Weekly Edgework #100 - June 26, 2006

Windows on my Soul

The writing of this article marks a milestone of sorts. Not only is it the hundredth article in this series of Edgework Articles, it also brings me to the second anniversary since I started posting my writings on the web on July 1, 2004. I am quite content to celebrate this anniversary with a hundred articles on-line, even though a full two-year number would have been 104. It is the magic number we had to count till when playing hide-and-seek as children before leaving “home” to look for our hidden comrades. And I am ready to stop my counting today at one hundred for a moment of reflection on what this writing pilgrimage has meant to me.

When I began this series two years ago I did not have a clear vision of where these writings would take me. All I knew was that I had a desire to document the small steps I was taking in my own life as a Christian pilgrim. I felt a need both to articulate positions I held and to explore issues that were taking me into uncharted territory. At a most basic level I wanted to write for my own benefit. And on that score I have not been disappointed. Even taking into account the many flaws in my writings, I am satisfied that the writing of each article has helped to bring greater clarity to my thinking with respect to one specific aspect of faith and life. Of course, often this process has also uncovered many more questions to consider processing in future articles.

But the fact that some of my friends and acquaintances have followed my meanderings has frequently encouraged me to keep moving. For them these writings are, I suppose, a kind of “window on my soul” through which they have watched the stirrings in my heart. I have received many affirmations from them and have had numerous opportunities to reflect together with them about what I have written. At the same time, I have had some negative responses from persons who felt I was departing too far from the script of standard questions and answers main-line evangelicalism provides. Both kinds of responses have contributed toward making my journey memorable and have convinced me that I need to keep writing. I have come too far down this road to be content with setting up camp in some strategically defensive outpost. There are miles to go before I sleep.

In retrospect, as I look over my writings of the past two years, I see an almost even, five-way split – five general categories within which my articles fall. The first of these I would label simply as Journey. In these articles I disclose the ways in which my faith and life is on the move. I speak about an inner compulsion to break a “settler” mentality that often afflicts modern Christian pilgrims. I find greater delight, and indeed a sense of fulfillment, in exploring my faith and life on the edges of encounter than in simply regurgitating well-worn clichés affirming evangelical foundations for drowsy settlers. This is, of course, “unsettling” for some who wish that I would just put down my roots already! But I remain committed to the words of the old chorus I once learned at camp, Each day tramping, nightly camping, brings me one day nearer home.

A second category I would call Theological Reflection. In such reflections I consciously follow the notion the late Stanley Grentz called theology as “web” instead of “foundation.” While I remain committed to seeing the Bible as our primary theological text, I am at the same time willing to incorporate into my understandings of our theological web truths that have become self-evident in the process of living. I refuse to lay aside my newspaper and read only my Bible as some of my friends are doing. While this makes me suspect in the eyes of some, I find it impossible to do contemporary theology without reference to our post-modern context.

A third category I would simply call Ethics. To some it might appear as though I am simply trying to find fault with present Christian practices by writing such articles. I admit that I see a lot of things that are wrong in the context of the Christianity we have inherited from the modern era. But my goal is not primarily to poke holes in established patterns and practices of Christians. Rather it is to point us in directions that I have come to see as more faithful reflections of the heart of the Christian gospel. At the same time I am aware that I have a long way to go in order to live up to the visions I write about.

A fourth category can perhaps best be described as simply Experience. In these articles I make myself vulnerable, in a way, by sharing some of the personal episodes of my life that give shape to who I am becoming. Such openness has been a long time coming in my life. But with the help of special friends like Roy Penner, I have learned that it is okay to tell my story – even the broken and bleeding parts. I have taken note again and again that my computer spell-check does not recognize the word “brokenness.” However I think it needs to find its way into our vocabulary.

And finally I have written about our shifting understandings of Spirituality. In such articles I reflect back to you what I am learning about what I think it means to be truly spiritual in today’s world. As I see it, much of what passes for authentic Christianity is nearly void of authentic spirituality. In my writings on this subject I try to discover why we have come to this point and to discern the meaning of the arrows that point toward genuine spirituality in our present context. While this makes some uncomfortable, I have found many companions along the way who see some of what I see.

After counting to one hundred in our childhood game we would call out, Coming! Ready or not you must be caught! In my present game of life I call out, I’m ready for the next hundred! Are you coming with me?