Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Handful of Dandelions

As I’ve been deconstructing my entire Christian experience over the past several months I have been plagued with one idea. I couldn’t shake it even though I had sincerely repented of ever having been a full time, paid minister. The thought was that I had cost my family a great deal of financial security that was my responsibility to provide.

I had been a toolmaker at General Motors throughout my twenties. The job was interesting and had built within it a high level of satisfaction due to its requirement of needing a fairly high skill level. The pay was great and the job was secure. In fact I would be able to retire next year if I had stayed. Instead of staying with this great job I felt I needed to quit to pursue full time ministry.

So at the age of 30, with 3 kids between 7 and 10, I quit GM and we marched off to Bible College in Peterborough for the next 4 years. I earned my degree in theology and then set our sights on ministering in a little church of about 50 people in Wawa, Ontario. 5 years later we left this little northern community and ended up in London, Ontario. We didn’t know anyone in this city but felt it was where we wanted to be. A few months later I ended up on staff at one of the larger churches in the city and pastored there for the next 2 and a half years. This chapter in my life gave me a bird’s eye view of the inner workings of both the small and the large church. Each setting allowed for a revealing of the ways of man and the ways of God to my heart.

As my journey continued, Therrie and I set sail (actually jet) to Korea to teach English for the next 3+ years. Our journey was one of being together with none of the religious duties or masks that had so crowded out our marriage. Korea became a wonderful place to hide in the cleft of the rock. We attended church on occasion but didn’t feel the duty to perform on a regular basis. This raised an eyebrow or two from some younger Christians that we were working with but we were content just to be with each other.

When we finally came back to Canada in 2004 it was a strange experience to return to our “Nazareth”. (for me Nazareth represents going back to a place of loss in order to hear God's perspective on it.) Therrie was busy teaching and I was learning what it meant to work out of our home as a self employed ‘entrepreneur’. But I was trying to answer questions that were beyond our own personal family life. How do we function here? What church do we perform in? Will I go back into the ministry that had so devastated our lives? Other questions were there for us as well and I had no answers. There were days when my heart burned to be in ministry once again and there were days that I wanted to run as far as possible from it.

And then something happened over these past 9 months that has changed my perspective more than anything else in my lifetime. I’ll write about the details at some other time but suffice it to say that everything about organized church life has been and is being demolished within my life. Thankfully it has not only been demolished but is being replaced by a deeper understanding of the body of Christ and God’s desire to be our friend.

Going back to the original idea that I had hurt my family financially because I now see all of my religious fervor, sacrifice and obedience as nothing but dung. I had taken my family on a journey that I had concluded was done with the mere teachings of man. I felt nothing but shame and loss. Even knowing how religion had so ensnared me, I still know how the religious tentacles of my life continue to reach out and suffocate me.

But then a friend gave me a gift yesterday. You see I was learning how much Father loves me and enjoys me but I was so trapped by my religious judgment of my wasted past that I had forgotten something. I had done many things that were based on false assumptions of what the Bible said about ministry. If I could go back I wouldn’t do any of them the same way again. I thought they were nothing but loss. Leonard allowed me to get away from myself and see through Father’s eyes.

This was a revelation to me. When I made my mistakes for Father, He saw me with nothing but love. He knew I was just a little child that could only bring a handful of dandelions to Him. I had “matured” and could only see the foolish dandelions. But now I see what He saw: a beautiful bouquet of flowers.


Jamie A. Grant said...

That last paragraph almost had me crying. Twice, now. Beautiful image. Beautiful.

Ashleigh said...

This entire post riveted me, although I'm not quite sure I could tell you exactly why just now...But, like Jamie...the last paragraph grabbed me by the gut.

As a relatively young Christian (I rededicated just about 17 months ago) I have to thank you for being courageous enough to write so honestly about the harsh lessons you have learned. Because of this, you are keeping me from getting caught in the same legalistic traps that you had become ensnared by. True, I don't understand all of your viewpoints yet (there are MANY things I don't yetunderstand about this thing called "Christianity", but you (and Jamie) have me stopping to think about WHY I do the things that I do now, rather than just robotically doing so because "that's just what you do when you becone a Christian".

Thank you.