It just happened one morning.
I woke up and could hear the seedlings of faith urging the dirt, grime, soil, and rubble to move so that they could feel the sun. Watered from springs unknown these tender stalks were suddenly ready to grow, to bloom, to prepare to bear fruit.
Around the time my 15-year-old rosery broke, something broke in me. Something shifted. The shift wasn’t a return to evangelical church and all that I left behind. This shift was, this is, deeper magic.
I’ve begun to explore songs that shaped my theology — songs that have been in my heart in whole or in part for as long as I can remember. These songs have shaped my theological imagination as much as any book, sermon, or study has. The imagery, the phrases, the truth that these songs have buried in my heart has laid a foundation that shaped my faith from a young age.
I feel like so many things covered up that first faith. So much searching, so much trying to get it right, so much moralism and shame. This foundation has remained. This foundation is what has formed my faith, my hope, my love more than anything else.
And I am returning, shifting back to before the hurt, before I thought I knew better, back to a simple thing.
But it’s not some shallow, simplistic belief system. It’s thick, rich, intricate. It’s a theology of light, life, and love — a theology of incarnation, of god becoming human so humanity can become one with divinity. It’s a scandalous, terrible, raging fury of love and grace wrapped in gentle healing.
Tenderly you gather me to your heart
Quietly I lay here
Gently you wash all of my wounds
I cry as I lay here
Lovingly you tell me of hope
I believe you
I am afraid of this.
As I throw myself at grace and faith with trepidation and fear, I find all the doubts from my past rising from their coffins and coming to devour me.
I’m expecting to get hurt. I’m expecting to find lies and deceit. I’m expecting abuse and pain. I’m expecting that if I give myself to a congregation again, they will use me up for everything I can offer, but not pour anything back into me.
As I’ve said in the past, I’ve often felt like the church’s mistress.
But Jesus hung out with whores. He loved them. He accepted them and embraced them.
I used to say I felt like a whore because I sinned against god, and all sin was idolatry. So, when I “worshiped” something other than god, I was unfaithful, and somehow the jump to whore seemed reasonable and truth filled.
Now, if I feel like a whore, it’s because the church has cast me out, emblazoned me with a scarlet “A” and labeled me as such. Maybe it’s not about my “unfaithfulness” to god, but rather is about the grace that is withheld by those in pulpits and pews.
It is all about grace.
I think that’s what’s budding in my head and heart again. Grace. 150 proof, uncut, pure, unbridled grace. The truth of grace is obliterating, knocking over our sensibilities and crushing our expectations.
People that have experienced grace, I mean the wild kind of grace, are left with sort of a wind-swept soul. There is a mark on them. People that have shaped my foundational faith seemed to me to have this mark. Rich Mullens, Michael Card, Brennon Manning, Robert Farrar Capon, and others drew me to their countenance. I encountered people like this in various churches growing up and rubbed elbows with a few of them during the semester I was in seminary.
People like that stick out of the church crowd. There’s an open handedness with them, a wholeheartedness. In their eyes you know you will never be rejected or turned away. They will make room for you in their inn.
I want to be someone like that.
But there is a reckoning that has to happen to a person first. A breaking, a violence and wounding that is deep and harsh. Not that god breaks people or crushes us for our good. Instead, the world’s systems tend to crucify us when we start rubbing things the wrong way and disturbing the status quo.
Don’t be fooled; often time, the systematic evil that nails people of love to their crosses wears church vestments.
Grace can somehow say of the bishops of the crucifixions “Father forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.”
I want those words to flow from my mouth about those that have hurt me.
I’m tired of cynicism and bitterness having to be fended off in my heart.
The gloom dissipated, the fog burned off, the clouds parted, and I came to life.
That’s what this feels like; it feels like a resurrection, like a return to the land of the living. A return to the food and drink I left behind. A return to that which is good.
It’s a return to my roots, tending the deep parts of my soul so that I can bear fruit fitting of a man touched by grace and love. Touched by god. Touched by Jesus.
There’s another element to this blooming: it’s revealing what’s in my heart.
The blossoming isn’t bringing something new to the surface. Instead, it’s springing to life what is already there. This faith has always been there, this trust, this allegiance. This captivation with Jesus has been planted in me long ago. Now the fruit is ripe for harvest, and I’m ready to feast.
See, all of this ends up revolving around the person of Jesus. Throwing myself back into faith is throwing myself back into the arms of Jesus, praying his sacred heart catches me. Unbelieving the lies about living as a whore of Christendom is really about hearing the call of Jesus to come outside the camp and to receive a new name, being seen with the eyes of love. Being weathered by grace is what happens when someone walks with Jesus who is the embodiment and full expression of grace.
I want to be a Jesus person. Someone that it can be said of is full of the Spirit. Someone who is a friend of god. Someone who is holy in the earthiest way imaginable. It’s all I have wanted to be as long as I can remember. Being a dad, a friend, a writer are all good things, but they are expressions of this person I want to be.
I’m not here to be pious though.
I’m not here to seek power and serve mammon in the name of Christ. That’s straight up blasphemy.
I’m here to be as human as Jesus was.
So, there is a shift happening in me. A change towards returning to the faith of my childhood, the obsession with Jesus, the desire, captivation, and need for grace. A shift into my hurt in a way that I haven’t before, entering it that I may pass through it.
I’m ready to have scars instead of gaping wounds.
Scars like Jesus has.