As we begin this journey through Neighbors and Wisemen, I want to do two things by way of introduction. The first is to lay out my many points of contact with this book. The second is talk about why I think this is going to work as a Lenten journey.
I have may layers of overlap with this book. Tony and I are friends. We have eaten lunch together, slept in the same hotel room, sat by the river together and met at the pub on several occasions.
Tony is a big fan of place. So am I. More specifically, Tony’s place is his neighborhood in Portland. Portland holds a special place in my heart. I went to seminary there and am always scheming as to how I can get back there for a visit.
The Balkans play an important role in the stories of Nieghbors and Wisemen. The former Yugoslavia is a terribly messy and heartbreaking story. Tony’s connection to Albania and my connection to Bosnia will show up several times over the coming weeks. This war-torn region is amazing and unlike any other place I have ever been too. There is something special about the people that gets a hook in your heart and once you are snagged … it will pull at you at severely.
The last point of contact I will mention is that Tony and I share several friends. Randy Woodley is the person who first introduced us and several of the times that we have been together it has been with Randy and, of course, Richard Twiss – who passed away last weekend.
In fact, I am very aware as I write this that the last time I hung out with Tony was at Wild Goose West last Summer, it was in Richard’s tipi. Tony and I have been deeply influence by the work of Randy and Richard and brought into a larger community of First Nations and Native American believers. For that, my life and my faith are bigger and richer that I ever knew they could be.
The intro opens with a story of loss. He had lost his faith.
This story is what originally gave me the idea to go through this for Lent. Lent plays a significant role in the Christian calendar. It can be a time of solemn reflection, of preparation, of repentance and of sacrifice.
But what do you do when you didn’t willingly give up your faith? You didn’t mean to. You didn’t want to.
You lost it.
or it was taken from you.
At least … that is how it feels.
I have heard so many people – pastors and seminarians included – who have lost the kind of faith they once had.
It can be a gut wrenching, heart rending ordeal.
“A cadaver soul impacts everything. It makes faith impossible. It makes prayer impossible. But that is only the beginning.”
As we begin the journey together I want to ask a couple of very simple question.
What have you lost?
Where did you lose it?
The reason that I ask it like that is because I have theory.
What if it isn’t the worst thing to lose one’s faith? I’m not talking about losing it all together – which is what it feels like at the time. I’m talking about circling around in order to revisit, renovate and maybe even reclaim some kind of faith.
What if we are supposed to lose our faith? What if that is just part of the growing pains? Like a butterfly coming out of cocoon or a snake shedding it’s husk skin …
What if what we are losing isn’t our faith – not our true faith – but our ability to hold it that way. What if maturing is coming to hold our faith differently – not so tightly, not so confidently.
It wouldn’t mean losing everything you once held so dear, it would mean having faith in different way than you used to.
I will offer up a personal example in closing: I can’t say “God told me” anymore.
I still pray. I still feel the spirit move. I still get inspirations. But I can’t say that phrase any more. There is just something about the posture one has to be in to say that phrase that I have lost. I have lost the ability to say “God told me”.
When I hear it, it rubs me the wrong way. I know what people are trying to say when they use that phrase. But I have lost the ability to say it like that.
It haunts me, because I used to say it a lot and now – where it used to be on the workbench – sits an empty space that I am all too aware of.
I haven’t lost my faith. I have lost the ability to hold my faith like that anymore.
What about you?