Okay. So. One of my oldest friends -- like, we're talking we met back when I was in the ninth grade in 1985 -- has recently come back into my life, and it looks like the circles that our lives move in are starting to converge once more after having moved to the outer regions for...the better part of a decade ('sup, Pittman?).
He -- along with one other person whose opinion I trust (hi, Ryan) have both recommended a book to me. Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christian. So, being the easily-swayed spineless jellyfish that I am (-ha-), I bought a copy.
Yeah. Three chapters into this thing, I can tell it's going to rock my world. In a good way.
The printing of the book I bought has this keen little Reader's Guide in the back. Now, ordinarily, what I'd do is I would write out the responses to these questions into one of the multiple journals in my house, where no one can find them and where one day my phantom children will discover them read them,. and then bbe in need of therapy. LOTS of therapy. But, before that, if I felt that I'd written anythign particulary note-worthy 9or just plain dumb), then I'd transpose the "Best Of" here -- sharing my filtered thoughts with all a'ya.
Not so much this time.
What I will do is type my reponses to each question separately, updating daily/almost-daily (due to travels in the sumer), with ym unfiltered, and oft-times rambling, responses.
Read on at your own peril. Here there be honesty...
1. Have you had relationships that felt safe enough to talk about your struggles and doubts regarding your faith? What made them so?
Not until recently -- most of my history with faith and belief has been with a lot of my friends closed off to the idea of doubt. I remember in my freshman year of college -- back in my "Dark Poet" days, where I wrote some great stuff, but MAN, was it morose -- I wrote the phrase "Doubt is a badge of victory for a saint" or something to that effect. Even then, I was struggling with problems of doubt, of questions -- and the judgmental looks and responses I got from so many people...looking back, I now understand that developmentally speaking (emotionally and cognitively), they weren't in the place I was in, where doubts were okay.
I think I've mastered most of my doubts, although they do creep back up every now and again. It's not just the bad days that make me doubt; I think that doubt and challenging oneself is a natural part of growth -- I used to get so pissed off at people I called sheep, the ones who'd blindly follow anything any one preacher said...until God reminded me that everyone needs guidance at points in their lives. That there may be circumstances in that person's life where they just NEED to sit, listen and be fed...and that with hope, they'll grow and walk on their own, not straying from the sight of the shepherd they have in their life. It might not be THAT shepherd they're listening to at the time -- they may grow beyond that and move on to another field.
But now -- now, I feel like I can question, but, sadly, I still have friends who might not understand the context f the question, who might say it's okay to question INSIDE of Christianity and the established rules (or non-rules), but to question outside of it? To say that all we need might not be answered or found wrapped up in a neat package, all the answers are to be discovered might not be in scripture, or the fact that life effing sucks sometimes and that there are times when we question and rage against the sky with no answers to come immediately?
There's the struggle -- the struggle that, as someone in a minor position of leadership in my local church -- what would the kids I mentor and interact with on an almost-daily- basis say if they knew that I was...human? That my feet of clay are more like feet of clay on rollerskates, that I flow freely from one extreme to the next in the realm of doubt, questions...I love each and every one of them more than I can express (why else the crap would I allow one of them to smear Cheetos in my hair?!?!?), but can we all accept the fact that we are ALL going to have doubts, fears...and can we all just accept each other -- TRULY accept each other -- as flawed? Faulty?
Why do we cheer when Christ called the Pharisees white-washed graves when all we do sometimes is put on white-washed masks of who we are with our family in the blood? Not so much so that we'll look perfect, but at least so that we'll look together? When did authentic spiritually go from carrying one another's burden's to a game of one-upmanship?
(to be continued...)