Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Taking the Blinders Off (and All That Scary Stuff)

Courtesy D. Scott

I was a traitor in motion. To the outside world looking in, that statement would sound ludicrous. If you'd grown up in an environment of Christian fundamentalism, however, you'd have seen me on the move and cry, “Traitor walking!”

I was the kinda person you'd run from like your hair was on fire. I was the kinda person who betrayed her inner fraidy cat and made a break for spiritual freedom. I staked my claim on the necessity to experience finding God for myself. And I call myself a fraidy cat?

In looking back, I'd think my declaration of independence would have encouraged a lot of folks. You know – the ones who said Grandpa's religious experience wasn't my one way ticket to Heaven. For all my day dreaming in church when I was small, I guess I heard that message loud and clear! My decision created tension, disappointment, and dismay among the ones I least wanted to cause pain. In the end, I had to choose my need over their happiness.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
It took a while. One Sunday AM, I sneaked into a huge and vibrant congregation that was the exact opposite of the ones in which I had been raised. I felt conspicuous. Having come from a place where congregations were very small, I had yet to learn that the bigger they are the more invisible you are. It felt like every eye in the place was trained on me. “Yep. She's a traitor in our midst,” I could hear them concluding.

I squeezed into a spot on the pew between folks I'd never seen before. I was lost and alone. Everyone seemed to know someone. Smiles, waves, hugs, chit-chat surrounded me. The outsider. The traitor. I sank down lower into the pew wondering how many times in one life I could lose my mind. What HAD I been thinking to get so uppity to darken the door of that place.

Courtesy and in Loving Memory of Christina Jones Hooker
When I tell you that I literally fought with myself to keep from jumping up and running OUT of the big, red doors of that church, I am understating the intensity of my inner conflict. I chewed the inside of my jaw until it almost bled fighting back the tears that threatened to overspill my lids. “God, if I can get out of here without crying,” I thought, “I'll never do this to myself again. I promise.” 
I began to edge forward on the pew wondering how I'd make amends to the 153 people between me and the aisle that I'd have to step over to escape. Ok. It was more like 8 or 9, but my vision doubled and then kept going haywire on an exponential basis as my fear mounted. In the exact instant that I was about to launch for freedom, the music started.

 Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I was simply transfixed. As if knowing I had come needing a shot of fortitude, the orchestra was on stage that Sunday morning. I thought I must have died and gone to Heaven. It was enough to quiet my thoughts and make me forget my plan to run. In what seemed like seconds, the pastor announced his text.

G.R.O.A.N. For a gal who'd been in church since the 3rd day of life, I felt as if I had been invited to the 1st day of preschool Sunday School. I could quote his passage backward in Pig-Latin. “Tell me something I DON'T know, Preach.” I thought with derision. To my profound amazement, he did.

Lots of times when I sit down to write, I think about that fella and how he wove his sermons into literature-like works of art. I wish I could tell a story the way he shared his sermons. I'd die happy.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
That first day, he made me feel as if he yanked blinders off my eyes so that I could see the world in all its glory for the first time. In the middle of that big, high fallutin, high church kinda church, I sat silent and transfixed while big ole tears slipped down my cheeks.

In story teller's cadence he wove his way thru the Beatitudes. Blessed are the poor, the ones who mourn, the meek, and on he went. Over the course of my life, I had come to understand those verses as describing different types of Christians. As he unfolded the story, each verse portrayed increasing maturity in the walk of faith.
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

BAM! The horizon I had fought to level all those years snapped into final focus. I no longer had to tilt my head to 45 degrees or 90 degrees to try and make the world make sense.

Dear God,” I whispered, “I've been in church ALL my life. Why has no one explained you to me like this before? If you are real and really out there, if you care any at all about my existence, I want you to know....I want a piece of that action. No...I want it all. All of it.

I recognize and mourn my poverty of spirit. Please give me meekness and a hunger and thirst for righteousness. Enable me to grow into mercy and purity of heart. Give me the ability to be a peacemaker. Strengthen me to endure persecution for my willingness to be transparent about you and me. I want it ALL. Please.......”

Well, hello, fraidy cat! You back again? I sure am glad. Ponder on these words tonight. They marked the beginning of my journey to find the good God with the flawless plan. Maybe it would be a good starting place for you too? See you soon. And, that's an order. ;-)

Matthew 5: 3-10 (NIV)
Courtesy B. Creasy
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

No comments:

Post a Comment