We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Spiritual transformation is taking place inside of me and has me in a season of seeking, sojourning, pilgriming. In a lot of ways this season has felt like I’ve been cheating on the church with God himself.
I’ve done church my whole life. Church has been a significant part of my family, my friendships, my weekly routine, and my decision making process. I never before felt stifled by the churchiness of my life, because it simply was. That was my life and I never knew it any other way. Not only was I the lead of basically every children’s musical my church put on during my childhood, but I was your poster-child youth group kid. I seemingly had it all together, as I served on the youth leadership team, led small groups, took the True Love Waits pledge more seriously than anybody in the history of the world ever, and I even won a laptop for bringing the most unchurched friends to Wednesday night youth group services. Yes, I was that kid.
I’m not that kid anymore. I’ve grown up. I’ve grown spiritual. And while my upbringing in the conservative evangelical church may seem to have been relatively cush and privileged, my spiritual transformation has uncovered wounds of spiritual abuse that I never before knew were there. Let me tell you, friends, that there is nothing quite like knowing you have been manipulated and betrayed by an institution that you have given your entire life to and have loved deeply…and yet not leaving it. My whole world, physically, spiritually and psychologically, has shifted. And what used to be such a safe and familiar path, walking into the door of a church, has become an anxiety-producing journey for me week after week after week.
Why do I still go? Because it is my life and I have never known it any other way. I still get stuck in the pattern of going through the motions, because that is much easier than cutting through the noise of a contemporary church service to really be able feel and hear God. Sue Monk Kidd, in her book When The Heart Waits, describes well what has been my experience: “Religion can easily become a defense against an experience with God.” (And let all the contemplatives say… Amen.) I continue to pray for a renewed peace and calmness and comfort within the context of church culture, but deep down I know that I’m praying too small. My restlessness has a purpose, I just don’t know what that purpose is yet.
My heart is groaning. Spiritual growing pains are real, and I ache and cry as God continues stripping me from the burdens, the lies, the shackles that have kept me from experiencing the fullness of God.
My God is making me new.
Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
They that wait for the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings. [Isaiah 40:31]