jenga faith

kathyescobar fundamentalism, jesus is cool, the carnival in my head 16 Comments

jengathis has been on my mind for a while and i’ve been meaning to put it into words. it came up yesterday in not one, not two, but three conversations in different ways so i thought i’d write it down while it was fresh this time…

many i know are going through huge tranformation & transition in their faith.  it’s a scary, scary process.  giving up clearly held tenets of the faith:  hills we used to be willing to die on….issues we used to be bulldogs about, refusing to waiver…positions & theology that brought us a wonderful sense of comfort because they were just so “clear”…”it says right here in the Bible” kinds of answers to extremely complicated questions.

i recently shared with a friend that all of this spiritual shifting can feel a lot like the game of jenga.  in the game of jenga, the idea is to keep the tower from falling when various pieces keep getting taken out.  in the game of spiritual jenga, some of us wonder, “if i take out this piece is the whole christian tower going to fall any minute?”….”will this one end it all for me?”…”how far can i go before the whole thing crumbles?”  lots of times i think “i’m a pastor for goodness sake, i can get in trouble for this!”  (by who, i have no idea, it’s just the weird stuff that rattles around in my head and i am so grateful for my community where we can process a lot of these jenga pieces out loud, look at them, talk about them, disagree about them and still love each other and trust each other’s journey).

while i clearly understand there are a lot of people deconstructing from christianity right and left, becoming atheists, walking away from their christian faith completely, finding meaning and purpose in different types of communities that don’t use the word “religion”, i am finding that even though i’ve been pulling out some jenga pieces over the past few years, my christian tower hasn’t crumbled.  and i am so comforted that i am not alone. there are lots of us living with jenga-holed faith that is beautiful and wild and probably even stronger than it ever was before (even though it often doesn’t feel like it…)

regardless of the holes, i still believe in Jesus.  i still believe in the weird and crazy ways of the Spirit, the unexplainable way God brings hope and peace and freedom to darkness and brokenness and emptiness.   the upside-down ways expressed in the sermon on the mount still resonate in deep places in my heart and stir up a desire to live this short life on earth differently.  i believe in the power of Jesus’ love and that it gets expressed in many diverse and wonderful ways that cross over our limitations of language and expression and culture.  i do still really love the power and conviction and hope scripture sometimes brings.

and when i think of the power of the cross this holy week, it is comforting to me in ways that all of my cynicism about weird religious stuff and church politics can’t take away. 

i don’t have new answers to all of the jenga pieces i have taken out over these past few years. it’s not like i just replaced the blocks with new certain, stronger, better ones.  i am living in the tension of a lot of holes, a lot of uncertainty about things that somehow don’t seem to matter as much as i thought they did.    some blocks i’ve looked at for a while and put back in.  they didn’t need to come out all the way.  others, i honestly don’t think they are going to be finessed back into place or placed back at the top; they’re pretty much out of the game.

when i reflect on Jesus’ ministry in the gospels i am reminded that he didn’t really have a long list of pieces that i needed to have in my jenga tower in order for it to stand. in fact, he sort of honed in on what was enough to focus on:   love God, love people, including ourselves.  honestly, for now, that is plenty to play with.