What a blessing I’ve been given to have 40 whole days dedicated predominantly to seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and feeling this amazing land. The gift of time is so humbling to me as time is a treasure beyond value. Having had a significant shortage of free time in the past, I appreciate it beyond words now.
One of the great things about driving thousands of miles is that you have lots of time for contemplation. Sometimes my mind travels back in time, memories sparked to make an appearance by a sight or sound or smell. At others, my mind is overwhelmed in the present with sensory overload. But in between sampling all forms of huckleberry and absorbing the myriad scenes and experiences this type of travel affords, I’ve been taking an inner journey as well.
My spiritual journey began about 40 years ago when I chose to follow Christ. For 40 years, I’ve pursued that Truth – sometimes taking two steps forward, more often taking three steps back, but always absorbing, always searching, always seeking the will of God as best I could understand it in the brokenness of my humanity. During my spiritual trek, I’ve sat in church pews and listened to men – from Catholic priests to virtually every Protestant denomination – opine on their interpretation of the Living Word. It is a decidedly male perspective – generally long on consequences and bereft of empathy.
It took many years in my journey before I realized that the focus on the rules and the consequences of our inability to adhere to them, rather than the focus on the grace…the fiery sermons describing “sinners in the hands of an angry God”…or even the quiet ones shrouded in loving words but judging and condemning his fellow man – were not the Truth. They were simply words delivered by insecure, angry men who sought to make themselves feel better about their own failings by pointing their fingers at the failures of others.
As the miles have passed by I have contemplated the following. More than 2000 years ago, God came into this dimension in the flesh, bringing His plan of forgiveness and love with Him so that we might experience His peace and joy for eternity. Yet, for the ensuing centuries, man has steeped himself in legalism, focused on our brokenness as humans and proceeded to judge, condemn and at times even execute his fellow man – all as if God had never reached out and embraced us as His prodigal children. I am immersed in judgment and exclusion, but thirst for love and inclusion.
My 40-day trip is a microcosmic example. John and I have attended a variety of churches of varying denominations – from the small Baptist church in Mississippi to an Anglican church in Banff. One would think the evangelical churches – whose inherent mission is to spread the word – would do just that. Not so. My 40-day journey has aped my 40-year journey in this regard. Most of the words emanating from the pulpit (with the exception of the vicar at the Anglican church in Banff) focused on our outward behavior rather than our inner travel. They excluded, rather than included. They seemed to condemn rather than to rejoice in grace. In fact, the majority of the men rarely even mentioned Jesus by name or the love of God except during prayer!
I contrast what I heard from the pulpit in churches across America to what I read in The Shack by John Eldredge. If you haven’t read The Shack, I encourage you to do so. It’s a book of fiction, but is a better description of the essence of God’s peace, love, forgiveness and joy than the words emanating from the church today.
So, my inner travel has led me to the conclusions I’ve put down in this blog entry. Controversial to some…resonating with others. Where do I go from here? I could continue to sit in church pews and hear more of the same, petrifying in the legalism of the old covenant as if the new didn’t eradicate it. I find that increasingly untenable. Or – I can take the less traveled path and seek to include, rather than exclude…embrace rather than chastise…follow Christ rather than be led by the dictates of men more concerned with 0bedience to their interpretations of the Living Word than adherence to the Truth of “love one another.”
And what about you? How goes your inner travel? What choices do you see before you? And what do you think about mine?