Monday, August 15, 2022

Reconstructing My Faith: Rocks, Dross, and Almonds

Climbing Rocks

I have a fear of heights – interestingly, it’s more focused on man-made heights than natural heights, though I’m not fond of cliff edges or narrow trails. But I reserve my greatest fear for scaffolding, sketchy ladders, and pretty any kind of floor surface that I can see the ground through… a possible trap just waiting for me to make a misstep and plummet to certain doom.

Which makes my enjoyment of rock climbing (the casual kind, not the insane free climbing or the slightly less crazy “on belay” kind) a weird little anomaly in my personality. (Some would suggest that my collection of nearly 1000 board/card games means I have more than one weird quirk, but I just refuse to give into that kind of thinking – haters gonna hate and all that.)

When I’m climbing up a rocky hillside or down across a collection of boulders at the seashore, I find myself checking for handholds and footholds – is there some place on this rock where I can get purchase to make my next move? As well, I’m evaluating each outcropping to assess how much I can depend on it – is it solidly placed or is it likely to shift? Is it covered something slippery or a fine layer of dust that will cause me to, well, plummet? (Yes, I’m just about as obsessed with the word “plummet” as Gonzo in The Great Muppet Caper.)

I’m doing the same kind of thing in my spiritual life right now… trying to survey the landscape of long-held principles and beliefs about certain theological issues and church practices to make sure that I’m climbing up a secure and solid route… that I’m not trusting in ideas or traditions that aren’t solidly anchored in the truth of Scripture and the love of God.

One of the key questions I keep asking right now is “What about my faith is familiar and/or culturally comfortable – but not Biblical?”

Scraping Away the Dross

Deconstruction has become a “thing” in evangelical circles… and the previous paragraphs I’ve written would lead some to accuse me of “deconstructing”. Since the term tends to morph in meaning depending on the particular viewpoint of the individual (from “best. spiritual. choice. ever.” to “voted most likely to renounce orthodox Christianity and indulge in a life of profligate sin”), I pretty well  shy away from using it myself.

I actually think that a Tweet from @kelliatlarge sums up my viewpoint better than anything I could write:

As Proverbs 25:4 (VOICE) so beautifully states: "Take away the impurities from the silver, and a good smith can create something of value." My prayer is that the true Good Smith will do just that in my heart and life.

Harvesting Almonds

When we lived in Fresno, I was fascinated by the way almond farmers harvested almonds. As you can probably guess, it’s a little labor-intensive to pick almonds by hand. So, farmers use a tractor-like vehicle that is built to shake the tree mechanically and make the almonds rain down. (It is perhaps an artifact of my young adulthood back in the 80s that has me mentally singing “Al-mond rain, al-mond rain…” to the tune of Prince’s “Purple Rain” right now.)

There is always one last set of tree-shaking done late in the season (sometimes as late as Thanksgiving) to knock the “mummies” off the tree – those nuts that survived the harvest shakes and are a breeding ground for bugs.

In my case, the tractor-like vehicle is my personal study of the Bible alongside the wisdom of other folks that have done theological and historical analysis of the evangelical world I grew up and ministered in… and the “mummies” are those parts of my faith that I find so hard to set aside despite their lack of Biblical support.

So, over the next few months, I’ll be publishing blog posts on various areas where I’m struggling to shake loose my personal preconceptions… or, in some cases, where I’ve come to a new (and more Biblical) understanding of various hot button issues. They won’t be in any particular order – I’m not trying to build a systematic theology or some kind of perfectly constructed treatise on my worldview.

What I can promise you is that each article will be Biblical, honest, filled with odd pop culture references and extended metaphors, and (hopefully) an encouragement for each of us to explore what Scriptural orthodoxy (right theology) and orthopraxy (right practice) look like in 2022. 

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