Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Authenticity of Experience

I've been having a lot of visceral reactions lately to all things Evangelical Christianity.  It's been difficult for me to determine exactly why that is.  And for a long time I didn't really care.  I was just so angry at the church that I couldn't figure out why anyone would choose to continue being involved with it.  It was so illogical.  Of course, it was also rather illogical that I felt so much anger toward such a large group of people, many of whom I had never met.  What had they ever done to me?  The strangest part was that I was so enraged that I couldn't even discern that I was really the one being illogical.  My friend Nate was always so confused when we talked because he couldn't seem to figure out why I was so angry or why I felt the need to convince him that the church sucked.  I couldn't figure out why he didn't understand or agree with me.  Kind of funny, really.  I was the one arguing against Christianity, not a role I ever expected to have.

I think I'm starting to understand a little more what my psyche has been working through.  I've spent the better part of my life trying to sell something that I had never experienced.  Over the last few months, I feel like I've been experiencing more spiritual truth than in the rest of my years combined and I haven't even been going to church or reading the Bible.  But all the stories I've been told my whole life are slowly starting to make sense to me in a different way.  

For example, the story of when Jesus is asked about the legality of divorce and responded with several thoughts that ended with the infamous quote "therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate."  The funny thing about this whole story that I never realized before is that Jesus is being tested on his knowledge of the law and in his response says the law is not good enough.  I was taught to take that passage and turn it into another law.  If you make the choice to get married, divorce can never be an option.  You must stay together forever in a traditional marriage relationship.  Otherwise bad things will happen to you.  

Those of you who know me are aware that my marriage has been in a very difficult place over the last couple years.  Jordana and I are so deeply in love with one another but have encountered some real difficulties that have taken a serious toll on our relationship and our ability to function in a healthy marriage, trying to take care of our own needs and take care of each other.  What I have come to realize in this season is that when Jesus said let no man separate what God has joined together, it's possible that what he really meant was that man is incapable of separating what God has joined together.  Jordana and I are connected in a way that will stay with us forever.  The bond that we share is not easily broken.  It's not the label or the societal institution that we the people have created and are so concerned with protecting that counts.  That's a man-made phenomenon.  It's just one label or one form of expressing the bond that connects two individuals.  

We are joined together by a love that is stronger than death.  And that will not go away, regardless of what happens.  

The bond and the love that I feel for Jordana are so much deeper than anything I thought humanly possible.  My love for her goes far beyond my once-traditional understanding of her role as my bride.  It goes far beyond the piece of paper we signed over 8 years ago that declared us man and wife.  We are sealed upon each other's hearts.  

These are ideas that I can now talk about with conviction because I have experienced them.  My problem with growing up the son of a pastor under the crushing expectations that Christians too often hold for people in leadership was that I felt I had to sell Christianity based on a story that was not my own.  I wasn't telling my story, I was using the story that was told to me.  And that's never as real or authentic as telling your own.  It's hard to speak with conviction when you're telling someone else's story.  Especially when you're trying to convince the person you're talking to that a relationship with Jesus is a great experience.  Only you've never had that experience yourself, so how the hell would you know?  

I can't convince you that something is true.  But I can share my story with conviction and talk about the truth that I believe I have experienced.  I don't know yet what that's going to look like.  Some in my life believe that I will come to understand all of the things I was taught under Christianity in a "new light" and all of those truths will come back to me with stronger conviction.  Maybe.  Or maybe I'll have some different experiences and come to a different conclusion.  But one thing is for certain.  I'm tired of selling things.  

I just want to share my story.    


happy pearl said...

Being the offspring of anyone in a leadership position is difficult. I did not have the enclosed upbringing you appeared to have, but I felt it was disloyal to my family if anything Jesus said or did was wrong. It wasn't about Jesus, but about the party line which had to be toed if your father's job remained credible. Adolescence for me meant breaking away from the religion which was taught to me as well as the other normal rites of passage. Tough. I'm with you in your struggle - it's a perennial one for any clergy kid who wants to establish a little personal integrity

Colter Diehl said...

Appreciate these thoughts, always nice to know that there are others out there who share similar struggles. Mine is coming a little later in life, I think for most people it happened in adolescence, but you really identified something with the party line comment. It was never about the person of Jesus for me either, but rather the platform that had been built around one very specific interpretation of the message he came to preach. I'm realizing later in life that message is far more complex than I was taught to believe. In fact, I would say much of the teaching I received was far more in line with that of the Pharisees and other religious leaders of the day.