It’s Wednesday of Holy Week, and I’m back in Denver after a family wedding in Nevada and visiting my dad in Northern California for a few days. My heart is full. I also had the privilege of getting to hang out with a friend who I met through this blog to talk about all-things-faith-shift before I flew out today. I am always completely awed by people’s tenacity and courage and what it takes to exit unhealthy systems and find their way to freedom. It’s Passover week in the Jewish tradition, and The Refuge is having our annual family Seder dinner tonight. There are all kinds of conflicting opinions on whether or not Christians should have Seders, but I personally believe it’s always good thing to hear, yet again, these sacred stories of liberation.
I love re-telling the story.
I love sharing the meal with my community with all the kids running around.
I love being part of a little pocket of freedom.
As you all know, I still love the church and hold a very loose definition of what that means. It would have been easy for me to throw in the towel on community a long time ago if I had only based things on my experience with “the system.” But the truth is that God’s people–together in some way, shape or form, living out the ways of Jesus in real and tangible ways–is sewn into my skin in ways that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shake.
That doesn’t change that I can’t stand what unhealthy church systems have done–and continue to do–to many people of all ages and experiences. I can’t stand the way it so often limits people, serves itself, excludes, puts programs over people, and reflects the powers of the world instead of the beatitudes-infused-kingdom-of-God.
For me, Holy Week is always a reminder of the upside-downness of the message of God through Jesus.
And I also know it’s a season that stirs up a lot of mixed feelings for people who are wrestling with faith-as-they-knew-it and are trying to figure out what the story means for them this year.
A friend of mine who is involved with advocating for sexual abuse victims once said something powerful that has stuck with me. She said “the things we can’t stand, we are called to fix.”
The things we can’t stand, we are called to fix.
Out of almost everything related to “church” the one thing I can’t stand the most is how it limits freedom. To me, the church of Jesus Christ should be the free-est, least oppressed, most inclusive, most grace-filled place on earth. Yet, as we all know, it has the reputation for being the opposite.
Instead of being a pocket of freedom, it can often be a pocket of oppression–limiting half of the population from leading freely, keeping God safely tucked into a man-shaped box, spending disproportionate amounts of resources on mortgages and strategic growth, constantly giving into the gravitational pull toward comfort and making sure the powerful-people-who-give stay happy, and assuming people should love God “their” way instead of embracing lots of other wild & beautiful & untraditional ways people grow.
In the same way I think churches should be little pockets of love, i think that pockets of love aren’t really possible without first being a pocket of freedom.
Where all people have dignity and incredible value.
Where no one is oppressed or silenced or considered less-than because of their gender or race or economic status or educational status or theology or any other things that usually keep people over or under another.
Where questions are valued and doubt is honored because we trust in a God who can handle it.
Where God is not contained by the limits of man’s teaching.
Where each person’s gifts, no matter how big or small, have a chance to be expressed.
Where men and women are seen as equals and sit next to each other as brothers, sisters, and friends.
Where liberation happens.
So that’s why, despite all of my faith shifts, I’m still in “church.”
Because the thing I can’t stand, I’m called to fix.
I can’t fix the whole big system (even though I have grand fantasies about that, ha ha).
My call is to just play whatever small part I can in creating little pockets of freedom, here and now.
To have courage to keep leaving my Egypts and journey with others as they leave theirs, too.
To be participate in God’s setting the oppressed free and rebuilding places that have been devastated in our lives (Isaiah 61, Luke 4, will always remain some of my favorite passages in scripture).
To respect the words of Toni Morrison: “The function of our freedom is to free someone else” and use my freedom to help free someone else.
To cultivate safe places to share our struggle for liberation.
Oh, how I hope that we can all continue to bravely step into our freedom and quit letting man-made systems limit us. Then, I hope we can use this God-given freedom to help free someone else. And someone else. And someone else.
How are you finding freedom this Holy Week?
ps: The previous days in this series so far are