The full moon rises and covers the ground in a mystical glow. There is not a slightest breeze nor a single cloud, or any sounds outside. All is still.
I went to church this morning. A surprising thing to note given the nature of this website and my general pursuits but it is a rather unusual event. Getting rather burned on occasion did something to my soul. Some would guess it’s a post seminary effect. It wasn’t. Oddly, seminary made me more excited about Church and more excited about what can be done. It was when I tried to work this out and oddly found myself in both agreement with all the higher staff of this church I was a part of for ten years, and out of alignment. Only I could never figure out what this was. Which kept me at it, which kept me getting more burned as what I thought was going on wasn’t and somehow I got shoved to the side.
It’s a bit like a bad breakup, where you realize the woman you are dating really loves you but can’t help messing around with other people. There’s something wrong and the only recourse is to break it off.
So, in my theological passion I had a bad church break up and haven’t been going to church. There’s more to it really than this I guess. No one needs to convince me of the value of church or the importance of church. I could argue with the best of them… it simply hasn’t seemed right in my present pursuits. I could be wrong, but that is a matter between me and the Spirit.
Today I went. I went because the last couple of weeks it’s been stirring in my heart, and this past week a good friend, one of the people I genuinely respect as a Christian pursuing God to the fullest, told me basically I was thinking too much about the whole thing and should just get to a church come what may.
The fact was I have been thinking too much, and self-analyzing myself into an ecclesiastical paralysis.
A few months ago I had the chance to go to the Cathedral in Los Angeles which is always an oddly fulfilling experience. Odd because I’m not Catholic by any means, nor tempted to be so, and yet that was precisely why it was comforting. I go to a church and I feel the weight of expectation… on myself mostly… to get involved, to use my gifts and training. The Cathedral has none of that for me because I can never be a priest. I can’t even fully take part in the entire mass. I can sing, and pray, and listen the homily and participate with others who are seeking Christ in their way, but I can never ascend in involvement. This is restful really.
But I went today, not to a Catholic Church, but a Baptist church. Not the “four services, we’re wanting swaths of land to build our new Building on” church, but the one service church I drive by on my way kayaking where there’s no hoopla or Purpose driving, simply a good collection of people of various ages gathered to sing together and hear what is a simple and yet very solid exegetical sermon.
I could have thrown myself into no end of churches who were seeking to make themselves seem grand in this world. For now, the smaller, more relaxed atmosphere was comforting to me. I first went earlier last year, amidst a sudden flurry of church visiting in May. So, even though it has been a good many months, I chose then the church I would start going to if I should start going again.
Then, there is the issue of my own rootlessness. A friend asked an earnest question a few weeks back about whether I had a timeline for being up here. I mumbled some answer, implying no and suggesting I was waiting on the Spirit. Which is true. But that might imply some sort of commitment. Part of why I didn’t go to Church was because I have always felt this to be a temporary existence, without even a wisp of the kind of permanence participating in a church deserves.
Even now I feel this strong. I feel my heart drawing away, which has led me over the last couple of months to explore the wider world. I don’t know if this is creeping acedia or a whisper of the Spirit. So, I explore and have not yet heard anything back which would indicate an open door. But, after a year of this rootlessness I figure I might as well give that up as an excuse and go to church anyhow.
I know, if this sounds overwrought it certainly is. Indeed more so than I have even expressed.
So, I went to church this morning. I arrived a little late and I was one of the first people to leave when it was over. One of the reasons I decided on this church is because the people seemed the friendliest and bot the pastor and an elder got in touch with me after my first visit. That’s worth something, but today it wasn’t worth more than my presence.
Slow steps I suppose.
The other issue is that I am rather theologically settled and a bit mixed up. The ideal church for me would be one open to the various “charismatic gifts” but not gaga that “wow, I can do cool spiritual things”. I would love to be in a setting where folks who have prophetic gifts can talk, where folks who have teaching gifts can teach, where it is both focused and casual. The more meeting the better; a daily gathering of prayer and eating would be ideal.
The only problem is this is very hard to find, and for something like that the Spirit would really have to lead me in the right direction. (Though for something like that I would go just about anywhere). I’m generally Baptist in my theology, at least on the various issues that tend to divide the Body into separate bits.
I’m not opposed whatsoever to getting involved, indeed I think my life holds some pastoral demand, but I am wary about getting involved.
I stepped forward in doing this not because my wariness had changed. I stepped forward because it seemed like everything in my soul had bogged down, my heart was constantly slogging through, my soul is caught in a mire in which the heights seemed unattainable. I struck out trying to forge something new on my own.
For what purpose? That remains a mystery. My hope is in Christ, and I am learning the bounty of the discipline of thanksgiving. I pray, and others pray for me, and so today I went to church.
Tomorrow I am going to write. Beyond that, who can say? I pray for wisdom and peace and thanksgiving and light in all things. I pray that my mind will focus, and not churn around wrestling with paralyzing considerations. I want to be free and whole and fluid in the work of the Spirit… something which above all seems to be the very purpose of my present.