Please forgive me for using the word 'journey' without any irony whatsoever. It's the only word I can think of right now that sums up what I'm learning my faith is about; not a destination, but a long, painful journey towards being more like Christ.
That is not always pretty though. Most times, heck, most days, it is an ugly, ugly thing.
So this faith journey is one big tangled mess for me at the moment. I am learning and un-learning so many things simultaneously, which makes it incredibly difficult to share it with anyone in any articulate way (apart from my husband who sifts through my ramblings). I worry so much about coming across as flaky, or worse, a "backslider" because in the world I live, that is one of the most pitiable creatures around according to most, and I don't want or need anyones pity.
I feel like I need to type/write some ideas down to make it nice and orderly in my brain. Or at least give me the false impression that I have it "all figured out" when I am often just scrambling to feel on track for one moment at a time.
These ideas will be really badly thought-out, so I need a massive amount of grace from anyone reading this.
1. Ok, how do I say this? I am becoming more and more intolerant of any form of sexism, misogyny or discrimination against women in church. This also includes jokes from the pulpit (!!) about how "every man's action results in a completely irrational reaction from a woman hahahahahahaha". And that is a direct quote.
Talk about buying directly into the destructive culture of our world that says women are not only irrational but hysterical, overreacting banshees that need to be placated, controlled and 'demystified' at every turn. I just cannot take it anymore. The church of Jesus Christ should be fighting against every form of oppression, not perpetuating it. I get that people are broken; I get it more than people may realise, because I am one of them. I am flawed and broken and desperately in need of grace. But it doesn't excuse overt sexism coming from the very place that needs to be administering grace and mercy and offering us all safety from the tentacles of our death-culture.
2. I want to be more open to the cries of the needy and the poor and the completely marginalised in our society, and I want church to be less about building projects and more about the single mum down the street who has no family, 4 kids and an abusive ex-boyfriend. What about her? And the thousands more who only know that the church is definitely against gay marriage and has a really awesome Easter production coming up. If that's all they know of Christ's hands and feet, then I am ashamed.
3. Questions are okay. Questions are not to be feared. In fact, questions are being asked all the time by many many people in our churches but rarely acknowledged, and this only lends weight to the idea that our faith is not capable of handling scrutiny and probing. Being afraid of questions betrays a shallow understanding of what Christ came to do and has done. Being afraid of questions tells me that the faith is not strong enough, that it is a fragile house of cards that we must take care not to disturb lest it fall around our ears. That is not the faith I inherited from my mothers and fathers in the faith. That is not the faith of martyrs both ancient and current. That is not the faith of Thomas who questioned his Lord and received a reply.
I haven't always believed this, and it's taken me a while to become accustomed to all these questions. They're my constant companions, but I find that it's got me thinking about all things Christ/church/faith all the freaking time!
4. Leading on from Number One, I am weary of the huge imbalance of stories being told that hold up only males from the Bible as our heroes in the faith. I can count on one hand the amount of times that I've heard about the women who believed, who acted, who lived out a life that we should all aspire to. And this may be due to my Protestant, in particular Pentecostal upbringing, but I am especially sad about missing out on learning about and learning from Mary, mother of Jesus. The pendulum of Mary-worship that Catholics are accused of has really swung from that side to the equally destructive side of belittling and minimising her life and actions that we could all learn from. I've heard more about characters like Gideon than on people like Deborah or Esther. There's an entire book of the Bible dedicated to extolling Esther's life and faith, and yet I cannot recall hearing much about her at all! This is not an attack on any particular church/person/preacher, but an observation of a trend across the board - ask any middle-aged Christian about women like Phoebe, Junia, Mary, Esther, Huldah and see what replies you might get. Scot McKnight wrote a book called 'Junia is Not Alone' that is incredible.
5. I love icons. I don't really understand them, and I don't know why, but I am drawn to icons of the early church in a strange way. I say 'strange' because I have grown up being told that Orthodox Christians "aren't proper Christians" and that icons are completely idolatrous and definitely 'not ok'. I don't believe they are idolatrous, in and of themselves, and my heritage seems to me so pale and sparse and empty of beautiful art or imagery because of this. It makes me sad that so many traditions of the church have been rejected or denounced as 'heresy' when Scripture isn't as clear on that as many think.
Isn't it funny that even typing out of those 5 'things' has filled me with a sense of dread about what people might think? I am tempted to delete this post, but I don't want to live in fear of people's opinions anymore. Suffice to say, my faith is getting deeper, but in a way I cannot really fathom or understand just yet. The scaffolds of what held it up before are falling away, and that's ok, because I think it's time for new scaffolding, new ways to think about Christ and who he might be. The cradle of my faith has got me this far, and I am eternally (haha) grateful for that, but I think it's time to get out of the cradle and walk.
Some amazing blogs/writers that are helping me do this are people like Sarah Bessey at sarahbessey.com who says;
“Be grateful for your disillusionment because it will push you away from revere-ing your own self or your heroes of the faith or the mystics or doctrine teachers or bloggers or missionaries or churches. Now we can learn from one another, as partners and friends, but we are pointed towards the only true example for humanity, the true Shepherd, the true Father, the true Mother, the true God. We can now embrace each other in our humanity, flawed, and moving together towards our true selves with open hearts to God.”
The Book of Common Prayer
and so many more.