Everything old is new again …

17 Mar

Have you ever considered that sometimes it takes someone who seems to be less experienced, less knowledgable than you to provide guidance.  I expect that sometimes this is because they offer a fresh perspective, and also, I suppose, this has to do with the fact that they don’t have negative experiences to get in the way.  Maybe folks who are “experts” do something in a particular way because there is precedence to suggest that something doesn’t work or is generally not recommended.  I think our “faith walks” can be this way.  I think sometimes we will see this a lot in the churches.  The “authorities” in the church are often so cubby holed that they have trouble growing.  We’ve been to the same sort of Bible studies with many of the same basic messages so many times that we already know the answers before we even read the book.  We know the right responses … It’s as if it is a part of the liturgy.  When __________ is said the appropriate response is ____________.  What can be so frustrating when you get into this predicament is that soon we expect everything to be pat and easy and when things don’t fit in the box, we are at a loss.  We question ourselves, our faith and even God.  We often lose the joy and the passion that we had originally early in our walk. 

Have you been in the church for a while?  Do you remember what it was like when you first had your “aha” moment and just knew what you knew?  Do you recall the sense of contentment, satisfaction and security that came when all the pieces clicked for you?  I do.  I thought, “I finally get it!  Everything make sense.”  i felt so connected to God.  I never wanted to leave the church building for fear that I would forget to think about God as often I as did when I was busy with church work.  I was so happy and confident in everything I did, because it made sense.  I remember looking towards the folks who had been in the church for years or even decades with hunger … “teach me more … show me more …”  I couldn’t wait to be fuller.

As the years went by I was hurt by some of the folks that were those established members of the church.  This was confusing for me since they talked about God all of the time and hung out in His house all the time.  Gradually a spirit of cynicism overtook me.  I continued to participate in worship, in leadership committees and in study but began to be more guarded.  As that guarded feeling slowly took over, I began to withdraw.  I didn’t see a lot of point in participating in studies that were shallow and/or where I felt too afraid to share what I really thought for fear that I would be hurt again.  I learned not to trust folks in the church and suppose that there was a lie in every sweet word spoken at church … whether in the narthex or from the pulpit.  This led to a point where I question the church and it’s role in the advancement of the Kingdom of God altogether.  To exacerbate this problem, the study I had been doing was so shallow, it had done little to maintain my connection with God, his grace and left without the safety net of faith.

Withdrawing or going through the motions eventually left me in a relatively “dry” place.  I knew the right responses.  I knew the proper greetings.  I had lost the joy, the wonder and the confidence that comes with a living faith.  In many ways my spiritual life was worse than before I discovered my relationship with the Spirit – it now included hurt and frustration. 

Sometimes we can learn from someone who is not the expert though.  I wonder when I first came to the church with my enthusiasm and optimism if I might have been an inspiration for other folks who may have been in a dry, desert place in their walk.  What we have early in our walk is a relationship with God … not a relationship with the church or Christians.  We have to recognize that ultimately, this is the relationship we need to be seeking.  Now I want to be clear … the story doesn’t end here … nor does the path.

The bonus is if you can take your experiences from the church, the wisdom you have gained from years of study and service and match them with the joy and the passion that you can regain and restore through a realization that our salvation and strength comes from God, you can grow to a new level.  From this new place you can not only receive the joy that you have nostalgically been looking back on, but you can also better serve to advance the Kingdom of God by looking towards the people of the church not as pillars of perfection and grace, but as people who are imperfect.  There has only ever been one perfect person and he had the benefit of being fully God as well. 🙂 

I anticipate until we seize the joy and refuse to let it go and turn towards the church (and the people who are the church) with the grace that fills us, we will continue to have hurt, frustration and pain in the church.  We will continue to see people turning away. 

If you have been hurt … if you have walked away from the people of the church, try to find the joy that drew you towards the church to begin with.  Recall the grace that filled you and allowed you to feel confident.  Remember we all have fallen short and redemption is available to all of us … (forgive my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me.)  If what we seek is truly God’s Kingdom here on earth do not allow sin to discourage you and push forward and rebuild relationships with the joy of a newly “churched” Christian.

Restore to me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.  Then I will teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners will return to thee.  (Psalm 51: 12-13)

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