... so that lots of birds can find rest in our branches... shade from the scorching sun.
Wednesday, April 1
I had a mind for practical ministry, personal spiritual heath and theological exploration. But, I had a very weak compass for pursuit any of this. I never thought I’d end up in seminary, much less in an RCA Seminary. I grew up in the RCA but had mainly seen some form of hurt and exclusion mixed with dry, fearful lifestyles in each RCA Church we attended during my childhood. So, I left the RCA and started going to a Baptist church plant then a Campus Ministry Program and then a large non-denominational church, then a Wesleyan church plant. I moved through most of these experiences with relative ease and minimal inspiration. I never got ‘called’ to the Church. I mostly felt that I was taking a step to promote my spiritual health but I rarely felt energized and compelled to invest in the church or Church, or to see her as the redemptive, unifying agent tothe world, more a servant of the people. I did periodically run into friction, though, in both the theologies and practices of each of these church communities. First, unconsciously, then more obviously I felt the tension between what seemed rooted in my own spiritual identity and what I experienced around me. Coming to Western has turned out to be, at least for me, the revelation of my spiritual family tree in a historical, Reformed Theology way. I will not soon forget my initial experience here on the first day of orientation. As we filed into Mulder, I was handed the order of worship; printed and beginning with the Votum! Tears betrayed my sense of coming home, belonging. As we moved through the liturgy, something inside my spirit awakened and began to unfold. This was something put deeply into my past, my history, my soul. The liturgical moves had been silent in my worship experience for many years but had not been forgotten. They floated up with no urging of my own. This way of experiencing God was familiar. The habits were immediately responsive to the call of the Spirit and came forth to connect me in that moment, just as they had not in so many worship moments like this, both in my childhood and my young-adulthood. The identity of my own spirit came forth in a new way that day, during chapel. The following two semesters were hardly less moving. Each class and interaction revealed more and more of my spiritual identity, rooted in the Reformed Tradition. I believe the words of the creeds. I believe in the sacredness of the sacraments. I feel the provision of the container of liturgy. I feel God’s call back to communion by the longing of my own heart. It’s not that God isn’t present and moving in the expressions and theology of other traditions. It’s not that the Spirit isn’t transforming. But my belonging, the expression that my soul finds most robustly, is here in the Reformed tradition. It is my home in some very real way. As I’m trained in the Reformed tradition, I’m learning about my spiritual family history. I’m learning about the pastoral questions of many centuries that have led us to differentiate our theology they way we do. I’ve learned about our mistakes and our fears. I’ve learned about our patterns of anxiety, love, tension and openness. And as I look back to the experiences of my spiritual life, outside the RCA, my evaluations are beginning to change. Learning about my own spiritual personality has transformed the way I felt those tensions in the past. I’m beginning to sense that our diversity and anxiety are necessary. I’m beginning to see that my own expression needn’t be the one we all gather to. I’m learning that my frustration and disappointment with churches I’ve attended doesn’t have to mean that they are unfaithful to the gospel or infiltrated by the world, it may often just mean that it’s not my home. Not the home of my spirit. And it emboldens me to join these other types of communities and participate in other expressions. I once read an idea about the rhythm of home and pilgrimage in the human soul. When we know our home, and have belonging there at least for the moment, we are free to become pilgrims, exploring and returning, exploring and returning, all the while sharing what we’ve heard and seen in other places.