Saturday, September 27, 2014

Down the Rabbit Hole

If you find grammatical errors, do not point them out lest you become cursed with "the fever"...and DIE!  

You have been warned!

“So Ken, you still serving the Devil and laying out of church?”

Well, I haven’t exactly joined the dark side or anything, but yeah, I’m still kicking it with the slackers.

In fact, it’s been almost five years since I walked away from the institution many call “church” and believe it or not, I feel fine.  Still it hasn’t been all roses and sunshine, not by a long shot!  In fact, there have been more than a few moments that I felt as if I had somehow really screwed up!

Honestly, when I first made the decision to “walk away” I was scared, really scared.  I definitely remember feeling a little like Alice in Wonderland.  “Down the rabbit hole” I went, into the unknown with a heck of a lot more questions than answers.

The first year was pretty easy, I spent a lot of time searching for a better way, of “doing church”.  After all, it only made since (at least to me) that God obviously had brought me out of the chaos in order to find a fix.  Yes, I would somehow chart a new course for God’s children, I would find a “magical” new way of doing things, and this time…it would work splendidly!  I read books, listened to endless “on the edge” podcasts, and prayed spectacular prayers in which I assured God I knew exactly what I was doing.  All of this only to end up with a boat load of frustration and anger.  Back to square one and back down the rabbit hole I slid!

Yes, feel free to laugh, because despite my grandiose visions of grandeur, “fixing” church was obviously not God’s plan for me. 

Round 2

When I finally came to terms with the fact that God was probably not calling me to be a new and improved version of Moses, I decided maybe my calling was to wickedly bash and with a little luck, destroy the institution of church.  If I couldn’t fix the mess, I would work hard to indoctrinate others with my “church sucks and here’s why” message.  “Oh Yes”, I thought.  That would do nicely.  DESTROY church!  What a fantastic idea! (sarcasm).  Of course, we all know how edifying to one’s soul it can be when bitterness and slander are allowed to saturate the human heart…(more sarcasm).  Oh yes indeed…more pain…more sorrow.  By the way, before you pick up the nearest stone to let me have it for this treachery, consider this:  Wounded people sometimes do crazy stuff in an attempt to ease their pain.  Just a thought.

Don’t die of surprise here, but I soon found out that few people if any actually gave a rip about my “let’s burn all the churches” message, and for the most part, I was nothing more than a sad annoyance to be pitied and disregarded. 

Many of my former “church friends” declared me “bitter” and “backslidden”.  I was branded a turncoat traitor by some and a blasphemous heretic by others.  All in all, it was a really good time for me (again…sarcasm).  At the end of my little stint as the Devil’s wingman, I again found myself full of hurt, anger, and confusion.  Truly I was ready to throw in the towel with this God who claimed to love me, and yet for some unknown reason, decided to drop me off in the desert without a drop to drink.  I was tired.  I was weary, and I was worn out with this messy thing called Christianity…and before I knew what was happening, I felt that old familiar feeling, back to my old digs.  You guessed it…”the rabbit hole”…joy!

So there I sat, and sat, and sat some more.  I’m not quite sure when it hit me, but at some point I started to consider this question:  What if God, the God who made me, the God who knows me better than I know myself, what if this God who called me to be His kid knows what He’s doing, and actually wants me in “the rabbit hole”.  Maybe like Martha, I needed to slow down a minute and just….b-r-e-a-t-h-e.
Now I’m not going to lie here.  It’s not like the sun broke through the clouds or anything and angels began to sing, but slowly, I started to get it…at least a little.

Today, I have come to terms ( least most days) with the whole idea that God is in charge and He alone plots our course in this life.  Sometimes we’re walking on the mountain top, sometimes we’re “chillin” in a “rabbit hole”.  Either way, “Daddy God” (religious people get ticked when you talk about God that way) always gets to decide when and where we’ll stop the car to pee and there’s not a whole lot a kid can do from the backseat….but that’s okay.  “Just enjoy the ride son”, oh yes, I can hear Him say it even now.

My focus?  Folks, I’m just trying to relax in the greater joy of simply trusting that the Father has a plan and I don’t have to understand it.  Of course I do get frustrated at times, but more and more I am beginning to accept the idea that being clueless is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if the one calling the shots likes you a lot.

With that, I wanted to share 5 quick insights with you regarding what one can expect if and when God calls you out into the wild lands of the unknown (aka. walking away from church).

1.        If you quit going to “church”, the Church will probably not get it.  In fact, some may accuse you of many wonderful things such as being overcome with anger, bitterness, or just wanting a free pass to sin your little heart out.  Everything you say will be refuted, so do not waste your time trying to explain your position…they won’t get it…but that’s okay.  Your Father does.  All that matters is that you are sure God has called you out, and if that’s so, you can rest in the knowledge that He has a plan for you.  So, let ‘em talk all they want!  Like Abraham, sometimes you just have to follow God into the unknown regardless of the naysayers!

2.       Once you leave, do not expect to get a lot of phone calls or letters of encouragement.  Bottom line:  You left, you obviously have problems, and nobody has time to fool with…a fool, or at the very least a heretic.  “Get your crap together, repent, and then you can come back!”  Otherwise, prepare to snuggle up with Mr. Lonely for a while you dirty, dirty sinner.  Sound bad?  Not so much.  The good news is that God will lead you to people who will really love and care for you regardless of where you may be in your journey.  That may take a little time, but that’s okay.  Besides, those folks you used to warm pews with probably never really liked you much anyway, so no worries!

3.       Don’t freak out if things get really, really quiet.  The fact of the matter is this; the process of “dechurchification” (my term…and I love it!) can take quite a while.  It might feel incredibly strange to all of the sudden have zero to do, but God knows what He’s doing.  One of the problems with the whole “let’s stay busy for the glory of God” spill is that it leaves you with little time to just sit, soak, and listen.  If you have spent any time at all in the old “church spin cycle”, you know, run till you die, it will likely take the Holy Spirit some time to untangle the mess.  So, learn to chill out and know that God is working amidst the silence!

4.       This one is a tough, especially if you’ve been hurt by “church” and or “church” people.  DO NOT HIT BACK!  I know, many of you may view this very posting as kind of a shot across the church bow, but honestly it’s not.  The reason you likely see it that way is you are seeing it from a different perspective than those who have chosen to step away from what you view as being super awesome, i.e., church.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan of the programs, committees, meetings, counsels, boards, services, and other nonsense that goes on in some “churches”, but those of “the Church” that choose to engage in this stuff are still family, and we gotta love the family.  So, if they say you’re a nut…or worse, don’t hit back.  If God called you out and you know that deep in your heart, that is enough.  If there’s any “tail whippin” to be done (Yep...I’m Southern), He can handle it.  Again, let ‘em talk!

5.         I could go one, but I’ll stop with this.  If God has indeed called you to leave “church”, you’ll likely feel some degree of fear, so remember this.  If the God of the universe who made you, me, and every tree (hey…that rhymes!) was capable of calling you into a relationship with Him when you were a lost jerk head, He is more than capable to sustain a vibrant and living relationship with you regardless of where you are on the journey.  Bottom line:  He will not abandon you, nor do you have to fear losing even a smidgen of His love and grace just because you are now traveling a different path.  There were times I feared that very much.  “What if all this is indeed just me being difficult?”  “What if I lose my way?”  Questions like that assaulted my mind for a long time, but then I realized He is faithful.  If He said it, He will do it.  If He spoke it, He will bring it to pass.  At the end of the day friend, this journey, your journey, is really His journey.  Do not be afraid.  The one who called you is your Father and He knows the way…

Even if that takes you…“down the rabbit hole”.