Church

October 26 2012
56

 

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.

 

 

 

 

56 comments

  1. Yep.A few years back “the afternoon of life” snuck up behind me and clubbed me like a baby seal.I earned no style points, but weathered it.

    It does something to you. The shallow end looks, well, shallow.

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    • Larry, I’ve a hunch Jesus prefers the ‘weathered’ look. And yes, it does do something to you. Thanks.

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  2. How can it be that one cannot type with a lump in one’s throat? It’s not like it’s a lump in my fingertips, but nonetheless, I am silenced and calmed and impassioned by these words. And a wee part of me says, “see, i told you you weren’t crazy.” Deep is calling.

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    • Mandy, you’re not crazy, not by a long shot.

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    • Georgi

      Yes. Oh yes. And I’m not crazy. Thank you, Mandy and John.

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  3. Loved every word of this, especially that you used the words of so many favorite saints, including, Stevie to share this.

    The deep is frightening and fierce and sometimes I do feel swallowed by fear and grace alike, but the deep is so much better than anything I knew nearer shore.

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    • Hi, Kim. The deep does keep us sorta breathless, but as you said ‘so much better.’ Thanks for your response.

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  4. Dear John,

    Abundant “thanks”.

    Love,
    Erika

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    • Erika, an exceeding ‘you’re welcome.’

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  5. oh man, you have just described “letting go of the dock” in the most convincing way. may we speak and live what the Spirit has given in our hearts, rather than that which would make pleasant hearing to those who represent the forces of all that is average. (karl rahner)

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  6. The only guarantee is God’s presence. That’s the deal. That’s the deep.

    ….sigh.

    Yes, please.

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    • Elora, yeah, that’s the only deal I can find so far…thanks for your thoughts.

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  7. I feel like this is the evangelical Christian version of Percy’s “malaise” and is it ever a soul-disturbing thing. And this has been the last three years of my life, “going deep.” Because nothing else will help.

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    • Hi, Mattie. Yep, Percy fits here, and yes, ‘soul-disturbing’ is an accurate descriptor.

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  8. I’ve loved Landslide since I was an angsty teenager, but it was only as a (still) angsty adult that it truly came to life for me. To see it interwoven in your thoughts on choosing the deep is both piercing and delightful.

    As Mandy said above, to read your words and hear in my heart that I’m not alone, that I’m not crazy, that it’s not just me … What a gift of grace to me today. Thank you for these words and this truth, John Blase.

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    • Thank you, Megan – that’s from one angsty adult to another.

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  9. Is it possible to be washed into the deep by a tsunami of the unexpected? (Serious question. Not sure if we’re describing the same deep.)

    My experiences was one of staying in the shallows but gazing wistfully over the floating divider into the deep blue and whispering a prayer: “Lord, I want to go there. But I don’t know how.”

    And then a tsunami caught me off guard and tossed me into the deep, where I sputtered and floundered, angry and afraid. Ever so slowly, I remembered the skills I had learned in the shallows, and lo, they went from a plaything to everything. And then I saw the beauty in the deep: the richness, the vastness, the glory.

    And then one day, God whispered: “Look around. You are here. I am faithful.”

    And I wept. Because His is. I will never return to the shallows.

    Reply
    • Kelly, I feel we’re talking about the same deep. Some of us choose deepness, and then some of us have deepness thrust upon us…and I couldn’t agree more that you have to know the rules (skills) before you can break them. Thanks for taking the time to write.

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  10. Perfect. Thank you John.

    The way God spoke it to me was that he won’t spare us from the storms but we’ll always be able to turn to a capable captain.

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    • ‘a capable captain’ – I like that, Ed. I like that alot. Thanks!

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  11. Now, I have landslide and rolling in the deep going thru my head. But enough about me. Thank you, John. Must share.

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  12. I feel like crying. I might later. Because this so perfectly captures my own journey.

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    • Sarah, we tend to write what we know…thanks!

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  13. “The deep” is so unknown, untested, not even clear enough to describe to others or myself. But more frightened to stay here than to step into the deeper places.
    Thank you for putting it so well for us.

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    • Susie, that ‘describe to others’ line is true…sometimes it feels quite lonely. Thanks for your comment.

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  14. Jesus wanted to rip my heart out today and give me a new one. But there are still a few threads hanging in there that haven’t been cut yet before I can give it to him and go swimming in the deep.

