I have been formed by a culture of newness. Even my existence is a testimony to the strength of the Shepherding Movement, and the only dead theologians I knew of until I was an adult were C.S. Lewis and Martin Luther.
It was my two years at a Lutheran school that cemented the belief I had subconsciously picked up in evangelicalism that Catholics weren’t real Christians. Church history really didn’t get started until 1517, you know, and it wasn’t until the 2nd Great Awakening that things really started heading in the right direction.
But it took the Jesus movement and CCM and the TV46 canvas bags at my grandparents house, a gift for pledging money to Jimmy Swaggert, and Focus on the Family and politics to really get things right.
I’ve been a part of 3 church start-ups in my 31 years. I have been formed by a culture with an apparent aversion to history.
And I wonder, does it hurt when a snake sheds its skin?
I watched a couple hundred people go forward for communion. And I know God was there. But as I served myself, the cracker felt stale and the juice flavorless. I longed for the voice spoken to me, ‘the Body of Christ, the bread of heaven’. I needed the body of wine to linger in my mouth.
My faith can’t flourish anymore on trends like the 5 Catalysts of Faith. I need the timelessness of sacraments, whether they be 2 or 7. I am craving the history of tradition. I want the creeds and the prayers. I want to be rooted to something older than Billy Graham.
Are there tears as the familiar scales slide away?
The lights dim, and the stage comes alive with music. The people applaud, and we get asked to move towards the middle, because more people are coming in. And all I hear is, ‘we’ve got a sold-out show today, folks.’
When the scales of faith look like a performance, when the glistening in the sun turns out to be not just a book, but a DVD/study guide/workbook/pre-written sermons(!!!), when the frame that held who you were suddenly feels incapable of holding who you are - is it time to let it go?
How do snakes know when it’s time to exfoliate?
If you collected and preserved the skins; if you pinned them to a board, as if they were a rare butterfly, or placed them under glass as if they were expensive rings, would you be able to read their stories?
If you lined them up, end to end, would the chronology divulge their secrets? Could these fragile, faded scales, with markings long gone, tell you the grasses they covered, the people they scared, and the ones they bit? Could they tell you what nourished them and helped them grow?
Do the scales of faith need to be named? Is the strength of their validity in the social recognition of it? Does the future health of the snake depend on if its shed can be categorized? Do I have to say, this is what I believe, this is what I don’t. This is what I value. This is what I want, what I don’t want. Must there be a reason?
What is there to say, really, except,
I have tired of the newness.
The allure of numbers and attendance and marketing have lost their sheen. I’m pissy and hissy, and how do snakes know? What instinct guides them into leaving their past behind them? Is it their shed that makes them vulnerable, cranky, and stressed, or are those prerequisites to dropping their scales? How am I identifying with a creature I dislike?
The process is hard, sometimes rough, and help is needed. They need to be lowered, like a cripple to a savior, into water. A reptilian baptism of sorts.
And now, I want to drown in the sacred. I want to explore the depths of orthodoxy.
But individuality has a dark side, as the song goes. Shedding is a lonely pain.
And the whole thing makes me wonder.
Does it hurt when a snake sheds its skin?