I grew up Southern Baptist, attended a conservative Catholic university, worked at a large non-denominational church in the area that was one of the first to allow women to preach, led trips for mainline Protestant congregations, met Christ through Quaker spirituality at a conference for the arts, and have found a home at an Anglican church.
A Christian weirdo. Or better yet, a Christian mutt.
I look back on this journey, a journey I am still on and will continue to be on for the rest of my days, fondly. Not because each stop along the path was filled with the joy of Christ or the “peace which passes all understanding.” There were and are doubts about God, frustrations with the church, confusion about the scriptures, and anger toward those whose orthopraxy reflected an orthodoxy I wanted nothing to do with.
Some of my misgivings were well-founded. I had ingested an understanding of God along the way that was true but incomplete. As Jed referred to in his post last week, the Christianity and Church I knew was oftentimes boundary defining instead of Christ centered, and I’ve been pushing back against that ever since I realized there was something missing.
As I look back on the journey I have been on as a Christian weirdo, I have noticed that my movements in and out of streams, in and out of new expressions of understanding, have been a chipping away of a plaque that crusted over the person of Christ in my life. At times I did this haphazardly — responding to the hurt at the hands of the church that was very real — while at other times I did so with intention — looking with hope that maybe when the veneer was shed, the Christ who restores would be waiting for me in all His glory.
God, in his mercy, has used both to bring me closer and closer to him. Much to my relief, some of my frustrations were revealed to be mischaracterizations of the person and nature of God. Other wounds I received, though, were self-inflicted. I have (and am in the midst of this) been slowly having to die to my own whims and desires and submit in obedience and faith to a loving God who doesn’t always feel loving to me.
As I continue to chisel away the dirt and grime covering up the One who longs to be in communion with me, may I, may we, follow the words of Jesus himself when he calls me to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” The kingdom of God and his righteousness is what we find and what we free when the caked filth is finally removed. So…
If you are in a place of pain and frustration with God and the church: seek first his kingdom.
If you are in a place of curiosity, wanting to grow in our knowledge of him: seek first his kingdom.
If you are overwhelmed with his peace and love: seek first his kingdom.
If you are in a place of stasis with God and others: seek first his kingdom.
As a few people said so beautifully in our Lectio Community Group last night, Jesus keeps us with him — even in our haphazard and careful ways of seeking him.
After all of this, I pray we find not a Jesus constructed in the image of our culture, nor a Jesus projected from our own imagination, nor a Jesus arrested from a bygone part of our youth. Instead…
I pray it is Christ and his kingdom we find. The one who left his Spirit to indwell us, to guide us, and to form us to be more and more like him, so we can live out his kingdom and righteousness all the days of our life.