"The discomfort we feel when boundaries shift is the measure of our allegiance to the way things are." (Kathleen Norris, The Cloister Walk)
I've wondered if this is what the past two years have been about--grieving, crying out, shaking in fear, all rocking me to the core as I realize where my allegiance truly lies. I used to ask God to peel my fingers from their grasp upon anything that I used to feel okay, to feel secure as I made my way through life. Now, there are times when I can step outside my own confusion and disorientation and anger, and wonder if such emotions are present, at least in part, because I am losing the things I once relied upon, just as I asked. I prayed such pretty prayers about depending on God alone, but I am catching glimpses of how deep indeed my allegiance goes to privilege, success, consumerism, people-pleasing, money, comfort, luxury. The fault lines of my life are being revealed, to some degree, and I am constantly uncomfortable. I grieve and wring my hands when pretense is removed and the call of Jesus is a hard one.
"Like a pampered daughter headed west in a wagon train, you had set out into the wilderness with your trunks and baggage in tow, smug and convinced of your arrival on the other side with your old gods intact. As the journey carried on, you left a trail behind you, a littering of the contents of your baggage, and slowly, sometimes bitterly, your walk through the wilderness became unencumbered. Sometimes you sat by the trail and cried over the poisonous lovely things you were leaving behind."(Sarah Bessey, here)
I read through old journals recently, some in boxes here in Seattle, and others, older records safely stored at Mom's house in Portland. I am tired for that girl. I am bone-weary for her. She is in the grips of fundamentalist thinking, all definitions, rights and wrongs that exist in black-and-white, everything happening for a reason, formulaic religious language offered as an answer to the hard, complex questions. Most of all, a sense of guilt haunts almost every page, never good enough. I know, I know, God is gracious to be present through every chapter, even in spite of our half-truths and misconceptions and assumptions.
I am just as confident some of my current theology and ideas will be turned on their head in the years to come, that I will be transformed and change again and again and again, and that it will never be easy to give things up that once felt precious and certain.
This has been a long season of disillusionment, constant flux, ambiguity, complexity, and disappointment, and it is fairly exhausting. Many twentysomethings with an evangelical background have similar stories, if the internet and my own friend group are any indication (and usually the internet is a good indicator, eh?). We are many in number, and we are all grappling with this shared experience of disillusionment and hope in our unique settings and circumstances.
Though I am tired, and sometimes afraid, I am grateful for this adventure I have been on, am still on. It is a journey of nuance, grey spaces, hermeneutics, story, scandalous grace, kingdom theology, and Jesus, always Jesus, fearsome, gentle, wise, piercing, wonderful, shocking Jesus. I am bedraggled, perhaps, but there is rejoicing in between the grieving over the old poisonous lovely things to which I once clung.
"But every single one of those items left along the trail – your cynicism, your hypocrisy, your lies, your numbing techniques, your apologetics and doctrinal statements, your worldview, your pomposity, your opinions, your carefully constructed personas, your sins, your righteousness, your secrets – all of it became filthy rags and in the end, you were nearly flinging them off the wagon, glad to be rid of them at last."(Sarah Bessey, here)
I think I am getting exactly what I once prayed for, although it wrenches my heart in a way I could never have anticipated. All along the path, even through my tears, I try to say: good riddance, and onward.