Steve@50 part 2 – A Walk in a Dry Riverbed
Conventionally, lostness has to do with location, and not knowing where one is in relation to the rest of the world, but the lostness I feel is knowing exactly where I am, but not what I am to be doing here. Is it the same question God ask of Elijah in 2 Kings 19, “What are you doing here?” except the roles are reversed, and I am the one asking “What am I doing here?”.
Elijah had prayed for the rain to stop, and it stopped raining for three and a half years. I’m not sure who prayed here, but up until a few weeks we were experiencing an exceptional drought (exceptional being two stages past extreme). I woke up one Saturday morning and went for a walk in the park near our house. It hadn’t rained in so long; I followed the dry riverbed of the San Gabriel, walking on dry bedrock well below the usual water mark, or put another way, I would have been completely under water in normal circumstances. I had the feeling then, not a voice I could hear, but a thought that said to me, “this is my church, and the water my spirit.”
I noticed a few ducks scrambling over to a muddy puddle to sip what water there was, and like the drought they were experiencing, I understood it to be today’s church, squabbling over its little puddles of what is left of God’s spirit; there has been no fresh outpouring in so long. God designed the riverbed to be filled with water, and here it was dry, almost as if God’s hand of blessing had been withdrawn, that God’s Spirit had been diverted, that God’s Holy Spirit did not rain down on it, nor wish to enter what is called the church today.
Why, I asked. Now many of you know I’ve been walking the more conservative side of the road these past 10 years, believing I was still in the middle, but somewhere the road shifted, and today I find myself not so comfortable with what I once believed. We were told it was the way to grow your church, to believe these things, be inviting to these people and we did, and it did. But I am not sure we helped people the way the church was designed to as that more conservative way of the faith did not always help the living of it. We were sold a bill of goods, a set promises that can not deliver. I’ve tried to live that way, by those books, by the ideals or purpose driven notions and failed. What I have learned is
a) It is near impossible to live that way, and life feels like a failure, and guilt ridden.
b) When I do manage to ratchet down my humanity and live that way of life, it is joyless (and if there are small periods of joy, it is from condemning others who can’t live it)
So I’ve had a bit of a conversion, and sharing this with a friend who had not lost her way (and didn’t give up on me when I had). I now see empirically what she’s always known, that God’s kingdom invites a larger set of people than I could have imagined and I guess that is contributing to my sense of lost-ness too. Where is the box?
It is a lesson people of the faith have learned, or had to learn throughout the centuries, that a life of faith is lived by more than a set rules, but by a shared love of all peoples. I have found that subtle switch enough to let me live more faithfully than I have in a long time. It is amazing what love can do.
At the end of the walk, I laid flat on my back in the dry riverbed looking up, arms out stretched and confessed. I asked God to show me a new path, let me learn its ways by walking it, let me swim in this riverbed called the church, swiftly flowing with God’s spirit.