God is Love. It is the only way to start this story. I am more sure of this truth today than I have ever been. I am more convinced that this matters, than I have ever been convinced of anything mattering. I am thoroughly postmodern and therefore accept nothing with any level of final certainty except this one truth, God is Love.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - Charles DickensI am a refugee from my homeland. My old citizenship was in an idealized version of Americana that has most likely never existed. It has been three years since I left that Americana and started this spiritual trek westward toward finding Eden. I must admit from my position in the desert, I am thankful for the water, the manna, and the quail; but I am not quite sure I can take another 37 years of it.
I grew up in the Church of Christ arm of the American Restoration Movement. My grand-father was affiliated with the non-institutional, non-sunday school, non-everything branch of our fellowship. My father was military so his frequent change of station brought us into contact with many types of these churches. This tribe that I have been raised in has it's merits and it's curses. In truth I have a "great Bible knowledge" because of the commitment to an academic approach to God's word that stems from the groups very modernistic worldview. The curse is that same modernist worldview creates an arrogant finality to the voice and language of God. The modern principle of "doctrinal purity" excludes any ability to wreslt with an ongoing dialog with the text.
Well before I knew anything at all about modern and postmodern thought. I knew that I was not programmed the same way as my tribe. I faithfully remained a part of this group, and worked within it with the great love of radical revolutionary. From Jr. High on through adulthood I usually felt more beaten and bloodied by the ruling regime than ever feeling like progress was being made toward another way.
My wrestling with God, and with the tribe he had placed me within, did not stop with our method of reading and responding to the word of God. My conflict ran deeper into issues of ethic. The modernist bent of our tribe leads to a worship of all things quinessentially modern. This meant that the "great experiment in self government" was viewed as God's will for mankind. I could not and still can not reconcile the ethic of a church aligned with the national interest of a nation state who would use it's pulpit to become propaganda to that nation state.
In examples, I remember being a 17 year old pacifist in 1992 attempting to challenge the church's wholsale acceptance of violence against the Iraqi people. I remember asking questions like did Jesus really want girls pushed to back alley "doctors" with crude tools as "punishment" for their immorality. Challenges like this recieved me the label of instigator and accused of hijacking the Bible class. Questions like this were core to the ethic of what it meant to read this book our study calimed to revere.
As I studied in college and matured in the years since, my questions have remained the same. I continued to wonder if "church" should shape the morality of our interpersonal human interaction more than it shapes our doctrine of metaphysical truth. My tension in our differing approaches to the word of God eventually led to a seismic rift.
Three years ago, Jesus wrecked my life! I purchased a book titled Fields of the Fatherless mainly because I liked the cover description and it was on sale for $5. In that book I fell in love with Jesus. I knew God before this, inasmuch as I had been taught about him, employed to teach others about him, and experienced trying to serve him. I thought I knew Jesus too, but I did not. The Jesus I knew I can only best describe it as before this time I had only ever read about Jesus, in Tom Davis's book I met Jesus.
Meeting Jesus will always put you at odds with the world around you. The world is just not all that happy with a God who claims that downward mobility is the path to joy, and fills His kingdom with the poor, the immoral, and the wretched. That doesn't work well in a tri-fold brochure.
In January of this year our family felt led by God to leave the "church" we were affiliated with and venture into an entirely new model of the journey. We visited a church recently in the Rogers Park neighborhood where my oldest daughter met and connected to an older woman with some learning challenges. The woman liked my daughter a lot, and my daughter liked her too. The woman asked, "Will you be back next week?" To which my oldest replied, "Probably not, my parents just like to check things out." It was a most honest telling of the journey we have been on. We have been part of church that meets in our home and another that meets elsewhere, we have been part of a ministry to ex-offenders, we have pursued fellowship with an intentional Mennonite community, we have tried many other things too and still are wandering checking things out.
That is how I got here to who I am today. I am a dispossessed pilgrim trying to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I own a home in the burbs, but belong among the broken. I am in tension with the life I cut out for myself, and the life God created me to fulfill. I am made to live out the love of God, but mostly I just love enough to keep living. I am standing on the wrong side of the Jordan waiting to cross over. I am on a trek with almighty God, but ready to be settled down in his promised land. It is the best and worst of tension and times.
Where I am going is much harder than where I came from and where I am at. The old cliche says that the future is still unwritten, and I feel that way. God has confirmed a ministry to the orphans of Nsoko, yet our house is unsold and we are no longer connected to a support stream. I feel like the future has more to do with God's intervention than with my plans. With your grace as I mix metaphors, my Issac is tied to the altar and the knife is raised above my head.
I am dispossessed!