Everything I wrote about coming out of church world was/is a prophetic direct parallel to coming out of my abusive marriage, none more so than this one from 2015. I now know at the time of this writing he’d already dove hard and I was walking dead. Today I sing “Fuck This Shit I’m Out” as a beautiful, rowdy benediction. Won’t you stand and join me?
Meet my big-thinker Mini Me, Liberty Grace. I’ve never been so in love with a name…almost as much as the girl. As much as I laud reason and practicality in my expressions of faith, there’s always been a significant vein of mysticism and natural contemplative spirituality winding through me too. I truly consider my daughter’s name to be prophetic. It was while I was pregnant with her that the first rumblings began…a stirring within me that God was up to something new for us, something powerful and free. God was indeed going to fulfill my lifelong yearning to experience Them in fullness and abundance, but there was going to be an extreme price to pay. Was I willing?
THE SPIRIT OF LIBERTY GRACE
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
I’d ached and prayed for this since I was 16, but now that my sleepy eyes were adjusting to the brilliant light and my ears finally attuned to reality, in order to maintain any kind of integrity with what I was experiencing, I had to let go of some “absolutes” I’d been taught were nonnegotiable. It was an incredibly difficult and uncomfortable process, long before I let anyone else see me, but on the other side of that wall – Liberty.
Taste and see that the Lord is good…
Freedom to investigate, smell, touch, taste, take or leave ALL THE THINGS. Freedom through experience to discover what is good, when and how much. Freedom from the fear of eternal damnation should I cross arbitrary lines or peer down a path someone before me had labeled “forbidden.” Freedom to move and view things from different angles. Freedom to change my mind with perspective. Freedom to use all the words (heads up for those who get the vapors over salty language, the end of this post is NSFW). And most definitely the freedom to screw up.
A necessary byproduct of freedom is alarmingly frequent failure, which is why Liberty is lost without her sister, Grace.
Grace not only incorporates failure as a given, it transforms it into valuable treasure, not wasting a single experience. Grace redeems the wildness of Liberty…but without Liberty, there is absolutely no need for Grace.
THE ABOMINATION OF CERTAINTY
The opposite of faith is not doubt: It is certainty. It is madness. You can tell you have created God in your own image when it turns out that he or she hates all the same people you do. Anne Lamott
Certainty is the despicable antithesis of freedom and grace.
Certainty is a false construct that chokes out Liberty in favor of conformity and absolute “rightness.” It enslaves. It inhibits. It discourages. It threatens. It controls. It lies.
Certainty viciously resists and maligns Grace, because to receive Her is to admit inadequacy, which is never an option for Certainty.
Certainty shrieks and shames into submission, “DON’T touch! DON’T taste! DON’T move! NEVER screw up…or you’ll surely DIE!
It’s the flip side of The Great Lie the serpent sold Eve and a sacred metaphorical takeaway from the Genesis creation myth and the Tale of Two Trees <—-(future blog). If you find yourself with doctrinal hackles raised at my honest take of Genesis as an ancient prophetic Hebrew origins myth (it’s a talking snake, for cryin’ out loud!), may I calmly suggest you stop, take a deep breath, and reflect on your defensiveness, anger, and I’d wager if you looked honestly enough – fear – and question from where that might originate…and do you really think it’s from God?
*Hint* Aggressive defensiveness that seeks to inhibit and shut down is the fruit of Certainty, NOT of Liberty and Grace and the clearest indication we’ve been gorging ourselves on the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and not the Tree of Life.
WITCH HUNTERS – THE DISCIPLES OF CERTAINTY
A life of Liberty and Grace is proactive, always looking for what it can do.
Certainty is entirely restrictive, focused only on what it can stop.
Certainty’s absolute “rightness” depends on someone else’s absolute “wrongness,” the perfect breeding ground for sanctimonious witch hunters and gate keepers obsessed with silencing the heretics. The wronger you are, the righter I am.
There is absolutely nothing new under the sun. The same Pharisaical spirit of Certainty and repression is alive and well, running rampant and largely encouraged in its destruction and division in the Church today.
Let’s play a little word association, shall we?
What’s your initial reaction to the name “Rob Bell?” How ’bout “Emergent Church?” I’m betting it’s one of these three:
- I have no idea what you’re talking about (bless you and I insanely envy you).
- *Looks nervously over shoulder and whispers * I kinda resonate with what he’s saying.
- HERETIC!! Burn the witch! Drive out the infidel from among us! Set phasers to KILL.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling.
I first became aware of Rob Bell through the rabid counter-movement to stop all things “Emergent” from infecting the institution from which we (Jimmy and I and Four Creeks) came. Had the witch hunters (which tragically made up half the church board) not whipped themselves up into such an aggressive frenzy, I would have been blissfully unaware there was any such “danger” to be on guard against. Jimmy simply didn’t care (sometimes I really hate how good he is at that). I, as usual, cared way too much. I made a calculated decision not to read or consume anything from Rob Bell, not because I was afraid of what anybody might think, but because I wanted to look people square in the eye when they asked us for the umpteenth time whether anything about our vision for Four Creeks was influenced by the Emergent Church movement and be able to honestly say, “No, Ms. Church Biddy who has the power to make decisions about my family’s livelihood and future, it’s all me and Jimmy and our own conscience and integrity.”
So assume what you will if you recognize any similarities between the Emergent Church movement or Rob Bell’s theology and what you can glean about mine. I really don’t care ’cause I honestly don’t know myself what they are other than what the anti-Rob Bell bandwagon continues to rail against ad nauseam.
What I do know is how much I hate the justification for such murderous division in the name of God. I’ve witnessed (and been on the receiving end of) so much destruction…the killing of reputations, relationships, and livelihoods, all in the name of Certainty and doctrinal purity by people who honestly think they are doing God’s work in being utterly shitty and discouraging, while most others are complicit in their silence and passivity in allowing such evil to go unchallenged.
The bulk of the drama is behind us…or at least I hope to God that’s true. I’m so very, very tired. But honestly, no matter how tough and strong I come off through my writing and Facebook posting, the reality is I’m reeling, still trying to recover from a significant ministry relationship breakup that went down a couple months ago. I felt so traumatized and violated. Add a sprinkling of Facebook encounters with people popping up like ghosts from that past life, never having a word to say to us for years when we most needed it but feeling justified to come out of the shadows to criticize over doctrinal issues and…yeah…I’m at a complete loss. I just don’t know what to say or do with people who actually know me who think my honest expressions of what I see, what I experience, what I believe are a threat to be eliminated.
I think this utter done-ness is very good. It didn’t happen in a way I ever would have chosen and if I’d seen coming would have ran screaming the other direction…but I have lived through it. I have tasted, I have touched, I have seen and I have heard and I will never be the same and I can never go back. The thought of doing so is less appealing to me than a dog licking up its own vomit.
I’d been hanging on to that old life by the barest of threads for a long time, thinking surely something could be salvageable. But I’m coming to the realization that the path forward into abundant life requires a complete letting go of everything that fears and seeks to kill something so precious as Liberty Grace.
Sometimes the most graceful thing you can do is use your freedom to walk away and say…