory which is real, though not yet manifested fully.

We grasp a hold of that, take it into our hearts, and we begin, just begin, to understand what Paul was writing about in all of his letters.

That’s the journey, I suppose.

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