I dream every night that I have to move. I've no car, no moving truck, no boxes. But I have an awful lot of stuff. Some of it is broken, dirty, laying in mud puddles, or piled up in musty sheds. I don't know what to do with it all.
In my dreams I move into and out of different houses. Large, multi-storied, rambling places filled with tapestries, old wood, bright colours, forgotten rooms. Holes in the roof. Water damage.
Small, old houses. Rotting floorboards, ceilings that open up to broken roofs. Rain. Large, expansive sections of floor, entirely missing. Cluttered stairways that lead to nowhere. Tiny openings to other rooms; impossible to access. Roommates I've never met before. Old neighbours within my eyesight, but just outside my reach. Chasms in the way.
And in my waking hours, I drive past the church of my childhood. A strange little building, oddly situated at the edge of a wheat field, without a grain elevator, gas station, or anything. And I miss the days when we "knew the way it was". Church was church, just the same as the school you went to for the first ten years of your academic career was the one your yellow school bus drove you to. You don't make a decision about your school or your church. You just go. Monday through Friday you go east to school; pause for baths on Saturday, and then head west on Sunday morning for church.
The people and the messages were consistent in each case. True was true, even if it wasn't - because everyone pretty much agreed on it. When our Sunday School teachers asked us questions, they were easy to answer. We'd rehearsed all the answers since we were born and born again.
It was reassuring and lovely to grow up like that and I miss it sometimes. But it's not so simple that I could just go back and "know everything again".
I've been in so many churches in the last twenty-five years. And I've noticed some things. I love community, and the concept of people loving and caring for one another. I love the teaching that God is love and challenges us to love our enemies, stand up for the repressed, look out for the little guy, share. I love hearing people pray, read the ancient scriptures, join one another in song.
But over the years I've also seen some other stuff. I've noticed ego everywhere, and I know that's not unique to the church. That's just human nature. I've noticed people say some outrageous and divisive things in the name of Jesus. I've noticed guilt laid on thicker than a March snowstorm. I've seen priveleged middle-class caucasians blaspheme people of other ethnicities and lifestyles with a shocking lack of grce. I've noticed peer pressure, language barriers, (the language of church-ism), power trips, bullying, idealisms, and lack of relevance. I've noticed that it's entirely possible to run church without God. I've noticed that you can stack up ideologies and judgements, ins and outs and not even mention His name.
It's not that I really hold this against the institution of church, per se. It's just that it has been sad for me to notice. Sad for me to feel like I don't have a solid footing to place beneath me and the children.
It's not religion that I want, exactly. I don't need a revival meeting or an episode of laughter that renders me unconscious.
Jesus was an inspirational guy. He was anti-establishment, hung out with all the "wrong" people, and broke the ten commandments. He was a lover of peace, a seeker of justice, a feeder of the hungry.
I just want to be inspired to live like that, and I want my children to have a faith that frees them to live out their lives abundantly, selflessly, graciously, joyfully, and in the name of Jesus.
I don't need religion. In or out of church.
So, by night I'll dream, and by day I'll wonder.
And somehow, by hook or by crook, faith in things not yet seen will just have to prevail.