June 27, 2007

why "salvaged" faith?

i've been struggling lately... deeply deeply struggling with how to be faithful to my experience of God and my experience of the church in the vocational path i'm am currently treading.

3 weeks ago, i was commissioned as a probationary elder in the united methodist church. and i love my tradition. and i feel called by God to be a part of the church and to share the sacraments of God's love and grace with the world. but i also feel deep within my soul a calling to locate myself, to plant deep roots within a community and live simply. and i can't for the life of me figure out how to do both of those things. to be an elder in my church is to be itinerant - to move at the decision of the bishop/cabinet and the church.

so, i'm trying to figure out where i stand. i'm trying to pick up the various pieces of my experience of God and my tradition and piece them together in a way that makes sense vocationally. in some ways, i feel as if i am out at sea, abandoned, and need to figure out what to take with me.

but i am also realizing that my vocational struggle has as much to do with insecurity about how my faith and theology will be recieved in the church as anything. can i truly be faithful to who I am within the four walls of a church? I have experienced so far that I can at an extremely unique congregation in nashville - but what if that isn't always the case? how do i work to create communities such as this?

the american heritage dictionary includes these two definitions for the word salvaged:

tr.v. sal·vaged, sal·vag·ing, sal·vag·es
1) To save from loss or destruction.
2) To save (discarded or damaged material) for further use.

I think in some ways I am trying to do both... I am part of a faith journey and experience that includes many people all over the world. in some ways, what I have been experiencing lately is out of tune with what the tradition or the people around me have been doing, trying, teaching, following, etc. I want to salvage the bits of that faith that are important to carry into a postmodern world and church. I want to make sure that the "stuff" of our experience makes it and can still be of use to people in my generation and beyond.

but this is also about keeping myself from losing something vital to my soul - to share my story in a way that is authentic and real and to get it out there before it slips away. by sharing it, i hope to find people who want to walk this path as well... companions on the journey (which is kind of hokey)... who can help me remember that yes, i am walking in the right direction. this blog is about being real about who I am... the I that i am only recently discovering and remembering and living into.

thomas merton has a quote that reads:

in order to become myself, i must cease to be what i always thought i wanted to be.

for me, this means i have to stop listening to the expectations and voices of the world around me and look really really deep within and find and accept the me that is there. i need to stop trying to be someone i'm not. that's true relationally, theologically, you name it. so - that's what i'm doing...


  1. I know what you mean. Theoratically we're putting ourselves in God's hands by being itenerant, but we're really putting ourselves in the Cabinet's hands and trusting that they are guided by God in what they do. I'm beginning to discover that my initial assumptions about my appointment were wrong and that this place is absolutely right for me. I still don't think that God whispered in the Bishop's ear: "Send Matt to Bethlehem" (if that was the case, then why didn't God also tell the BOM "commission Matt, for My sake!!!"?), but I do think it's a mixture of the wisdom and knowledge that God has given the cabinet, and God working to make the best out of whatever circumstance we find ourselves in. I don't think there is any "perfect" place for any of us where all the circumstances line up perfectly (marriage has taught me that!). Instead we have to ask if where we find ourselves is a place where we can live and serve with authenticity and integrity to who God made us to be and how we're called, as best we understand it.

    Congratulations on being commissioned! Hopefully I'll get there one of these days.

  2. exactly.

    and wow - you found me fast! well, i guess did add the site to my facebook... the wonders of the www