Friday, September 08, 2006

Crock Pot Cooking and Faith

I love to cook, and I love to cook things in a crock pot during the winter. Like much of cooking, you take a bunch of things individually that are somewhat appealing, but together they become something very appealing. This can be especially true in a crock pot - after hours of cooking you walk in the house and it just smells so good.

I am a crock pot kind of guy. I take things, often from many different sources, stew on them for a long time, and at some point down the road I emerge from my fog like someone threw a switch and the light comes on to something very clear and different. A different understanding, a new perspective, a new paradigm, seeing a new aspect of truth for the first time, and realizing just how wrong I was about my perceptions and understandings from before, which can be terribly (and wonderfully) humbling.

During the past couple of years, mostly the last 12 months, I have been going down this path. It is like I decided to take this little side road, that was no more than an overgrown trail, and have been walking down it for a while. At first it was hard to negotiate, and I could never see very far ahead. It was and still is in many ways hard going, and there weren’t many other travelers I came across on the trail. It was a lonely walk. But, I had what began as a twinge of a feeling that there was something true, and clear, and good ahead. Over time this feeling has grown and grown into a deep, gut level feeling that what is slowly emerging from the fog ahead of me is very true, and very clear, and very good. And, with equal certainty, I have the feeling that what I left behind is just the opposite.

Mostly this change is about my faith, who I am as a spiritual person, what I think Jesus came to earth for, and what He says church is to look like and be about. This morning I was reading a chapter from Donald Miller’s book Searching For God Knows What and came across this:


At the same time, however, we are at a disadvantage because the Jesus that exists in our minds is hardly the real Jesus. The Jesus on CNN, the Jesus in our books and in our movies, the Jesus that is a collection of evangelical personalities, is often a Jesus of the suburbs, a Jesus who wants you to be a better yuppie, a Jesus who is extremely political and supports a specific party, a Jesus who has declared a kind of culture war in the name of our children, a Jesus who worked through the founding fathers to begin America, a Jesus who dresses very well, speaks perfect English, has three points that fulfill any number of promises and wants you and me to be above all, comfortable. Is this the real Jesus?

Is Jesus sitting in the lifeboat (you have to read the book to understand this fully) with us, stroking our backs and telling us we are the ones who are right and one day these other infidels are going to pay, that we are the ones who are going to survive and the others are going to be thrown over because we are Calvinist, Armenians, Baptists, Methodists, Catholics; because we are Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, or liberals; because we attend a big church, a small church, an ethnically diverse church, a house church, or is Jesus acting in our hearts to reach out to the person who isn’t like us – the oppressed, the poor, the unchurched – and to humble ourselves, give of our money, build our communities in love, give our time, our creativity, get on our knees before our enemies in humility, treating them as Scripture says, as people who are more important than we are? The latter is the Jesus of Scripture; the former, which is infinitely more popular in evangelical culture, is a myth sharing a genre with unicorns.

If you haven’t read Miller’s books, like Searching…or Blue Like Jazz, and any of this stirs something within you, you should. He has this unpolished, full of candor, real world way of looking at faith and the kingdom, that will inspire you to drag yourself out of the Christian box you are in, and look at things anew.

That is the path I have been walking down – to take everything but the stark truths of Jesus, and throw it all out. To question everything with a fresh and new perspective and to seek God and His word and say, what is this really supposed to look like? How much of this is really man made, watering down, clouding, and confusing my understanding of Your truth? What has my faith become as a result of being so entrenched in the institution of the church for many years? Am I a believer and follower of Jesus, or of the church (institution)?

I love what Michael Frost describes in Exiles as “the Christian experience as it was intended: a radical, subversive, compassionate community of followers of Jesus.” My hope is that a picture of what this looks like is what is emerging from the fog in the little clearing up ahead at the end of this path.

Tom Perez at A Company of Friends pointed me to the Sara Groves song “Painting Pictures of Egypt” about leaving Egypt to wander in the desert. It goes:


I don’t want to leave here
I don’t want to stay
It feels like pinching to me
Either way
And the places I long for the most
Are the places where I’ve been
They are calling out to me
Like a long lost friend…

It’s not about losing faith
It’s not about trust
It’s all about comfortable
When you move so much

And the place I was wasn’t perfect
But I had found a way to live
And it wasn’t milk or honey
But then neither is this…

I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
Leaving out what it lacks
The future feels so hard
And I want to go back
But the places that used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I’ve learned
And those roads were closed off to me
While my back was turned...

The past is so tangible
I know it by heart
A million things are never easy to discard
But I was dying for some freedom
But now I hesitate to go
I am caught between the promise
And the things I know

I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
Leaving out what it lacks
The future feels so hard
And I want to go back
But the places that used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I’ve learned
And those roads were closed off to me
While my back was turned...

If it comes too quick
I may not appreciate it
Is that reason behind all this time and sand?
If it comes too quick
I may not recognize it
Is that reason behind all this time and sand?

This is on her Conversations CD.

Sorry for the length and rambling of this post, but this emerging picture is such a huge part of who I am right now, that I can’t ignore it. As she said, the places that used to fit me cannot hold the things I’ve learned, so I am searching for something new. And when I walk in the house these days, it just smells so good to me.

Rich

1 comment:

Heather said...

Rich,

You have just put into words the journey Avery and I have been walking for the past 19 months since we started our adoption. We're in that place of realization right now. It's a refreshing, yet difficult place to be in. Refreshing in that we're grasping more than ever before what the heart of Jesus is all about, and what He isn't about. Yet difficult because as we've moved to this place, the world around us has not. It's that tension of running forward toward the prize, yet having the responsibility to lovingly invite as many to come along with us as possible. Great post!
Heather