November 22, 2017

Lillian Daniel: Every Spiritual Home (a Riff)

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Excerpt from the chapter, “Every Spiritual Home”

From: When “Spiritual but Not Religious” Is Not Enough: Seeing God in Surprising Places, Even the Church
by Lillian Daniel

Jericho Books, 2013

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These days, very few people who join our church were raised in the denomination or tradition we are a part of, and we are hardly unique in that. Most of my church members were raised in other forms of Christianity that were less open-minded than ours, and they may have some negative feelings about the church of their childhood. And so they drifted from church and sought to go it alone, without a faith community.

But eventually they hit something that was bigger than private, self-created spirituality. Perhaps it was the death of a parent, the birth of a child, a friend’s illness, or a lonely patch in life, but suddenly they found themselves remembering some of those childhood Bible lessons. They found themselves recalling the blessings of the Christian faith, and they searched for a church, but they did so very tentatively, not knowing what they would find and afraid of being hurt.

…A miraculous thing can happen to grown-ups on a faith journey. We come to appreciate moments from our past faith community, as different as it may be from our current one. We may recall a special Sunday school teacher who taught us the “sacred writings” in our childhood.

That is why when people join our church, we always say, “We give thanks for every community that has ever been your spiritual home.”

I believe that there really is a connection between who we were raised to be and who we are now. It might not be a straight line, but you can connect the dots. God works through all kinds of religious communities at different points in our lives.

…So give thanks for the small and tender blessings of every place that has ever been your spiritual home, and for lessons you have learned.

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Building on Lillian Daniel’s gracious words, I would like to give thanks for those along the way who contributed to my spiritual journey…

To the United Methodists who baptized me into God’s family, taught me Bible stories in Sunday school, showed me what reverence and beauty looks like in worship and church architecture, planted the seeds of a deep love for church music in my heart, confirmed me in the faith and first fed me the Bread of life in communion, I say, “Thank you.”

To the Southern Baptists who reawakened me when I was a troubled teenager by putting into the hearts of their own flawed yet loving young people a spirit of reaching out to others and saying the name Jesus, then pointing me to the Bible and inviting me to immerse myself in God’s Story, I say, “Thank you.”

To the various small or non-denominational, fundamentalist, and dispensational churches who supported the Bible college I attended, encouraging and supporting them to train pastors, teachers, and missionaries to learn, love, and live out the Bible’s teachings, I say, “Thank you.” Though I now think that many of those teachings are off-base and cannot be supported by a serious study of the Scriptures, you taught me to study, to love God and his Word, and to seek truth in its words and stories. I’m studying more than ever today, seeking truth more passionately than ever, and trying to communicate the Message more effectively than ever, and you provided the spark. Thank you.

To the small Baptist church in the hills, the parish in the mountains, the steeple rising high above the village, the people of the land who welcomed a clueless young pastor and put up with his immaturity and loved back twice for all the love he gave you, I have nothing but thanks.

To the little city church in the far northern suburbs, the church of refugees where we made life-long friends, among whom we had our children, where I completed my formal education and continued to learn through practice, failure, and the messy process of growing into adulthood, there is little to say but, “Thank you.”

To the Evangelical Free Church in America, whose pastors and teachers led me to a new level of love for Jesus and the Scriptures. You tended me through seminary, when I was struggling to balance the demands of a growing family, work, church involvement, and Masters level study. I tried to develop a life-long relationship with you, and wondered often why it never happened as I thought it should. Now I see that you were another important community along the way that showed me hospitality, grace, and gave me important gifts, only to send me on to other places. That was necessary for my life and my growth, and I say, “Thank you,” for playing an essential role in my journey.

To the non-denominational churches, Wesleyan in spirit, mission-minded, pragmatic and church-growth oriented, in which I served for over fifteen years, I am indebted to you for your hospitality, generosity, and the many friendships I gained while among you. You helped my family settle into the only homes we’ve ever owned. You sent me around the world on mission trips. You affirmed my teaching and pastoral gifts. And though we ultimately parted and I have often criticized you, I owe you much thanks. You served as the incubator in which God put me through the hardest testings I’ve ever known. It is not right for me to resent you for that, though sometimes I do. So if my thanks still comes across as emanating from a heart full of mixed feelings, please try to understand. Try to hear the following words, because I do mean them: “Thank you.”

To the Lutheran congregations that are now providing me a home, “Thank you.” In some ways, I feel like Dorothy must have felt after having been to Oz and back. I’m home, but home is different, and I am different too. I’m still trying to get my bearings; I’m still learning to walk again. I’m frightened and have little or no self-confidence. I am not sure I have any idea what I’m doing or where I am going, but you are providing space for me to figure that out. Your historic teachings, liturgy, and sacraments are like leg braces for me at the moment, providing the support I need to walk forward. And who knows where the future leads? In the meantime, I thank you for grace, for welcome, for guidance, and for showing me the promise of a land beyond the wilderness.

Comments

  1. Thanks be to Gd that he is at work in the midst of all of it.

    Wherever His law and gospel are proclaimed in some fashion, He is there, doing His will for sinners.

    Thanks, Chaplain Mike.

  2. Stephen S. Mack says:

    I guess there’s hope for me yet.

    With best regards.

    Stephen

  3. Just chatting in bed with my wife this morning and the discussion was not exactly a riff of thankfulness when we recounted the pain and fallout which still seems to cast a shadow over our life even after many years post a particular church situation

    ‘…I believe that there really is a connection between who we were raised to be and who we are now. It might not be a straight line, but you can connect the dots. God works through all kinds of religious communities at different points in our lives…’

    I really believe this, though sometimes I let the pain obscure the reality of Gods presence in every life situation

    Thanks CM for the reminder

  4. How refreshing to hear the positive input these different denominations made in your life. May you continue to follow Jesus in your life. Blessings, Julie

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