In July I was particularly happy to hear from an editor that an article I'd submitted was published online. I clicked on the link and landed at a black and white photo of a consternated, balding man standing among a dismayed crowd. Instead of focusing on restoring hope, they had titled it conquering grief.
My heart began to pound hard and fast in my chest. I shouted, "We don't conquer grief! It's not a battle to be won! What have they done to my story?" Then I read it. It mostly had the words I'd carefully chosen, except for one. One that had been precisely the point I wanted to convey. I was proposing a brave way of writing our own eulogy to get clear about life. Yet they called it "eulogizing," which implies talking about someone else's life rather than one's own. It made no sense and didn't represent my viewpoint, but there it was was smack dab in the middle of a post with my name on it.
Suddenly it became clear. I realized, I spend tremendous energy tempering my terminology, and my words get misunderstood anyway. I mostly write around my faith for fear I will be labeled then left out because of it. But why?
The reality is- I love Jesus. I believe He is the author and perfecter of my whole life. Every beautiful gift that comes to me, including my insights, flow from His abundant and loving presence. I don't think of this stuff on my own. I didn't create the purpose program by myself. I don't breathe because I decide to. He's the boss, not me. Everything I am and do and have and become begins and ends in Jesus. So... not to give him praise for the good stuff and credit for escorting me through the crap, just seems counterfeit.
"But," I tell myself, "words like that, in modern online circles, will get me stereotyped and shut out quicker than I can say, 'Boo.'"
Is it true?
I don't know, because I'm scared to come out of the closet in a culture that (I tell myself) views Christians as unkind, judgmental, hypocritical, narrow-minded, and agenda-driven. As Gandhi said, "I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are nothing like your Christ."
"But," I tell myself, "words like that, in certain Christian circles, will get me stonewalled or excommunicated. Some may even try to save my lost soul."
So what am I to do?
I love Jesus... and... I like to read and write stories that (I tell myself) "good" Christians aren't supposed to read and write.
Stories about authenticity and abundance and the law of attraction and yoga and meditation and energy healing and semi-inappropriate humor and recycling and wine and wisdom from other spiritual traditions and tithing outside the church and far out forgiveness and fair trade and fights between married people and doubt and dark days and Deepak Chopra and modern miracles and the fact that I think Jesus would forgive the devil today, if the devil repented and surrendered his heart.
So I ask myself, "Am I alone? Is it impossible for a person like me to find a place to fit in?"
Or are there others?
Others who wonder what it's like to openly...
Let go of control?
Admit we don't have all the answers?
Take Jesus out of the box?
Explore and expand our faith together?
Discuss tough questions with no label but love?
Accept our frailties in a public way?
Learn from our mistakes and use them to serve others?
Move beyond religion and into real relationship with Abba, ourselves, and each other?
Live with great grace, compassion, kindness, peace, and authenticity?
Be a community of Christ Followers who include, respect, expand, and connect?
I'm wondering... if that space existed, would you come and be a part?
Would you share your stories with us?
Would you send your friends?
Would you come out of the Christian closet (if you feel like you're in it)?
If there are more people like me, who feel like they don't fit in, I will create a space for us online. But I have to know you're out there. I need to know who's interested in building this kind of community with me.
If you are, put your name on this list.
And maybe dare to share?
Post this on social media; forward the email; blog about it (you can cut and paste this if you'd like); tell your friends over coffee; tell your yogis; share it with your book club; maybe even take it to church if you've found that kind of home.
Share it with anyone you think might want to see this closet Christian community come to life. The more interest I see the braver I will be... to take on this terrifyingly terrific task.
Who's with me?
Get on the list and I'll keep you posted.