Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Playing theological Twister

"Right hand on Bible as the inerrant Word of God."
"Left foot on questioning the effectiveness of prayer."
"Right foot on questions about Mary and the Saints."
"Now left foot on researching the Real Presence."
"Right hand now on studying the early church."
"Left hand on trying to understand methods of biblical interpretation, including the historical critical method."
"Right foot on enjoying Catholic Mass and having your husband now going through the membership process."
"Now, for a real contortion act, left hand on doing the above while still attending your local evangelical church with your children."

This game is bound to lead to the chiropractor, if not to the nearest psychologist. It's leaving me stumped about where I belong, what I believe, and where to go from here. The road has been long and convoluted...leading from a childhood in mostly mainline churches to an adult spiritual path marked with a wide variety of experiences, from a charismatic praise-singing community to three years in a church that had no instruments and only sang psalms, and then back to an evangelical church with charismatic leanings. That experience left me bewildered about the dizzying array of beliefs within Christianity and left me skeptical about who has it "right." My searching has led me to the Catholic Church and it's long history. I love the richness and the ritual of the mass. I love the sense of timelessness and I love the "big tent" attitude. I've spent a stimulating year wrestling with the doctrines and wrestling verbally with the young man in charge of people like me... people in the Inquiry class.

Add to all this the fact that I've spent 8 years or more watching several dear friends go through life-changing spiritual journeys...some to Catholicism, some to Eastern Orthodoxy, some to skepticism, and some to the postmodern acceptance of the unknowable. These friends, and those whose faith hasn't gone through upheaval, have all forced me to look at my life and beliefs more closely. I was encouraged to stop spouting party lines and to start looking closely at what I was saying. I saw inconsistancies and learned to wonder about many things I'd never questioned.

So here I am, playing theological tangled up about what I "know" and where I belong that I don't foresee ever really figuring it out. I have part of my heart in two different churches, not just because literally my heart is with my husband at one church and with my children at the other, but because I see so much beauty, truth, meaning, worship, and service going on both places. I feel paralyzed in the middle...unable to make up my mind to leave one or the other, yet knowing that fence straddling isn't a permanent answer either.

Yet, since my youngest child is only 10, I'll probably be straddling the fence for some time to come. I'm commited to supporting my children's involvement in their church. I'll continue to read and search, and juggle my time as well as juggle the questions of my well-meaning Protestant friends who can't understand why I'm going to Mass. Maybe it will all come clear someday soon. In the meantime.....

"Left foot on dropping kids off at Youth Group early so you can get to Ash Wednesday Mass"
"Right hand on keeping up with your friends at Grace and your friends at St. Thomas More."
"Left foot on meeting with the RCIA director to discuss his book recommendation."
"Right hand on trying to figure out Church authority."
"Right foot on trying not to wish for the days when we all were happy at the same church."
"Left hand on the belief that God is bigger than any church."


Dancingirl365 said...

What a good analogy. empathize with much of this, though not all. For once we're at peace with our church situation, though I don't begin to think they have all the right answers. But I think God does!

carrie said...

I know a situation of peace will happen again eventually. It's just not that season for us right now, I guess. ;-) I know someone else in our situation might chose a different course, but we've chosen at this point not to force our children to leave their church, or give up our exploring either. I'll just have to learn to live with the tension for a while!

You're right, God has the answers...

Matt said...

This is a great post, and I appreciate you sharing a bit of your journey. I've been a cradle Episcopalian my entire life, although at certain points I've thoguht of leaving because of disappointment in either clergy or in a perceived direction that a particular parish was taking. Now, though, with the Anglican communion facing such potential for a large schism, and with the Episcopal Church coming apart at the seams, I find myself working harder than ever to do my part to keep things together, and find that my loyalty to my denomination is greater than ever.

I've posted a few times in the past on my pride in what the church has done in recent months/years, and in fact am going through a discernment process now which may ultimately lead me to the seminary. I think I've got a lot to offer -- and I've felt nudges/taps/shakes that it's going to be in a way that I am not fully prepared for yet.

