I read an article at ChristianityToday.com this week that surprised me. The author’s struggle was with an entirely different subject than mine, but the process she went through really captured my attention.
The author, Shayne Moore, describes her upbringing and education in an environment that encouraged her to think for herself, to consider God and His word, and pursue what she found, “amongst a community of 'don’t rock the boaters'-the Old Guard of evangelical tradition”.
What she found in pursuing God did not fit into the prescription of the “Old Guard”. At times she found herself under condemnation, from herself as well as others, as she continued to pursue what she believed the Spirit was calling her to.
Her description of moving from the paradigm of her childhood and youth, into the one God was drawing her to, really caught me. It was as if someone had dipped a ladle into my mind and drawn out the expression of my struggle.
Shayne says “I read Brian McLaren’s books A New Kind of Christian and The Story We Find Ourselves In. I gobbled them up, along with the ideologies of the Emerging Church movement. Here were people putting words on what my spirit already knew. It explained why I felt like a fish out of water in my own tradition. It explained why now when I stood in a group of people discussing our faith it sounded as if they were speaking a foreign language. Without knowing it, I had started through that narrow passage that leads from one paradigm to another” (emphasis mine).
But my struggle, my confusion and perplexity, is due to grace. What the reality of the nature of grace is. What it means in a very real, concrete way in my life.
Change the authors to Steve McVey, Paul Anderson Walsh, Norman Grubb, and others. Change the movement to that of union life, or one of several other labels. With these changes, her thoughts are my exact thoughts over the last few months.
I’m struggling. Or perhaps as a group of friends suggested, I’m wrestling. Wrestling with what I thought was the teaching of truth. Wrestling with what God’s Spirit is revealing to my spirit. Fighting to figure out how it works in my life. Struggling, because I know it is true, but it seems to be turning much of my world inside out.
I came from reading another article recently. My wife, Annie, said I seemed confused. And when she asked me about it, I couldn’t even express what was bothering me. I was confused about what I was confused about! And Annie reminded me that confusion wasn’t from God. And that’s true. But when I’m moving from a place of not truth, to a place of truth, the puzzlement is still there. Not from God, but because of trying to shake off the not truth.
Shayne goes on to describe “Then this paradigm shift got scary and painful . . . I found myself disoriented and confused by the different voices around me . . . So I did what I had to do. I took a deep breathe and pushed further into that cramped passageway. It hurt, and I’m sure I didn’t make any friends and certainly lost some while I cried, whined, complained, and raged along the way... I lost the respect of people whose opinions I valued. My journey felt so honest and this loss of favor was confusing and hurtful . . . Was this paradigm shift real . . .This patriarchal model of church, life, and marriage was no longer working for me . . . I had changed so much and there was no going back.”
Shayne’s report indicates she found peace in the end (or at a point- I don’t know that the process ends). I trust God that I will as well. I’m not there now. Much of my life is in turmoil. There are very few places that I can honestly say I find peace at the moment. There are far more voices that conflict with what I hear from God, than those that confirm.
This is where I am, and my words don’t express even to myself, how much of a struggle this is. In many ways I feel cut off from many of the people that are closest to me. But I am convinced that what God is revealing to me is true. Going back is not an option.