I've come full circle.
I was part of a church tradition that shaped my life, I was severed from that tradition, and now I'm entering a new church tradition. But this one has a different spirit, a different take on love. It's a tradition that is a path, not a destination.
If it wasn't for all the negative side-effects, such as loneliness, depression, and psychological scars that suddenly resurface at the mention of certain key words (covenant, patriarchy, discipline, deacon, elder, pastor) I would wish that everyone suffer a period of spiritual abuse and be traumatically severed from the church that made you who you are today. Because when the church tradition that holds you up (like a tomato cage or a titanium rod in the spine) is removed so suddenly and completely that you don't have time to find a new one before the old is gone, you are forced to realize just how much of what you believed was tradition and how little of it truly helped you carry the Cross, if you carried it at all. All you have left is the resolution of Paul amongst the Corinthians: you know nothing but Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). You have only the Word of God and the unbuffered movements of the Holy Spirit. You cling to Jesus, and you start to see the world through him, rather than him through the world. Raw scripture is a powerful and frightening thing, and it's no wonder the church tradition that set me adrift was so against it.
This much I know: I am still, and always will be, orthodox. I believe in the triune nature of God, in the virgin birth of Christ, in the lordship of Jesus over the earth, in the workings of the Holy Spirit. And I believe there's a great shortage of bread multiplied, fig trees withered, and mountains moved.
But those are the easy things, the untested things. There are things I believe now that are harder truths to bear because they are antithetical to my old tradition, to my old self. I cling to them now because I believe Jesus lived them and commands them still, and they give me hope.
Despite living in a church that worshiped strength, I believe Jesus calls us to nonviolence.
Despite being shaped in a church that believed prosperity was evidence of righteousness, I believe the poor and downcast are being held by bonds that God expects us to break at great cost to ourselves.
And despite being molded by a church that redefined love until it wasn't love at all, I believe the only thing that can reconcile the evils of Death, Loss, and Futility to a God who is Love, is a parent-child bond so strong that all tragedies become sufferable because they bring us closer to our Father.
I'm writing this blog because I see all these things from the corner of my eye, and I want to bring them to the center of my vision. So I can connect, piece by piece, all the things I now believe. And so I won't just know the love of Jesus in theory, but will compel myself to practice it.