I hiked Pike's Peak this summer. This pic was taken near the summit. It looks like you're on the moon or something!
I have a friend who WAS a Pastor of a church. He found out one day that his wife was no longer committed to him (she was having an "emotional" affair with another staff member). He was completely caught off-guard and devastated. He was willing to try to work things out, but she was not ...
My friend informed his deacons that his wife was leaving him. Four days later, they fired him ... In one week, he lost his wife, continuous presence with his kids, his home, and his job. He reached out for support from his denomination, but didn't get much. Who wants a divorced pastor, who is currently single? He felt like "damaged goods." He wound up selling insurance, which seemed to me, a waste of his gifts.
My friend learned a lot over the next two years about church, about God, and about himself. I learned a few things as well. I had him come speak to our church not long ago. When I asked him to come and share with us what he's learned/learning, he indicated that he was not sure what he had to offer because his "relationship" with God was still fractured, but that he thought it would be helpful to him to talk through it. I thought I'd post an edited letter to him here and offer these thoughts to highlight the travesty of placebo churches that are full of unhealed wounds and the hope of healing that God offers to all of us in authentically spiritual and redemptive communities.
I'm looking forward to you being here as well. Somehow, I think it will be good both ways. I keep thinking how UN-Christian so many Christians are and how you got a huge dose of that. I want Mosaic to hear from you because I believe you'll somehow be able to bring to the table the difference between a "Jesus Person" (identifying with Him) and a "Churched/Religious/Modern Pharisee/Fundamentalist" (not like Christ at all).
I can only imagine how intense and wholistic the effect of your experiences have been and are currently. I am hoping for redemption to have its way. I just don't know what that's going to look like in your life. I do believe, that whatever form redemption takes, it will be good.
I want my Spirituality to be real and honest. How can it be honest if I leave out the messiness? I know that most of what I've experienced in my life and ministry has not really been as much spiritual as it has been religious. I'm seeking though ...
We (Mosaic) are different as a community of faith because of you and your experiences. (Note: we had been fairly intimate with my friend through the whole process. Our church welcomed him redemptively; and we experience redemption ourselves!). You are my friend and have affected me by your experiences. I, in turn, have taken much of that interaction between you and me to Mosaic. They have begun to wrestle with the incongruity between the church and Jesus Christ. I am expectant that you will further the dialogue with your presence and with you're thinking on the subject.
I'm still expecting to gleen from your journey. Where have you been finding God along the way? I imagine it hasn't been in church or in the Bible like most people tend to think. But I bet He's showing up somewhere. That's what I want to believe--that He's everywhere, all the time, somehow engaging us. If we believe that, I think we'll be less judgmental of people who do spirituality different than us and we'll look for God in ways that we usually don't (in a breeze, in a person's smile, in an icecream cone, in a kindness, in a beautiful thought …) and we'll find Him and we'll find redemption.
(I pointed out in the next paragraph that redemption was breaking into his life even though he was unsure of the nature of his relationship with God--so much of his paradigm had been shattered by his wounding and the grieving was not over yet.) Perhaps, it's redemptive that you've found love again (new relationships). You've found community (an emerging church had made room for him to be a part of their church just as he was--angry, confused about God, unsettled about everything. They didn't include him as a janitor for their church, but as a leader!). You still have a friend like me in the church, but not of it (Ha! That's funny!). You've found other work that you enjoy. You've probably found a deeper place in God than before. I know it's more honest! I believe this is redemptive!!
I'm sure whatever you talk about with Mosaic, it will bring up who God really is, who we really are, and God's invitation to include Him in our messy lives. Not so He can simply fix us (much of it can't be fixed), but so He can be with us, and so we can be with each other, and so we can move toward redemption.
I am resisting writing what I know you already know. So, I'll stop, finally! I admit, "I runnith over with the mouth" most of the time.
Your friendship is important to me. Hope your day is good (redemptive). I love you. Jim
One Last Thought
Churches have positioned, for way too long, people who "appear" to have it all together as models of redemption for us. If these people ever had real problems (drug addictions, alcohol problems, infidelity, cheating on their taxes, marital struggles, divorce, children "gone wild" …), those problems were in the past and have NOW been overcome! Glory Hallelujah! Let's all sing and serve ice cream!
Why don't we learn from this poor excuse for redemption. Real redemption is on-going, never completed, always yearning for more. Real redemption takes place in the darkness, in the shadows of our lives where we need it most. We cry out to God in the middle of life; and for the most part, in the middle looks like when we wake up in the morning--before the shower, the makeup, the pressed clothes, and the plastic smiles. Redemption goes on underneath all of that. Can the Church of Jesus Christ be in the middle of life? The messy middle? I believe so! I hope so!
If the Church goes here, we will find God already there. And finally, we will understand that we always find God in the most un-likely places where redemption is needed and it is there that it will take place! That's Gospel!