I suppose I stopped hating myself the minute I realized I could hate my father, which was when I turned fourteen. I hated him because he was cross when I wanted him to be kind or loving when he should have been strong; I hated him because he could have been more than what he had amounted to, from my perspective, a two bit hack traveling Jesus salesman, and I hated him because he was no longer a super hero. It’s hard to stay mad at some one who’s greatest genocidal crime is that he’s human and the fact was his faults were my faults. I couldn’t hate my dad forever.
Eventually I found a bigger target for my angst: the church. Looking back on it, I think I chose wisely. Going after the institutional church is like hunting for a pink elephant in a bamboo forest…you can’t miss. I brought the hammer down on pastors and elders and deacons. I critiqued antiquated programs and event driven Christianity. I pointed out the glaring inconsistencies of Protestantisms claim to “do it by the book” and then fail to look anything like the early church. There’s just something about having the final spear throw aimed at the lumbering dying mammoth that is so rewarding. Looking back on it, I think the best part was the sense of worthiness that came with my criticisms. With each virtuous attack I hurled out, I felt like I was becoming a better friend to God, who clearly needed me. All of this was cathartic to say the least. I got to be “all about Jesus” while I made sure I wasn’t being the established church. It’s a pretty easy way to feel defined, and valued, and loved. Rather stupidly, one of us thought to try out our brilliant ideas for organic church. Church sans leaders or programs or buildings or methods… Eventually we even added the jewel of intentional community to our already glimmering crown. In the end, stripping everything also meant I lost my excuses. Eight years into that journey I was left with no pastor to blame, no mortgage to maintain, no board to blast. The feeling of not being able to pass on my deep sense of loathing to anyone else is rather terrifying…my father…God…the church…all of them have born the brunt of something in me, about me.
At some point in the last six months I’ve had to acknowledge that most of this ancient history and present feeling, father hating, and church killing, is really about me. Every critique, every cynical mistrust that finds it hard to believe others care for me–others enjoy being in the same room with me, all of this is mine. I am not a super hero. I am terrified in my own two cent hackery. I need to be loved–and the easiest way to find sympathy is to be a victim. On and on it goes. What seems at first like Daddy Issues 101, is really just ME Issues 411.
Yesterday morning I felt fairly naked. Robbed of oppressors. Isolated from others. Just me, Adam in the garden, filled with a knowledge that leaves me desperately alone in judgment of others, all the while actually in judgment against myself. The early sun sort of filtered through the mossy stain glass of the trees I was sitting near. And as the sun hit me, without excuse, I felt compelled to say something I heard Henry Nouwen say once:
I AM THE BELOVED CHILD OF GOD IN WHOM HE IS WELL PLEASED!
It felt scary to even say out loud. Not because it was a statement about Jesus I was appropriating to myself, but because of how little I actually believed it inwardly. The God I knew, who’s anger was only slightly turned aside by a fancy trick his son performed on the cross, who understood and agreed with me that I am the scuzz bag I feel to be, that God would never have condone being his beloved child. Still…As those broad smiling beams of sunlight hit my face I touched something…delight. It didn’t exactly feel like it belonged to me. In fact, if I had to guess, I would say it was coming like some sweetly somber Johnny Greenwood guitar lick over the radio waves–from elsewhere…out there…but still…
I was, at this point, laughing. I WAS the child God wanted and kept and held. He was ok with me. In fact, I guess (at least it seemed this way) he was more than just ok with me…he was overjoyed with me.
And, perhaps quite independently of all that, or maybe connected at a level I will never understood fully, I was ok with me too. I was overjoyed with me as well. Not narcissistic or out of wack self indulgent. Just finally…fine with my own skin.
I suspect that’s what Genesis 1 is all about…creating…creating a new sort of human–one who feels secure as the beloved of God. That’s why Jesus personifies the mystery so incredibly well. Divinity and humanity comfortably at rest in one vessel. A container holding all of God’s love. That’s what our great hope is, that we too with face unveiled–beholding him–will be transformed into him, the Christ…the beloved of God. And maybe…just maybe…the first step isn’t pop psychology with dad or reimagining church…maybe it’s way more simple…it’s just saying, softly at first and then louder as we grow more bold: “I am God’s Beloved child in whom He is well pleased”.
Filed under: beauty, confession | Tagged: anger towards father, father figure, genesis 1, henry nouwen, house church, leaving church, love, narrative theology, reimagining church, the abba prayer, the beloved, the mystery | 11 Comments »