Past the edges

Photo: generalising on Flickr via Creative Commons

Photo: generalising on Flickr via Creative Commons

Last weekend I spent a day alone in Cambridge, MA. I was in a particularly introverted mental space, wandering both through the city and in my head. After spending far too much time meandering through the Harvard bookstore (The Coop) and being completely overwhelmed by such a breadth of knowledge on such a myriad subjects, I headed toward Harvard campus. It was orientation weekend, so the grounds were crawling with young hopefuls and I thoroughly enjoyed soaking in the energy. The air was almost palpablewith the centuries of thoughts thunk, revelations had, innovations discovered. I was passing through clouds of romantic visions of academia, and it all sent my mind a-whirl.

So I settled in at a cafe after answering the barista’s questions about a few of my tattoos, pulled out a journal and let loose. As a woman in my thirties who’s spent much of her life single, I’ve floundered a bit to land on a purpose in life. I began to wonder: if I’d known back when I was seventeen that I’d have so much time to myself during my youth, to what might I have devoted myself? Looking back on my life, what had I devoted myself to pursuing? I pictured all those categories of books I’d perused. I was never diligent enough for math and never had the memory for science. I have a weird mistrust of historians, and psychology/sociology always felt a little “soft.” I wasn’t smart enough for philosophy or talented enough for the arts. Somehow I had I defaulted to religion. Specifically, Christianity. More specifically, modern and postmodern expressions of Christianity.

Now, fifteen years in, I’m realizing I’m very bored. Maybe bored isn’t the right word. Maybe exhausted is more like it. I’m weary of conversations about other people’s bedrooms, misogyny, power struggles, justifications of the brutality of war. I’m weary of politics and doctrinal arguments ad nauseam that, at the end of the day, don’t mean a single damn thing. I’m weary of the ignorance that spurns scientific fact as opinion, shouts for the legislation of morality, and grips white-knuckled to archaic views of gender and sexuality.

Let me be clear. I am in no way weary of Jesus – learning about him, following him, striving to love like him, trusting him. I just suddenly feel like I don’t know where to turn to learn how to be a decent human being in this world. Or an expressive person with the materials currently available to me. Or a spiritual creature in this context. I long to devote myself to some learning, some way of being that matters. If that’s not possible, at least let me lose myself in the corner of a dark pub surrounded by leather-bound books. But when I turn to the Church, the American Christian entity (not my faith community, without which I might lose all hope), I don’t see much hope. I see a lot of bickering, screaming even. A lot of finger-pointing and judgment. A lot of justifications for rejecting this or being against that. Some are spewing vitriol at each other, some at those outside the Christian family. But it all feels like noise. Static. It makes my soul feel heavy and dark. I don’t think the Church is supposed to have that kind of effect on us.

I don’t have the right to disassociate from the Church (“She is a whore but she’s still my mother”). But I’m not sure how to thrive within her, either. I’m not mad at anyone for the way they live their lives. I believe in peace, always. I trust science. Devoting myself to something, though, I think means more than holding certain beliefs. I want to immerse myself in the mastery of the knowledge of a thing. Maybe what I’m realizing is that religion, even Christianity, isn’t God. Mastering all the language and dogma and even having an interpretation of the holy book isn’t the same thing as mastering the knowledge of God. Put that way, the entire idea is farcical. You can’t master the knowledge of God. You can worship Him. Grow in relationship with Him. Engage in His mission. But the idea of mastering the knowledge of Him is even more silly than imagining you can master the knowledge of another human being – utterly impossible.

Maybe this releases me from the obligation I’ve felt to devote myself only to the study of modern Christianity. And frees me to pursue connection with God and other people outside the parameters of that structure. Kind of feels like the world’s opening up to me a bit, all because of a stroll through a little town in Massachusetts.

1 Comment

  1. Barb said,

    August 8, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    Sounds almost Ecclesiastical!

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