Sunday, April 24, 2011

Of music and woodsmoke

Today is my annual day to sort through my guilt for not attending a gathering of The Church As We Know It, even though I haven't participated in years. I would lie if I said I didn't ponder it, or that I am indifferent to it, even though I have been exiled for quite some time.

I think part of the residue I still carry is that my faith was public for about half of my life. I made my living because of my faith. There were expectations put on me to set an example that was culturally agreed upon by the evangelical community of which I was a part. When someone else pays your salary, you have an obligation to follow their rules. I see nothing wrong with that. The predicament arises when you can no longer balance your questions with the expectations.

When I finally came to the point of assuming sole responsibility and accountability for my faith, I decided I could start doing away with some of the excess baggage and loosen my load. Since I would be sailing uncharted waters and exploring terra incognito, it seemed a good idea to travel light. Attending The Church As We Know It was one of the parcels that got left on the dock.

So here I sit alone, Easter Sunday, watching the smoker billow its gray breath of apple wood fumes. My wife and daughter off to their respective houses of worship as I stay home and listen to the soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ, something I have done every year for the last ten or so years. Between the ancient sound of the music and the primal sensation of the fire, I have enough to keep my mind occupied with these two simple, natural promptings. My soul is full. There is not room for much more right now.

I know all across my city, and all across this land, there are major productions of worship being staged for the benefit and blessing of millions. I hesitate to dub it with a negative description, because many will find their way closer to God via these means, for which I am glad. It's just that, for me, when the stage that gets set, literally, with trusses of lights, cameras, video screens, sound reinforcement, and choreography, all put in place by an army of workers and volunteers for a moment in time on Sunday morning, my circuit breakers trip as quickly as running four hair dryers out of one outlet. That which I once participated and even promoted, now feels so foreign, so far away, from the point on my current horizon.

As with most of my writing, I am authoring these words for my own benefit. I am reminding myself of the reason I embarked on this journey in the first place. The unexplored seas can bring isolation, but also great exhilaration. The solitude of my new direction fosters a profundity of new stimulation for the sake of my faith. I never knew what I had until I stripped away the veneer that covered the true foundation.

He is risen, and He has risen in me, indeed.

Happy Easter

PS. Fitting to finish on track 15, it captures the passion for which the song is aptly titled.


Tim Tillinghast said...

As always, appreciate your honesty with yourself and God.
As someone who still gets his salary ( make that support) paid by people in the church, I can honestly say I'd have a hard time finding a church to join if I ever moved back to the US.
As it is. I'm forced to try and attend 3-4 churches in any area to see supporters.

I wonder if you ever miss the Community of a small group of believers. Maybe you get that from your restaurant.
I think when I ever return to the US, i might just have to settle on a church where there was a good weekly small group that would hold my feet to the fire, weep with me, etc and
Swallow whatever Sunday productions and silliness was needed to get there.
But I haven't made that search yet, and so can't say i wouldn't find myself where you are.

Would love to sit and talk with you a while but my paths never lead me to Nebraska.

Tim Tillinghast

Watchman said...

Tim, thanks for your response. There is a lot I miss about the old path, but you'd be surprised how much of it stays with you, even though you are not going that direction any longer. While not formally, I still find myself surrounded by folks who hold my same values and are anchored by the same faith every week. If its truly a part of your DNA, you act naturally upon it. Too bad Nebraska isnt on your agenda. KS