Suddenly I'm updating six different people on what has gone on in my life in the last 20 years. Has anyone else experienced this? It seems to be the combined impact of mid-forties and Internet search engines. Steve (who posts in the comments) and I met each other "again" through the Internet and as a result, I even went to visit him when I made my trip to LA. We hadn't talked or seen each other in 20 years.
One of the challenges of being "discovered" on the Internet is that my writings range from homeschool and writing advice to liberal theology and apostasy! Depending on when and how you knew me, the second set of writings might be a shock.
But so far, friendship has won out over orthodoxy in each of the recent six cases, and that is a gratifying experience.
Sometimes, though, it's hard for me to know where I left off in the retelling of my life. I get bored by my own story (I lived it and wrote so much about it as it was happening that I can't get up the enthusiasm to go back over and over it). Yet I know that when a person like me (radically committed to the point of inspiring others - so I'm told) makes a big change, it's one that creates that curiosity bug - what does it mean? How did it happen? (And the dark side: if it happened to her, could it happen to me?)
Remember those two guys I dreamed about last night? I Googled their names this morning. Both still work for Campus Crusade: one has his Th.D. from Dallas and the other is working with Human Resources in Asia. That makes a lot of sense based on my memory of them and what I knew about them before.
What would make sense to someone Googling my name who "knew me when" would be:
Jon and Julie Bogart are working for the Vineyard denomination, taking short term missions trips to North Africa, and writing articles about Muslim missions.
Instead, they stumble on my blog where I deconstruct prayer, explain the logical fallacies of soteriology and cap it off by saying that I'm totally sick of church. If pushed to say it, I even admit to being agnostic about God, believe theology is art, not the source of truth, and see Christianity more as cultural assumption than faith.
If you add Jon's journey, you wind up with two people who have abandoned all the trappings of our formerly committed Christian lives and we don't go to church (which is a Big Sin on the scale of homosexuality in the Midwest). What does it mean? What went wrong?
It's this. I suffer from spiritual exhaustion.
As I sat in evening meditation last night at yoga (our three minutes of silence), I realized that from the day I entered evangelical Christianity until several years past when I left it, I feel called upon to make commitments, to express conclusions, to participate in community, to work for good, to analyze and determine what version of faith would be "acceptable" to me in spite of my disenchantment with evangelicalism, to defend the process I'm in, to say nice things about my past and avoid saying critical ones, to find a church, to make use of my degree... in short, I feel called on to create and sustain a spiritual life that makes sense to others and can be classified as Christian on some level.
(I'm not aiming this post at any one of you. This is the collective sense of what I feel when I have had to interact about my faith (or serious lack of it) in the last five years.)
The truth is, though, I spent twenty years devoted, committed, seeking, open, worshipful, in a posture of prayer, relying on the Bible to convict me of sin, disciplined daily to share my faith, to pray for others, to seek to be used by God to heal, working to give to the poor as specified by my church...
I went on to give myself to equally devoted theological study over a five year period (four of which were in graduate school).
The "conclusion" (if you want to call it that) is that I must start over. There is no place for me in any of the current forms of Christian faith that I know about. As Spong says, I'm in exile. I live in midwestern exile from Southern California and I live in spiritual exile from Christianity. The interesting similarity between these two displacements is that I'm happy. I don't feel that I must rush back to Los Angeles to reclaim my identity, nor do I feel I must make sense of Christianity to include me in it.
Instead of passionate devotion and problem solving, I'm resting in the what "is" of my life. I wrote my first UPI column about the Freefall of Faith, something I still feel accurately describes me today:
My search for truth left me with something else instead: uncertainty — a total lack of confidence in any one theological position I had held previously, and as a result, a loss of confidence in God.Seems I'm still living there, suspended in the air.
Still, though I lost faith, I never lost interest.
To exercise faith in the midst of so little clarity related to the things of God, I have discovered that I must leap into the unknown with humility, trusting that truth has less to do with propositions and more to do with dispositions. Interest has changed me. I am open to people and how they understand the world, rather than defending myself against them. I want to know why certain beliefs are meaningful in one context and not as meaningful in another.
In fact, without presuppositions and doctrines to support me, I feel a bit like I've jumped from a plane without any parachute at all. The view is gorgeous, though, as I look at the world from above, rather than defending one bit of turf as my own, as God's own. I don't know where I'll land. I don't know how fast I'm falling. But the air is chill and exhilarating, I sense the Spirit in the wind and I feel caught in a process of discovery that feels something like truth.
It's a freefall. I call it faith.