I struggle to find the words to express the journey my faith has taken in the last several years, particularly during and after seminary, as well as during the time leading up to, and after, my father’s passing. I am increasingly finding the language of Western Christianity imperialistic and narrow, and my heart is often saddened by the expressions of various congregations. Not so very long ago, I was informed that my grief over the state of church was judgmental and that I should get over myself. Somehow, I don’t think the words of that person at that time were flowing from the heart of God.
Ah, God, what a loaded word that is! What pictures, what expectations, what words come to mind when we simply write or speak the noun “God”! These things that come to mind, I suspect, are a manifestation of the oppressiveness and damage that has been caused, and in many ways is still being caused, by people that label themselves as “church”. These things that come to mind are, one might say, evidence of the viral infection so often referred to in this blog.
The longer that I live, the more I come to realize how very limited the structures of our language are. Our language fails miserably when it comes to describing or depicting the Movements and Presence of the Ineffable Mystery we have come to label simply as “God”. It is no wonder then, that we, over the ages, have struggled with how to speak of the Manifestation of Love found in the birth, life, words, actions, death and subsequent existence of that man from the realm of Galilee a couple of thousand years ago. We insert words of exclusivity and fear into the speech patterns of that man – words like “only” and “one true”. We speak and write as though this man was the only expression of God’s heart through all of these ages.
I think, my friends, that our language often misses the mark.
Perhaps that is where the tumult in my heart arises – with the language barriers of the gatherings and the buildings that we call “church”. I also struggle with some of the actions, and much of the political structuring and the hierarchy found therein, but I suppose much of that is simply the continuation of historical reality found throughout the earth. All of these things, although they cause me to question whether or not I will choose to re-enter a church building and community, they do not remove my love for that Man who entered the world some two thousand years ago.
I may struggle with where and how to connect with community – where to become “church”. I do not, however, struggle to embrace the One who expressed Love and calls for Peace and shines like Light for all of creation. I do not believe that He was the “only”, or “one true” expression of Divine Love and I disagree with much of the language that has been used regarding “salvation”.
Still, there is something about that boy named Jesus. There is something about that little babe crying in swaddling clothes, reaching into the nostrils of a stinky, tired donkey. There is something about that boy named Jesus – something that makes my heart leap like a young calf in an open field. There is something about that boy named Jesus that makes me laugh and sing.