Sunday, November 01, 2009

Things You Lose Along The Way

I used to teach Sunday School with my husband.
Sing in a worship team.
Belong to a small group.
Lead a small group.
I once went to a large small group conference in a huge Calgary church. Well, that's what they called it. It ought to have been entitled: Business Management Proposals For Growing Church Numbers.
I used to go to a mom's group.
Sing solo.

Now, I don't really fit church culture that well. And although I miss that, in a "family/community" type of way; I will never strive to fit that culture again. I won't try to iron out my theology so as not to offend or disappoint members. I won't jump on any bandwagons. I won't advocate for the survival of church programs that will further tire an exhausted group of well-intentioned parishioners. I probably won't stand when told to; unless of course my body wants to stand. I won't participate in church politics- trying to decide who is "right" and who is "wrong".

The point and the heart of what's been lost along the way is not a taste for rebellion or a desire for an anti-establishment attitude. It's a quiet thirst for the real thing.

So, when I sense that people in church feel sorry for me, it's sort of funny in a sad kind of way. I go to church because I want to be there. Because I believe in the flawed, troubling, bumbling concept of a group of people coming together and potlucking on their shared love for God. Because I believe that tolerance and patience with and for people begins there- even though it's one of the brutally hardest places not to judge or despise others. (I find my nasty little inner voice carrying on from time to time; but my forward thinking heart wants to practise tolerance).

I used to love church in a busy, bustley, belonging kind of a way. A blowing and blasting in with toddlers and babies kind of a way. A common ground for support in life's teary potholes.

Now I find that I am off the radar for being called to participate in groups and committees and teams and all that hustle bustle. Don't get me wrong- I'm not offended. I'd probably say "no" anyway, remembering how I don't prioritize bonified church-ified "ministries" to exercise my love for God.

But there is just this realization of the changes that have come down the pike for this little church lady. It's sort of a vulnerable feeling to know that I've trusted my spiritual health to a much "narrower" source- just the real thing. The real Spirit who can show up or not show up regardless of my church status. It's like moving forward in a walkathon without the safety of a group around me.

Now, for anyone who reads Blunderview with much regularity, I think it's clear that I'm not a great Christian by traditional standards. Few of my blog posts wrap up with a pertinent Bible passage. Few of my rambles conclude with a revelation of my true identity in Christ. Most of my posts look splashy, fiesty, morose, and multi-hued. A clear message of life-giving theology may never be pinned down here. Nor will the four spiritual laws.

But my heart is for God. For authenticity. For change, humility, and miracles. The miracles that come of hopelessly selfish and troubled humans reaching out to one another with the non-human strength of God.

I've lost some stuff along the way. But I'm sure that with that loss comes a greater capacity for actual transformation, less distraction by church culture, and more personal vulnerability.

I stand more alone in my stubborn faith than I ever have in my short life. But somehow in losing that comforting safety net around me, I know that living real is inevitable. And that's totally going to depend on the only source that isn't influenced by some person's opinion- the actual Spirit.

(I hope I don't lose much more time as a human stewing around in my own hurt feelings and petty grievances, and keep stretching towards a higher plain. As big a fan I am of the Holy Spirit, and as much as I do believe in miracles; I know that I am standing in my way a lot of the time. I don't much care what people think of my beliefs and unbeliefs. It would be nice if we could all get along, and stop spending so much time arguing about our own rightness. It's just a big, stupid, useless distraction. Just try to spend one hour practising the greatest commandment: Love the Lord your God with your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbour as yourself. You'll quickly discover that you don't have time to figure out if the other guy is right or wrong or otherwise. That whole loving thing is pretty much going to eat up all your time. That's the direction I'd like to be transformed along.)


Brian the Mennonite said...


Heather Plett said...

I went to a fascinating conference yesterday called The Great Emergence with Phyllis Tickle as the keynote speaker (she has a book by the same name). She said some really interesting things about the shifting shape of the church - how there are growing numbers of people who are restless and looking for a new way to "do church". She claims that every 500 years, the church goes through a major upheaval and a new form of church is birthed. The last one was the Reformation - 500 years ago - when the Protestant church was born.

It really resonated with me because so many of the people I'm connected with are feeling this growing restlessness.

Judy said...

Oh, Joyce. I HEAR you.

mmichele said...

Wow. You were a really good church lady. I probably like you more now than I would have then.

gophercheeks said...

You know... this is a great post Joyce.
I'm not sure if you church sings the Litany of the Saints but that is one of the few times in church that brings me to tears. It is always sung during a Catholic Baptism and it is so powerful. I think you are correct about living your life with as much intent to love as you can. If we extend ourselves daily to those around us who are in need... well there is our sense of community.... and love.
Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

"It would be nice if we could all get along and stop spending so much time agruing about our own rightness".
Amen sista!!


Crystal said...

You need to read "The Irresistible Revolution". I promise you will not put it down.


joyce said...

Heather, this resonates what I see and hear in my friends and acquaintences. It would be lovely to see the church revolutionize instead of vapourize. It would be nice to think of church not as a building at all.

Much check out this speaker you shared here.

michelle- nah. I was still a real brat, even when I belonged to the right clubs. And I suck at singing solo. I think everyone is grateful...
Judy- you used to be the ultimate church lady-- living there and everything!

GC- I love some of those litanies, and no. I didn't grow up with them, nor does my current church employ them. Sometimes paring right down to the "good old words" and allowing God to speak to you through them without someone else grinding it up, pureeing it, and putting it on a spoon FOR you is just so much better.

Ali- it's been a real MINISTRY trying to LIKE YOU. so difficult you are. ;)

Crystal- thank you. I just ordered it online. Just now.

Brandy said...

I really enjoyed this post. Thanks for always having the nerve to post exactly what you're going through. Sometimes I wish I could be more like that.

Karla said...

I'm in the choir you're preaching too, but you know that already.

jb said...

this is great. i like that your relationship with God is all about YOU and all about GOD, and nobody else. no trying to please. i have been thinking about this lately. sometimes i have a hard time leading worship because i get caught up in how to please others... rather than just doing what i feel is more "me". (the way God created me to be)

joyce said...

Brandy... oh, that that were true.
I sometimes wish I had the nerve to post about exactly what I'm processing at the time. But, thanks for the encouragement in any case. It's easier to sit at the computer and spill it out than stick your neck out at say... a membership meeting?!

Karla- and the beauty in it is the SEARCH. Instead of resting on the laurels of someone else's conclusions.

well jb... I think you are lovely. And that your authenticity comes through. I so appreciate your times at that keyboard- such a big part of who God made you to be.

Roo said...

loved this.
and you.

did you really just order that book? because if not..i have a copy you can borrow......

svea said...

i love you too, sweet joyce, I miss reading your blog in my toddler run world over here. I know my daughter is begging for me to go off and work so she can come play with you, I should send her off to work so I can come play with you instead. I like you =) thanks for sharing

Brenda Funk said...

Must add one more comment to the many you already have! I couldn't agree more with you -- just finished reading Phyllis Tickle's Great Emergence, and we are lucky to be doing a book study with Tim Rogalsky (CMU) in SS. There is something about our over-organized, structured church that drains the life out of me. I am excited about the great societal shift we are in the middle of...much of which is going to be very good for us.