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    • Morag, Jesus is pretty patient…hang in there.

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  15. Sami

    The deep has been so incredibly good and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But… am I the only one who feels lonely out here at times? I know, I know, Jesus is my everything, but sometimes I feel like a little company would be so encouraging. Thank you for this! I will say I find much encouragement in places such as this – write on!

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    • Sami, thanks so much for naming the lonely, because some days it is, isn’t it? I’m grateful you found some encouragement here today.

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  16. carol

    for the gagillionth time I find myself terrified by the “under toad” and questioning whether I even belong in the water…and then running away from what I’m supposed to be doing (writing a sermon) I smack right into your post and weep at the thought of a God who patiently and persistently calls me back…thank you, thank you, thank you…your honesty and eloquence are truly a balm for my soul

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  17. I have found myself “pushed” into this deep end. When I asked him to empty me and fill me completely with him I don’t think I was really honest in my asking. I struggled against drowning here by holding onto the pieces of myself that needed to be washed away. I love how when I stopped struggling he reached down and helped me float.

    Thanks for this – beautiful!

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    • Carol, those are very good words. Thank you for sharing.

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  18. Good golly, John. What am I going to do with you? You keep writing out my heart in these strange places out here in cyber-land. As always, your grasp of truth and your powerful way with words combine to bring it home, with a flourish. That deep stuff? Yeah it feels like a torpedo caught you for a ride once in a while. But once you’re out there? Oh my, the view. And the surprising buoyancy. Thanks for this.

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    • Diana, you’re welcome. The view is arresting, isn’t it?

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  19. Janine Young

    Oh yes, please keep me from the shallows. Thanks John for your words. The dark night isn’t easy, but it is very good.

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    • Janine, it is very good, but it isn’t easy…there’s a reason they call it ‘dark’, huh?

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  20. It was about a year ago that God called us into the deep (well, some would say he threw us in, but who’s keeping score?). Every day is a new adventure in faith and trust. The operative words in that phrase are “adventure”, “faith”, and “trust”. The deep is where it’s at!

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    • Dan, just keep trusting, just keep trusting…

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  21. deep calls to deep…
    i type this through tears. thank you for ‘going there’….
    much love.

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  22. Like, like, LIKE this!! Your way with words here is amazing. Great post! God bless you!

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    • Tara, thank you…and blessings to you too.

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  23. I hardly know how to put words to my response–it’s a soul-response after all, this sudden clatter of heartstrings jumping to their feet in recognition. You so artfully described my own on-again-off-again journey with Jesus, and it was so, so good to read this post; I needed that sudden clatter of heartstrings today.

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    • Thanks for your words, Bethany…I, too, am on-again-off-again, prone to wander.

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  24. “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.”

    Fifteen years ago, I swam all the way out. I’m still here. Sometimes the tide has brought me back in or has pushed me under; other times, there have been sharks. But I’m still in the deep, resisting the undertow, waiting for God to join me in the middle of the sea.

    Thanks for the reassurance that it’s worth it.

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    • Renee, I appreciate you taking the time to write your words, and I am grateful you found some reassurance in mine.

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  25. Good piece here, much props

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  26. John, You’re such a great writer. Thank you for this.

    A question: What would it look like to “go deeper” and to “wade out in the deep” with Christ? In an actual life, how would it look different from what we’re doing now, if what we’ve done before hasn’t brought up past the shallows? OK. That’s two questions. I’ve some thoughts, but would love to know yours…

    Again, thanks. You’re a gift.

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  27. Kathy

    Thanks from the heart, John. I’m at sea as we speak, floundering, flailing, even sinking … for a bit, every once in a while. I see myself wrinkled and salt-dried and sun-baked and too often afraid. In other words, I look nothing like the person I thought I was. None of the old props and cliches will keep me afloat. Only Him. The sea is wide and dark, but there is no turning back.

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  28. JC

    Come on in…..the water is fine. As long as you keep your eyes on Jesus and not the water you can walk on it. This is what he’s calling us to. Loved this article!! Totally at this point in my life and looking forward to where he’s taking me….But then I’ve always loved change and adventure. I’ve always known there was more than what I had been taught somehow and I guess I just had to get to this point in life to find out what it is. There is a bit of pain involved but I know it will be worth it in the end. I think like the early church we are going to see more and more people accepting his invitation. Complacency it being replaced with adventure!

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