Thursday, July 25, 2013

Lawn Chair Catechism #9: Life (and Conversion) is Messy

This is my contribution to a conversation happening on about Sherry Weddell's book Forming Intentional Disciples. This book has been eye-opening for me. I highly recommend it and it's never too late to join the conversation.

I found it very liberating earlier in the book when Weddell points out that the stages of conversion are not always in order and we are always bouncing around.

I know I've been in the intentional disciple phase before, but I know I'm not now.

I would now put myself back maybe as early as "Trust."

So, it hit home in this chapter in the end when it talks about people in leadership positions who are not yet disciples.

As one of those leaders, I cannot speak to whether or not I can treat others in my shoes graciously. I'm one of the ones who need that patience.

Life is messy. Nothing ever goes in a straight line. Often, we do not get a resolution or closure. We hardly ever get what we think we want. And our relationship with God is much the same way.

When I was looking up images for this, I was struck by this one:

Stolen from a very interesting blog post.
As a graduate theology student, I didn't really care about theory unless it had some application to reality. What good is it to know the complexities of the Trinity if it has nothing to do with people's everyday life? Life needs to feed theology and theology needs to feed life. Otherwise, both are pointless.

And both are messy. We are imperfect people relating to a perfect Creator. We are imperfect people fumbling through a confusing life dealing with other imperfect people.

Like the other relationships in your life, your relationship with God will not be on a straight trajectory. That's just not how humans work. Some days you'll be on a spiritual high, some days you'll be full of doubt, most days you'll be somewhere in-between.

I'm not really stressing about the fact that I'm at the "trust" phase.* I'm still working through it. I'm not sure if I'm pining after a community that doesn't exist and I just need to get over myself. Maybe I need to find my community in the Holy Trinity and the saints. Maybe I just need to grow up and realize that adults don't bond like young adults and kids do.

The kicker in all of this is I cannot give others what I don't have. At least I'm trying to develop my relationship with God. And, as I said, I've been an intentional disciple before. Does that count for something? I think it does. I think I do have something to share even in this stage.

Leaders who are not yet disciples do need to become disciples, but they don't have to quit in the short-term. Seeing leaders struggle gives hope to us all in our struggles. I've told people before, there are things that the Church teaches that I struggle with. And those who have heard of my struggles are comforted by the fact that someone-who-has-been-studying-religion-since-she-learned-how-to-read still has trouble. As long as those who are struggling don't intentionally mislead the flock, I think there is no reason why those who are struggling cannot stay in power.

What do you think?

*For those of you following at home, the "trust" phase is the first stage of conversion where a bridge is created between the person and the worshiping community. It is characterized as such, "Many don’t trust God or the Church, by they do trust a Christian in their life." (quote from chapter 5 of Forming Intentional Disciples)

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