Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Merciful Traveling - Some Thoughts on Faith (Part Two)

Allow me to set the stage.

My faith was formed within the Mennonite church.   I was surrounded by four-part harmony and responsive readings from the Mennonite Hymnal,  acts of service and kindness, and words of instruction from our pastor (who was always male) from the pulpit.

I got bitten by the charismatic bug when I was a teenager.  Raising hands, "words" from God, and dancing in the aisles - together with the excitement for the unexpected - pulled me in.  "This is where God is", I thought.  (And He was there..... and a million other places.)

The charismatic bug propelled me to a stint with Youth With A Mission, which confirmed that, Yes, indeed, God is where the Charismatics are.  There is life here, I thought.   Speaking in tongues, prophesy, "inspired" worship - we had it all, and I bought in hook, line and sinker.   (There was life there, mostly in the relationships I made and in the space to test my newly minted adult wings.  God was there, but He would have been the million other places I could have found myself in too.)

The rest of the story goes a little like this.... Newly married couple looks for church.  Walks into one that meets in a school gym and falls in love with a bunch of people who love them back.  There are smatterings of Charis-mania and Evangelicalism.  There is top-down leadership and a strong sense of what spiritual authority is and what it looks like to "come under" it.  The expectations are high, the authority is assumed, and the conformity continues.  But this all exists beneath a blanket of people who really love us and care about us.  Who still do.  And who we love right back.

And that's where I was for a good many years.  Me and Mike and our growing family of 3 girls.

We did it all - house group leadership, worship leading, nursery, Kid's Church, Core leaders, and more.  We did it because we wanted to be part of something.
         To be obedient and giving.  
         To be accepted and to fit in.
If God tells someone above you that you would make a great house group leader, you feel honored, chosen, and you say yes.  (And it feels so damn good to be in the inner circle).

Yes becomes yes, becomes yes and soon you've "yes-ed" your way through many years.  The years are good, but sometimes painful and confusing.  Sometimes they make you question whether God only talks to people more important than you.  People who are in the church full time and don't know what it's like to work downtown or uptown, rubbing shoulders with the everyday man.  Sometimes you don't agree and something doesn't sit right.  You're asked if you're hearing from God "right".  If you were, surely you would have heard something else.

Somewhere along the way of "yes" and listening to what God was saying to someone else (and sometimes you?) you lost your way.  Doubt and cynicism crept in.  "Doubt is dangerous, it leads to a slippery slope" you're told.  And you believe it.  

Leadership crumbles and the ground gets shaky.  People around you are questioning structure and authority and asking questions.  You don't want to admit it out loud, but they're the same questions you're asking in your own dark place where no one goes but you.

You find yourself questioning authority instead of coming under it.
"Where is God?" you ask.  You can't seem to find Him anymore.
He's buried beneath the rubble of the expectations and authority and "certainty" that's crumbling around you.

It's scary, to ask the questions.
Doesn't that mean you have no faith?
That faith is faltering?
That you're not strong enough -
       Committed enough -
          Convinced enough -
              Devoted enough -
                  Serious enough -
                      Spiritual enough -
                           Humble enough -
                               Converted enough -
                                   Dedicated enough -
                                      "Called" enough -
                                           Anointed enough -
                                              Holy enough....

and enough and enough and enough.  And ENOUGH.

You know He's there.   

He's there, right?

Nothing fits anymore.

This doesn't feel right.
I can't do it.
(Don't judge me.)
We can't do this anymore.
(Will they still love us?)

All you know is that if you don't go looking for Him, 
apart from the church
you wonder if you'll ever find Him, or if you'll even care.


  1. Thanks for your honesty in sharing this Karla! As someone who has seen you up close and further away at times during all of these years, I appreciated hearing your story.

    As someone who "works" in a church and has for a good part of his life, it was also important to see things from your perspective as well. Not that I haven't, but it is a good reminder. Especially as someone who has struggled with doubts and some of the same issues as you.

    May God continue to reveal Himself where you are, regardless of what place that may find you in.



  2. That is very good Karla. Amen and amen and amen to all of that. I sometimes think that God must shake his head at what goes on down here with "church". Not sure where you are at in the Lower Mainland but we found the teaching etc. at St. John's Anglican church truly amazing. Like nothing I had ever experienced before or since moving back to Winnipeg. Worth a try. Used to be St. John's Shaughnessy.

  3. Have you been reading my journals for the last 15 years? Creepy...

    Thanks for sharing Karla - it's funny (and sad) how we all keep our doubts and questions secret, when it seems like most everybody has the same thoughts at some times.

    I hope that your next blog post has all the answers...


  4. Doubts are good. Harold and I are kind of known as "shit disturbers" as we've not been afraid to challenge things in the church. We've been in leadership and have now taken the step to "leave" our church. ... Some can't handle it. For us it's been oh-so-refreshing! ... Not without pain tho, sadly.