Neat and tidy religion

“Things stopped fitting into the neat and tidy categories of right and wrong, good and evil. Black and white slowly bled to gray.” (Evolving in Monkey Town, pg. 109)

We joined the church about which we were inquiring, and in the past several months I’ve been approaching theology in a new way. Now that I think of it, that statement isn’t entirely true. If I’m honest, the more accurate statement would be is that I’m publicly and openly exploring theology in a new way. I’ve actually been doing this for years most quietly, while still participating in Sunday School classes, Bible study groups and the like. I’ve held my tongue, discounted lessons altogether because they didn’t make any sense, and stirred in frustration over what I believed to be the dumbing down of God. We spent more than a year out of church altogether after we moved because I didn’t really want to start that process all over again just to stir up the conflict in my heart.

This summer Chuck and I realized that we really wanted and needed to go back to church, but we were stumped over where to go. Our previous affiliations were out of the question, so we explored other options on the occasional Sunday in an attempt find a better fit for our family. However, after each visit we’d drive home uninspired, experiencing that all-too-familiar feeling that said, “We know where this is headed. Let’s not go back.”

Happily, we found a place were we both want to be, where we want to sit and listen, absorb and learn, serve and grow. We took communion with this church body for the first time on Sunday (three cheers for the gluten-free bread option!) and watched the baptism of three adopted children a few Sundays prior. We’ve sung with them, recited prayers with them, and have already felt challenged by the sermons. So far, so good.

I’m currently reading Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans and seriously – it’s fantastic. Rachel is asking (and doing her best to answer) all of the questions I’ve been asking for years. In the past I was so quick to adopt catch phrases like “God’s ways are not our ways” and “because the Bible says so.” For years I approached the onset of faith with my eyes on the end of time (that ticket to heaven, you know), without giving near enough thought to the whole life lived in between. I began at the start line and went straight to the finish line and saw nothing of the race. And while I knew there had to be other lessons to learn, I always left the Sunday service having heard (yet again) that I had to accept Jesus Christ as my savior to have eternal life, even though I had taken care of that decades ago. I was ready to move on to the next thing but never seemed to get there. The result was a growing frustration not with God but with the church. To quote a friend of Rachel’s in her book, “It was like drowning in a pool of shallow water.” (pg. 65)

I underlined that sentence with a black pen, and then I drew a rectangle around it. Then I starred it in the margin. I couldn’t have expressed my own feelings any better.

For the first time in a long time I’m excited to go to church. Intellect is assumed and inquiries are encouraged. Asking questions is okay, whether you want to know more about the history of the Protestant Reformation or whether you want to know if all of this God stuff is real anyway. It’s so… liberating.

I won’t flood my blog with posts about church and religion, so no worries. We’re not getting too serious here! I just felt the need to get this out on “paper” and say it “out loud.” Thanks for indulging me.

5 Replies to “Neat and tidy religion”

  1. wonderful post…our walk of faith is an ongoing journey. sometimes we are ‘stuck’ in the muck of living a life worthy of His name, other times we are liberated and inspired and praising Him above any and all things. I, too, have felt a hole in my faith walk which needs filling. I happened upon Joseph Prince ministries on Daystar and TBN. He currently is teaching healing and using the Hebrew letters and original meanings of Hebrew words to teach. I find it fascinating and I feel fed and I want more. Good for you for keeping on pursuing a good fit for your family. I hope to hear of more happy times in your growing with God, my dears.

  2. In the whole search, be watchful of those that tell you it’s up to you to do things to please God. In fact, God frees us from that. There’s nothing we can do that Christ didn’t already do perfectly in our place. Given the gift of faith through our baptism, we understand we are both saint and sinner. But Christ has rescued us from sin, death and the devil. We are saved by God’s grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8).

    My husband is a Lutheran pastor. I didn’t grow up in the Lutheran church, but it is now home for me and I wouldn’t be happy anywhere else. I love learning about the Reformational history of our church.

    I wish you God’s richest blessings as you find a church home you are happy in.

    P.S. I really like your blog . . .

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