There is little understanding amongst the christian community of the need that drives (or leads?) someone to the fringes of orthodox Christian community. For myself, a Christian of nearly 40 years and, for much of that time, an ‘upstanding member of the community’, I have found it surprising to discover the need for a more meaningful faith has led me away from the church. It seems that there came a point where it was impossible not to explore a spiritual path that was off the main highway...
Jesus seemed to have a means of embracing people from all manner of backgrounds and beliefs; He was willing to socialise with many of the ‘wrong’ people, speak prophetically to the ‘wrong’ people and administer miraculous healing to the ‘wrong’ people. He seemed not to have the kind of limiting boundaries that I used to apply through reasons of ‘faith’.
Jesus seemed to find God in a wide variety of settings and experiences – he enjoyed solitude, was tested and affirmed through His desert experience, enjoyed the ongoing friendship and hospitality of Mary, Martha and Lazarus and kept company with an eclectic bunch of societal misfits. He seemed to enjoy nature and used it to illustrate many of his teachings. He enjoyed parties and good wine (it seems). None of that feels like the religion I followed for a good part of my adult years; its aim (and mine) was not to risk any behavioural misgivings from my own faith community; it was very important to do and say (and be seen to be doing & saying) the right things. Consequently, my faith became very narrow, dry and fearful.
Being led from that place has been a difficult process and has required much encouragement to trust myself, my own spiritual discernment and to recognise the many ways in which I experience communion with God. I have learned that nature is important to me, art, music and beauty stirs me, silence and solitude refreshes me and a fine glass of whisky or wine stimulates me. I find worship and thankfulness fill my soul in all of these things.
I find much stimulation in people who represent a huge spectrum of opinion, belief and practice. I read much more widely than previously and enjoy listening to many sides of contemporary and historical argument. I want to understand other points of view and experiences and allow my own beliefs, biases and closed-mindedness to be challenged. When I better understand where someone is coming from, I am more able to see how to build real relationship with them. My intent is not to change them but to build bridges with them and to let them change me. In that spirit, I encounter God – His compassion, wisdom and guidance. When I open myself to my interactions with the world, I find that I am more able to be moved by God’s Spirit and His purposes for me and for those that my life touches. I am still taking baby steps in all of this, but I sense possibility and excitement now where there had previously been dullness.