Molting Part 2
I most identify with Abraham in the Bible, the nomad with irrational faith who did things unbecoming of a founding father. His story speaks to me like a kindred spirit across the millennia of time. He’s like an older brother who’s been where I am going, not one who bosses me around but one who bestows his quiet and protective presence as I go. I’ve got that same nomad heart. I get a little giddy when God pulls out the suitcase again and says, “c’mon.” I’ve fallen in love with the way he shows me where I’m going after we’re well on our way. And when he asks me to sacrifice and it feels like I’m killing my child, I know we’re almost to the good stuff.
Lately I’ve been hearing that familiar call to the land God will show me, and there’s no question I’m itching to go. But this time it’s a little different. Like before, I see the suitcase open on the floor, and my heart thrills at the adventure coming. But this time the packing is slower, more deliberate. This time the familiar I’m leaving behind goes deeper. There’s more to this move than loading the U-haul and driving out of town. God’s “I’ll show you when we get there” line really has nothing to do with location this time. The country, the people, the home he’s calling me out of is the theological framework and culture where I’ve been living since I became a Christian. Over the last few years God has led me on several camping trips into the wilderness away from this native theological land, but I’ve always had my evangelical home to come back to where I’m fluent in the language, the thought patterns, the culture.
But the language has started to get tripped up on my tongue. I keep having to translate so others can better understand the meaning. I’m even translating to myself. This Christianese I’ve spoken my whole life with Jesus is feeling more and more foreign. And the thought patterns, the mental trails I’ve worn down to the dirt, I get lost on them now. Ways of thinking I could hike in my sleep are turning into a confusing web of loops I’m no longer sure how to navigate. And this culture. How is it that I feel more like a tourist than a native? The customs seem so bizarre, like wares I’m no longer interested in bargaining for. Even the clothes feel weird. What used to fit so comfortably is starting to look like the traditional garb of folklore.
Now I see God packing those old clothes in boxes to drop off at Goodwill. I’m realizing that he’s deliberately calling me out of the evangelical culture, this, the only Christian home I’ve ever known. That’s daunting as much as it is exhilarating. He’s calling me to a place where Jesus is unfamiliar, like he was to Mary Magdalene in the garden outside the empty tomb.
But I’m not there yet. I’m still back in my homeland packing, and I am deeply torn. I’m ready to leave. So ready. But I know when I go that I’ll never come back to this place of conservative theology where right belief is king, where what is sin is settled and much of the teaching is steeped in inerrancy. I’ve always chaffed at this culture, more now than ever, but it’s still home. It will always be the land of my spiritual youth. It will always be where I am from. And even as I say under my breath, “good riddance,” I’m finding it hard to leave, this Egypt.
And I’m not just saying good-bye to a certain way of thinking about the Bible. I’m saying good-bye to a people who have become family. To them I may eventually be the prodigal, gone away and squandered all I was given. I may become the long lost sister who defiantly left the fold, the one they look on with sadness if I ever visit, the crazy cousin who has their DNA but who is more foreigner than family member.
I know this is my future, and it sucks. I’ve seen it happen to others, even treated them like foreigners myself, so I know what’s coming. I’m counting the cost. I’m dropping another coin on the scale of loss each day. That cost to leave side of the scale is almost full to spilling over, but I’m still ready to leave. The cost to stay would be unbearable.