We used to burn so brightly.
There was something beautiful about our passion, our fire. We glowed and flickered, raged and shone brightly. We were the future, pastors, worship leaders, evangelists. We were the Joshua generation, charged with ushering the church into a promised land in the midst of a dark culture surrounding us. We gave you everything. Time. Resources. Commitment. We believed with the core of our being and we wanted to change the world.
Then we burned out.
We became hurt and wounded, bitter and jaded. Our fire suffered violence at the hands of the so-called orthodox. We became the flickering wicks, the bruised reeds, and no one was there to protect us from the whispering wind of those who spoke final judgment over us. We were those left on the road to Jericho with no Samaritan savior in sight.
So rather than continue to suffer at the hands that once raised us up, we left the pews behind. We left behind the source of our hurt and betrayal. We left behind the religion that didn’t make sense anymore. We left behind a church that denied us our identifies. We left behind a church that idolized a good news that was for the white and wealthy, not the weird and wanting. You said we were betraying the “issues”. Things like LGBTQ rights, racism, sexism. But these weren’t issues to us, these were, these are, people that we knew, people we identified with, people that were us.
So, wandering in the wilderness we sought a new identity, one that was honest to our personal stories. We built our own ramshackle cities around the sparse wells of life we found. We discovered healing, discovered our own bodies, discovered our tribes. We discovered that orthodoxy isn’t owned by the gatekeepers. We risked becoming heretics in search of the truth. We asked questions, and (more importantly) found answers.
Outside the monolithic city of church culture, we discovered a wild kind of life that drips with wholeness.
Now, some of us are beginning to glow again. We are finding a few embers from the fire that once burned. There is something there to fan into flame. Something of what we once believed has remained, edges and excess burned away. There is a core something that remains, something that calls us back to the spiritual community, something that calls us to worship, something that calls us to have faith and hope and love.
In a very real way, we have been laid to rest in a death that hurt and tore us apart, and now we are beginning to experience the first fruits of the resurrection.
There is still pain, still bruising and scars. But maybe we’re not actively bleeding out these days. Life is beginning to push its way up through the frozen ground. We are starting to believe again, still, for the first time. We are done with all that killed us, with all that tried to bury us in whitewashed tombs. No longer do your threats of hell and exile hold weight with us. We’ve found Jesus in the places they said he would never be, and that truth has set us free.
Yet, even on this cusp of resurrection, some of us still weep.
We weep because we aren’t ok. We’re not over the hurt even as we are moving past it. We’re not done being angry at the injustice in the church, at the theology that kills, at the worship of political power instead of the gentle Jesus. We’re not done lamenting, weeping and gnashing our teeth before God, bearing witness to the wrong done as we seek justice.
Some of us weep because we are still spiritually homeless. Even though we are healing, believing again, we still haven’t found a spiritual community that we can embrace. Some of us have found places outside evangelicalism we can give ourselves to. Some of us, however, remain vagrants, shadowing church doors in hopes of finding a home, be every time simply being reminded of the out-of-place-ness we still feel among religious communities.
For a myriad of reasons we still weep.
See, resurrection doesn’t erase wounds and scars. It gives life despite them. So, we have reasons to lament even as we creep into our Easter morn.
So here we are, burning again. But it’s a different kind of fire these days. It’s not a fire to consume and set us ablaze. Rather it’s a fire to warm cold bones, give life from the hearth, and cook food that can nourish the hungry. It’s a different fire for a different people, in a different place in time.
But we are on fire again.
We are burning, trying this hard to believe.
We are sparking, passing glowing embers amongst ourselves to keep the flame of hope alive so that all may make it home.
These are the memories of the healing being made, the moments of feeling where once our hearts were numb from shock.
This is the coming back to life, the restoration of the years the locus devoured.
This is the burning in all its complexities.
This is the time when we were on fire again.