Weekly Edgework #112 - December 31, 2006

The Way Leads On

People who have really met the Holy are always humble. It’s the people who don’t know who usually pretend that they do. People who’ve had any genuine spiritual experience always know they don’t know. They are utterly humbled before mystery. They are in awe before the abyss of it all, in wonder at eternity and depth, and a Love that is incomprehensible to the mind. It is a litmus test for authentic God experience, and is – quite sadly – absent from much of our religious conversation today (Richard Rohr).

This will be my last posting on Edgework.ca – at least for the time being. The past two and a half years on Edgework.ca have been a significant chapter in my personal journey of faith and life. As my regular readers will know, my writings on-line have documented the stirrings of my soul. They have been windows looking in on a restless heart – a heart that is quite sure that the final words about Christian faithfulness in the 21st century have not yet been spoken.

I have, in these years, found a new freedom to bring my public and personal personas closer together than in the past. Not having had an official position within institutional Christianity – and thus being perched somewhere on the edge of organized Christendom – has furnished some unique vistas I could not have seen earlier. I have tried not to be irresponsible with this new freedom. Posting my writings and inviting responses have been part of my attempt to be accountable to the larger church community.

As most of you know, my journey has taken me away from some orientations toward faith and life, and conversely, toward others. Strange as it may seem to some, I now live with less certitude and more mystery than I did earlier – yet with a greater degree of personal peace. At this point in my life I find myself saying more frequently than ever, I just don’t know – it’s beyond me. At the same time I have memories of glimpses into mystery that have at times left me breathless - with a heart leaping for joy within and goose bumps erupting without. I have slowly, and sometimes unsteadily, found myself climbing past the grip of some restrictive fundamentalist strongholds that have dogged me most of my life. And I am beginning to emerge in a broader place – a place of awe and wonder, love and wholeness, authenticity and vulnerability, joy and unknowing.

I am aware that some sincere followers of Christ have been offended by my journey, especially by the fact that I have translated my movement into words. I guess watching a pilgrim on the move is always threatening to those who think of themselves as standing on solid rock. Settlers have always been threatened by roving pilgrims. Farmers always did want fences, cowboys wanted an open range, and the two often didn’t get along too well. I have been the object of much chin-wagging and finger-pointing - even hate mail. I have been labeled demented, heretical, cursed, and dangerous. It has been suggested that maybe God will have to put me out to pasture for a while like he did King Nebuchadnezzar. While I always expected negative responses to my writings, I was somewhat unprepared for the intensity of some of the damning rants.

At the same time, I have been affirmed again and again by genuine pilgrims who have found some ray of hope in the word-crafting I have done on Edgework.ca. Indeed, I have found deep communion in unlikely places and with persons entirely unknown to me in former years. And I have become profoundly aware of the crisis of faith that many are experiencing in our postmodern world, especially thinking persons who find themselves in the grip of a controlling traditionalism within their church communities. I remain haunted by a recent experience in which a well-educated man, upon meeting me at a public gathering, flung himself unashamedly on my shoulders and wept uncontrollably. Between sobs he told me how he had almost lost faith in a context such as I have described above, but how my writings and those of a few others were giving him some hope. I wept with him and for the many for whom the clichés of the 1950s and 60s simply don’t work anymore.

Six months ago, after two years of a self-imposed schedule for posting my writings on Edgework.ca, my doctor advised me to reduce expectations I was placing on myself. Since then I have ceased preaching and writing regularly, as many of you have noticed. This move, along with other life-style changes, has in fact resulted in an increased level of energy and general sense of well-being, for which I am glad. Now, after further discernment along with medical personnel, family and close friends, I have come to the conclusion that it is time for me to close this chapter of my life. It has been a good chapter for me, and I know for some others as well. But the way leads on. On to a new context in which to keep discerning the ways of God in our time.

I will likely keep writing. Writing has become my way of sifting truths and reaching for clearer understandings – and conceding often that I must continue to live within the realm of mystery. But I will not be posting my writings on Edgework.ca as I have done for the past few years. That is not to say that I have given up on dialogue and accountability. But I will be circulating my writings within a smaller group of persons genuinely interested in open and sincere dialogue around contemporary issues of faith and life. In other words, you will have continued access to my writings on a subscription basis. If you are genuinely interested in being part of this smaller group, let me know and I will put your email address on a subscription listing. I will then send my occasional writings to you by email if and when I consider them ready. Of course I will be open to your personal responses which you can then send directly to me.

In some ways I grieve the loss of the open forum on Edgework.ca. On the other hand, I look forward to a more personal connection with some of you in a place away from the public eye. I think that the new forum will offer a greater chance for me to find that depth of solitude for which my soul continues to thirst.

Blessings and Love to All,

Jack Heppner