I also greatly appreciate your efforts to support/encourage your children's involvement in church. We are doing the same with our daughters; my concern is what shape the church they inherit will be in in 10, 20, or 30 years.

carrie said...


I can sympathize with not only your feelings of frustration about the direction of your beloved church, but the equally legitimate feeling of loyalty. I applaud your desire to work from the inside to help heal the wounds.

I think it's really exciting that you are thinking of the seminary. Wow! Do you have any idea of a time table or where you'd go?

Exploring my faith and beliefs have certainly caused some definite changes. I'm growing in appreciation for "big-tent" faith traditions. In the Catholic church we've met all kinds of beliefs, from very conservative to very postmodern, but the desire for continued communion is over-reaching. I'm finding myself more and more comfortable with that. I hope the church my children "inherit," whether protestant of otherwise, will appreciate the ability of God's love to "cover a multitude of sins" (and a lot of wrong-headed beliefs!).


Susanne B. said...

Great comparison, Carrie. I'm in a kinda reverse situation in that my kids join me for Anglican services (they apreciate it but prefer our evangelical church), but my husband wants NOTHING to do with liturgical churches. So at age 7, Benjamin is an unofficial acolyte and has been for two years, since age 5. He knows all the responses and has memorized most of the BCP service. The other kids come once in a while, especially for Holy Days.

You're VERY fortunate in having Will's support. I'm stuck straddling because of Keith's dislike. He reluctantly allows me to go to the Friday healing services with Father Acker, but no more.

I've actually been okay with straddling -- I like certain things about both churches and actually kinda like the juxtaposition between the two modes of worship. But I do understand the Twister comparison. All too well. :)

my15minutes said...

I've been there sistah. I sympathize with your plight. And no, it won't go on forever but bless your heart while it does. You'll get to the point where you stop trying to please everyone (dh, dc, friends from past, friends from present) and you'll start looking at the situation from your own eyes, and will decide on something based on your own inner guiding light. Here's hoping that is sooner rather than later, for your own sanity!

julieunplugged said...

This is such a fabulous post I wish I had thought of it! Great writing.

Unlike Beth, though, I can envision it going on forever. :) Maybe because I'm learning to be comfortable living right there in the middle of the conundrum. I love the way you are embracing the situation and not resisting it, though. That makes good sense to me (as if my opinion matters).

Great post. I'm going to link to you.

Kansas Bob said...

The thing about twister is that it is really FUN ... the game you seem to be playing sounds more like torture.

I wonder why so many of us (me included) make spiritual life so hard. What is it in us that makes walking in faith a series of beliefs and activities that complicate rather than simplify our lives.

Your post has caused me to wonder if I need a spiritual wheel alignment where can I jettison my twister-like activities. Loving and serving Jesus in simplicity has enough challenges without adding leg and hand movements :)

carrie said...

Susanne- I am very fortunate to have Will's support. I appreciate that we can talk about everything we are learning and experiencing. My kids don't want to hear about the wrestling I am going through, they want stability and I understand.

Beth- I may be able to do something definite, but so far I can't figure out what that something will be! We are making plans to attend Ash Wednesday service, and hopefully as many Vigil services as possible during Lent so I can be a part of the community. Otherwise, I think the lesson for now is patience! :-P

Julie- I can see you living in the heart of a whirlwind for a long time and enjoying it, even when it's uncomfortable. I love that about you! You help me see the positives of "unresolved" living.

carrie said...

kansas bob-

Juggling all the demands on my time is one thing--I'd love to simplify in that area. But I haven't figured out how to make my spiritual journey anything but what it is...and what it is isn't simple. I can't stop, I can't go back, and I can't go around. I go through and see where my thoughts, beliefs, studies and feelings take me. Add to that the responsibilities I have as a parent and I don't know how to do this any differently. ;-)

I have friends who I know think I'm crazy...they want me to just keep going to our "old" church and forget the rest. But I can't now. I also can't just forget the community at our protestant church or the fact that my children are there. So, for the forseeable future, life in between seems inevitable! So do visits to the chiropractor!