Do you remember the first time you were ever exposed to progressive Christianity? Were you SO excited? Did you find yourself, like me, flooded with relief to discover that there really was a way to reconcile your experiences and knowledge with your spirituality and your faith? I am new to progressive Christianity, although as I look back I see that I have always been on this path. My journey has lead me through quite a few years of knowing what I rejected – legalism, hypocrisy, intolerance, dogmatism, … but it wasn’t until finding TCPC that I could in any fashion, articulate what it was that I affirmed. So, it is here where some of my struggles end, but also where new struggles begin…
First, let me lay out some context: My life before consisted of rules, which, if followed, were supposed to make me “right with God”. My life before consisted of having neat little categories for everything – my systematic theology was clearly defined and I had all the answers. But I was that clanging gong – I had no love. I said I followed Jesus, but I had become a lover of my own belief system, rather than a true lover of my neighbor. But then life came in and shook me around like a squeaky dog toy and my “rules” began to seem inconsistent with living a life of joy, of compassion, of love. My neat little boxes had become stifling. My life had become about what you Knew, rather than about how you Lived. So that was what I had to walk away from.
It was at this point that TCPC came into my life and some wonderful caring, individuals who assured me I was growing, despite my inability to coherently converse about what was happening. So I grew. But just the other day I found myself looking back at the “old me” with a kind of sentimentality and I wondered why. Here is this momentous change occurring in my mind and heart but I found myself foolishly yearning for that which I no longer have – absolutes. Now I know this sounds absurd, so let me explain.
John A. Shedd once wrote “A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships were built for.” I have left my old spiritual harbor, and I KNOW this is the right path for me. Of that I have no question. My ship feels sturdy and the wind is at my back. But, back there in the harbor, I felt safe -- even though I fully acknowledge that the safety I felt then came more from ignorance and legalism. What a basic, powerful human need it is to feel safe! To know. To have an answer. I think I’m still wrapping my head around finding security and peace in this mysterious process of growing in love, rather than pursuing the “right” answers. But it’s hard -- All I have ever known up until now have been absolutes, and even knowing now that the absolutes were incorrect for me, I still miss them. Silly, isn’t it!
So, today I stand on the deck of my ship. I have left the harbor behind and I think I will stop looking back. What mystery, or adventure, heartache or revelation might await me on the open sea? I know not. Only that I was made to find out.