Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Master Switchboard

Yes, I have been posting a whole lot lately. I feel like I'm finally in a place where I feel "safe" to explore things freely again. Life seems to happen in phases, and freedom happens in different ways at different times. In fact, that's more or less what this entry is about.

I guess you could say that stability is not a thing I am well-accustomed to. I grew up in a military family. It had plenty of benefits and I am so grateful for the weird, unique scenario I grew up in. I am grateful that I thought it was normal. And I am grateful for the experiences I had that were unique to "military brats". I would not re-do it another way. That said, growing up military always introduces some level of inherent/expected instability. I remember people saying, "You can only expect the unexpected" or "The only unchanging thing in your life is change itself". They were nice little aphorisms that seemed to apply deep meaning to my experience. At this point, I don't think they hold deep meaning at all. I think that they express reality as I and others like me knew it. It was no better, it was no worse, it was just reality.

Things in my life have always had a level of inconsistency or uncertainty. I became accustomed to moving every three years, but I was homeschooled so the moves never affected my academic life. But... I mean, I was homeschooled. That doesn't make for a life that is consistent with what the "majority" experienced. I grew up going to church, but by the age of 14, I was the only person in my family pursuing that sort of community at that time. I went to public school for high school after having been homeschooled for my whole life (more or less) previously. That didn't make for an easy transition. I was part of the Church of Christ. A tradition I admire for certain things, but one that I think lacks in many other areas (as all church "traditions" do - thank God for community that supersedes differences in perspective).

Perhaps the most interesting transitions in my life, a life set up for inconsistency, took place when I was able to make my own decisions. At 18 I moved to the inner city of Chicago to be a part of a volunteer program that emphasized social justice, intentional Christian community, and service. That year I was exposed to social justice for the first time. Growing up military, strangely, justice is somewhat presupposed. I'm sure it's not as equal as I imagined it as a kid, but I remember growing up in racially diverse military bases where all peoples were affirmed as they worked to a common purpose. Whether that reflected reality or not, I am not sure. But it sure represented what I perceived. But Mission Year (the volunteer program: exposed me to realities I had never seen nor experienced.

For the first time, words like "justice", "community", and "solitude" had meanings much deeper than words could convey.  By this point I had been deeply a part of the "Church of Christ" tradition. Mission Year led me to a gospel Missionary Baptist Church, unlike any other church I had been a part of, though I cared for it and many of its members very deeply. The following year I entered a "Swedish Covenant" school. It was more liberal than any church I had been to before. I mean, our campus minister was a woman.

Those years at North Park University, I struggled to reconcile ideas of gender as in Mission Year I struggled to reconcile ideas of race. My concept of my own identity was fluid. I no longer knew what to feel or expect.

Throughout my time as a thinking adult on my own, I moved away from the traditional Church of Christ and became part of a Calvary Chapel church. Then I moved to the inner-city of Chicago and learned about ideas like "white privilege" which I had previously never heard of and inherently took for granted. I became part of a Missionary Baptist Church. Then a Swedish Covenant school. Then a Reformed Church. Then a Pentecostal Church. Then a Greek Orthodox Church.

My concept of myself has changed radically as a result of being a military brat. Where I live doesn't determine who I am, but where I live has significant effect on how I live, who I live among, and how I live among them. The various Church experiences. Oh my gosh, don't get me started.

Theology is so fiercely debated. I don't feel like I have a monopoly on truth simply as a result of having been exposed to multiple "traditions" and "truths". But as a result of such, I absolutely believe that God is so much bigger than any of us imagined and that no church "tradition" has a monopoly on truth. I am more likely to affirm that people outside the church have views on the ultimate Truth that are just as valid as those inside the Church. I am less likely to be quote-unquote "orthodox", and I am less concerned about many "unorthodox" beliefs.

I feel like as a result of my many experiences in different places: physically, spiritually, and emotionally, that I have a main switchboard containing all of my experiences. I can see the good and bad of each tradition so far as my limited view of Truth allows me. For each tradition I become a part of, I feel as though I have to turn off a main part of the master switchboard - the accumulation of my experiences. Each place I become a part of, which PART I have to shut off changes, but it is inevitable that not every part of my "switchboard" will be accepted and included as worthwhile or valuable.

It gives me a mini-crisis of identity. Of my place among fellow believers. Or my place among those that don't believe. I don't know who or where I connect with more. I connect differently on different things that I don't feel at home anywhere that I am. Maybe growing up military has prepared me for such a life.

I just can't for the life of me grasp how anybody can claim to have the monopoly on Truth or on God when so many different truths are revealed more clearly among different communities. As someone who has lived as an "alien" among so many unfamiliar i, I plead with everyone to consider another point of view. Cast off what you previously thought you "knew". Maybe it is true. Maybe it's not. If it is, return to it after exercising faith in an unfamiliar context. In the end, we don't know the Truth. We have ideas about what it could be, or what it would be if we were the ones commanding it. But we are to love unconditionally. That keeps us humble. Servitude keeps us humble when our exultation of what we perceive to be truth has a tendency to puff us up and make us arrogant.

I pray that we would pursue truth. That we would pursue unity. And that we would pursue humility - even when it necessarily means that we accept our wrongness of multiple topics which we have stood by so passionately for so long. I pray that we would be open to the possibility that we don't hold Truth perfectly in our hands, that we would be in conversation with others that rub us the wrong way, and that we would be transformed into more loving people. I pray that we would not have to turn off any parts of the "Master Switchboard" our confused little lives have become. I pray that our "confused, little lives" would lead us to greater humility and greater unity as we pursue Truth as a community.

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully written and brave. Emmy Thank you for your honesty I like it