(To read and pray the daily office in its entirety along with us, click here)
Assemble yourselves and come together, draw near, you survivors of the nations!
I must admit, this is the darkest I've been in a long time.
I love the Church. I believe in the Church. Through my highs and lows, fumblings and failings, my belief not only in God but in the people of God has been unwaivering. Even when I have failed, my faith has not failed me.
But in this season, I confess: my faith has been shaken. I have not known how or if I should say much about this, because I find myself in the role so often in the role of trying to encourage others, trying to keep someone else's spirits up. I'm thinking about the beautiful black couple that drove down from LA to hear me in San Diego last weekend, who said it was the first time they had been to church since the election. I felt their story so deeply. I haven't wanted to come, either. I don't feel like there is any whining in that--it has nothing to do with not getting my way, or my faith not being strong. My faith was strong when my whole life was blowing up. It's been more an almost clinical sense of, "if this is what we are producing/becoming, check please." I just don't know how to be part of something I don't truly believe in, and there is a lot about the Church in North America right now, I really don't believe in.
I don't think I'm a random angsty millennial. I have not been sitting around listening to "mummy-I-wet-myself-again" grunge rock (in Elvis Costello's great phrase) and crying in my beer. I'm active. I'm on the move. I'm still trying to do what I essentially feel like God has called me to do. But the limp has become harder and harder to ignore--the nagging, wake me up in the middle of the night, bone-deep sense of futility....what does any of this matter? And what difference could it possibly be making?
So I haven't known how to say that disillusionment has eaten a hole inside of me. I've been tempted to a lot of things in my life, but never this much tempted to despair. I've never been more suspect of the institution, even where selfishly it has been good to me. I've never come this far in questioning the entire mechanism. I have been a cocktail of suspicion, doubt, distrust, and outright rage.
I checked out of evangelicalism a long time ago. I can't recall the last time I've self-described my journey with that word. But I've retained my identity as a kind of anarchist hillbilly Pentecostal, believing in God as a fire that burns. I've certainly retained my identity as a follower of Jesus, however disasterously bad I may be at it. But this last stretch of the journey? Yeah, I've been unsure of what it's worth, and what it all means, and my books and ideas and even experiences of God in the past have not exactly kept me warm in the cold of it.
But reading these words this morning, on my way to gather with a group of friends who I know will fan the flame in me--I'm feeling reinvigorated. The prophets tells the "survivors" of the nations, "assemble yourselves! Draw close! Come together!" And there is something in the drawing close, the assembling, the coming together--that mends us. When all the folks from the margins, the rebel forces living isolated in the shadow of the empire, get back in the room again and remember that none of us are alone.
I had a soul-restoring experience on Monday night, when a group of twenty-something guys in Tulsa invited me over to talk about MLK's legacy and witness, and what it means for them. 15 guys in a house, no formal church affiliation--just guys who love Jesus and love each other, and want to be prophetic witnesses where they live. No platform or honorarium or whatever...just sharing my story about how the Holy Ghost has used Dr. King in my life, what it means to me now, and then hearing their own stories.
I've felt so much, like so many things I loved were coming to the end all over again. I didn't know if I had the heart or stomach for it.
Until I remembered again what starting over looks like. Until I felt the sting of the sweet wine that is new beginning, all over again.
This is what hope feels like. This is what life on the other side feels like.
This is what it feels like, to not go quietly into the night.
And I don't know what to tell you, if you're fighting your own despair in this moment...except assemble. And instead of doing the heavy lifting of hoping for yourself, let someone else God has sent do it for you.