Deeper church. What doth that mean? No doubt something a little different to each writer and reader here. That’s good. Here’s my contribution, my tithe.
Remember the story of the rich young ruler? He came to Jesus asking about eternal life, Jesus told him to keep all the commandments, the young man said no problemo, then Jesus nonchalantly adds ‘sell all you have and give it to the poor.’ Like a depth charge – pow. The young man pondered a bit and found it all too much and went away ‘grieved.’ Was Jesus speaking literally, as in sell the Ikea and the Range Rover and the Bose stuff? Probably. But he was probably also speaking figuratively, as in ‘everything you’ve trusted in and relied on up to this point, let go of it and wade out here in the deeper water with me.’ Either way, it was too much.
Well I’ve been afraid of changing/‘Cause I built my life around you
As best I can tell, many of the writers/readers here have reached that season in life where things aren’t working like they used to (if they ever did). We kept all the commandments, wore purity rings, served in the church nursery, got married (semi-pure) or maybe stayed single, attended Beth Moore conferences, read Don Miller and Oswald Chambers, traveled overseas on missions of mercy, had kids or adopted kids or both. But all of a gradually-sudden the thrill is gone: prayer now has all the zip of green tea, we’re bored with church, jobs are being lost along with friends and our girlish and boyish figures, our kids are questioning the faith, we’re even questioning the faith. And we’re scratching our noggins with ‘okay, Jesus, what gives? I mean, we’ve done all the right things.’ And Jesus looks us in our a-little-bit-older-eyes and says ‘everything you’ve held to this far, let go and wade out in the deep with me.’ That’s the invitation to deeper church. For that matter, its also the invitation to deeper family, deeper story, deeper life – the whole shebang. You spend a good portion of your early life learning the rules and then, well, you get the chance to learn to break them.
But time makes you bolder/children get older
Some call this the dark night of the soul (St. John of the Cross), the second call (Brennan Manning), the afternoon of life (Richard Rohr, Will Smith’s character in The Legend of Bagger Vance) or yes, the landslide (Stevie Nicks). Rest assured an experience like it comes to each of us. If it hasn’t come your way yet, no worries, it will. Don’t go looking for it as each day has enough trouble of its own. But when it does come many people do exactly what the rich young ruler did: get spooked, turn around, go back home, and continue to do what they’ve always done but do it harder. For example, strive for better church attendance or join a more ‘serious’ bible study or commandeer the benevolence team – the kinds of things we’ve kept since our youth, scenarios where we can touch the bottom (all, I might add, perfectly good and pleasing things). And you know what? That’s okay; as best I can tell going back won’t fiddle with your eternal salvation. But it will faddle with your temporal satisfaction; in other words, you’ll die ‘grieved’ because you’ll know in your gut of guts that Jesus invited you out in the deep end of the ocean and you chose the shallows. That choice doesn’t mean you’re shallow; it means you chose the shallows. Now in the interest of full disclosure I should mention that out there in the deep you might drown, or get eaten by a shark, or get a charley horse then flail around thus drawing the attention of leviathan. The only guarantee is God’s presence. That’s the deal. That’s the deep.
Can I sail thru the changing ocean tides?
But I must also confess that if you let go and swim out after the Man of Sorrows…oh what tales to regale, stories of the sea and that gleam in your eyes and the smell of faith and hope and love on your skin, the deepest of these being love.