Monday, May 25, 2009

Go Back, Jack, Do It Again

Continuing to ponder the rift between my old life and new, I wonder if I will ever be able to live without a pull backward to that former way of living I have since rejected?

My life took a radical turn the summer after my senior year in college. It was that point where I decided I believed in God, and that something would be required of me in order to make my lifestyle congruent with that belief. So in a form I was very familiar, I prayed a formal prayer to indicate that decision. I immediately felt a strong sense of relief.

The relief came, I think, not so much as a result of feeling the love of God or a rush of freedom of soul, but instead from looking at it from the standpoint of being on the right side now. I was now saved. I was not quite sure what that was going to mean, but at least I was safe.

Now these many years later, I’m still unpacking the results of that decision.

That decision led me to think and believe and choose a path that made perfect sense even as short as five years ago, but now it has led me to a very different expression today. I no longer make my living from that belief. I don’t go to church. I don’t make music any longer and lead people in singing. Many who knew me in those days would look at my life now and assume I have given up on that decision. But I have to say it’s quite the opposite.

I’ve spent a significant amount of energy wondering what it would have been like if I had made that decision under better circumstances, under kinder, more loving and graceful leadership. How better adjusted would I be today if I wasn’t raised with a fearful view of God, or a cause and effect relationship with the Bible? My assumption was, I would have been better off.

And maybe I would, but I don’t get a do over on that one. All I’ve got is a move over. I am asking my past to step aside, to move over and allow for new works of grace to take its rightful place over the more restrictive patterns that was offered me.

I can’t change what I was given, but I can change what I give away. I met a pissed off Jesus, but I can introduce you to a more loving one. I was led to believe my attendance in a group of people in one location on Sunday morning was crucial for my behavior to remain moral. Now I can offer a different idea for what a day of rest could be.

I was given a picture of awakening being painted with broad strokes on a canvas of church attendance and political involvement. I can now give out a belief that awakening implies slumber, and that the soul may not even be aware it is asleep.

Even though I like where I am and where I am going, the invitation to go backward is always standing. The past always beckons us to think that better days were behind us. Cracker Barrel has built a pretty good business plan on this idea. But the problem is, we can’t go back, nor should we. The past is safe, but it grows stale. The soul may survive on day old rations, but it will be unable to thrive without new life and new faith.


glenn said...


Seven years after pastoring, I still think of myself as a pastor. I have literal dreams about my old church life. It met a lot of social and ego needs; some in an unhealthy way, some in an okay way.

No longer being a part of that way of life changed the rhythm of my life, my identity, and my manner of self expression. My transition out of the church system into the unknown has been a huge adjustment and it is very challenging. Yet, I know that it is a good journey.

It takes a while to find new rhythms to replace those that were well worn through decades of life. It takes awhile to figure out how to be in community. It takes awhile to figure my new role of purposefulness. All of this makes me think and pray and discuss how to strip down life and faith to what really matters and that is hard, but good.

Dusty Chris said...

"Cracker Barrel" there is a ministry concept I don't believe has been tried yet..."You want cream gravy adn sweet tea with communion, or turnip greens on the side?"

I believe we all come to Jesus on different paths...some of us are war weary and beat down while others come to know "cool Jesus" early on. Some of us come to know Him after trauma, loss, tragedy while others seem to walk the golden road to Jesus.

The old way may be comfortable but did it meet the deep spiritual needs God placed in your heart? For me, not so much. Although having all the answers and having salvation be contigent on church attendance is easier, it leaves a deep hole that can not be filled by another stanza of "Just as I Am."

Go back to the old and see how much you've grown...then maybe you'll have a better appreciation of the place where God has you now.

Les said...

"I can’t change what I was given, but I can change what I give away."

That is so true, but also difficult to hold on to, especially when it comes to family and those who have known you a long time.

My struggle between my old life and my new life really becomes a struggle only when my family is involved. That's where I have the hardest time staying in my new life and giving away to them what I have now instead of what I was given by them.

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