Churches aren’t always safe places. By that, I mean that people aren’t always given the space to be who they are. I knew of a man once that was living with a woman he wasn’t married to. The pastor at his church excommunicated him and kicked him out of the congregation because he said he didn’t want to move out. Whether or not it’s spoken, there’s often the expectation that people will shape up and change if they plan on ‘staying’. This of course isn’t entirely fair because it assumes that people are able to change themselves as opposed to leaving room for the Holy Spirit to change and transform peoples lives (which isn’t always nice and neat).
I’ve never been the kind of person to just accept what I was told. My parents can probably attest to this. When I was younger people used to tell me I should be a lawyer because I liked to ask lots of questions and argue. My point is that I’m naturally a fairly skeptical person, not because I distrust God or anything like that, but because humans have done such a good job messing shit up. So when I was about 19 I was sitting in a ‘Christian Education’ class for adults (Sunday school for big people) and the ‘teacher’ was up at the front going on and on about how God created the world in 7 *literal* 24 hour days. Which ok, I would have been fine if she wanted to believe that but then she proceeded to tell the entire class of about 120 adults that if they questioned this in any way, then the entire bible was open to questioning. If you doubted that the world was created in 7 days then you would be unable to defend any other part of the bible when those mean athiests came attacking (unless of course you’re one of those *idiots* that believe, along with the rest of historical Christianity that the Creation story in Genesis is poetic as opposed to scientific)! So naturally, I raised my hand and asked why this was so. Why is it, that if I reject that God created in 7 days that I necessarily open the rest of the Good Book to attack? Now you’re probably thinking that’s no big deal. Asking those sorts of questions, especially in a church, would be safe. However, at the end of class I was asked (read: told!), very kindly of course, not to come back. Damn!
After graduating from Tyndale in May 2006 I took a position youth pastoring in the GTA and began in September 2006. Things weren’t going so well at the church at the time, because as usually is the case, a handful of people were causing a big row. Anyways, I was there through a big transition period and multiple times I wanted to quit and do something else, but I felt as if God didn’t want me to do that just yet. Christina and I really loved the youth and the congregation and felt like we should stay even though things were difficult. This past March I was fired. Fired from pastoring? I must have committed some sexual sin or done something terrible right? Is asking questions a terrible thing? I was fired because I was asking questions about my faith. You know, I was actually thinking about things instead of just accepting all the shit that came my way (because believe me, denominations aren’t flawless). I would wrestle with these sorts of things openly on my blog. Things like eternal suffering and damnation, ways we measure success and the Christian subculture that we’ve formed. Apparently these were the wrong questions. The church I was at wasn’t a safe place to ask these sorts of questions. The congregation was great but the way things were set up on a leadership/organizational level were poisonous. If being a good youth pastor means that you have (or pretend to have) everything all figured out so you can motivate teenagers to love God then I’m a terrible youth pastor because I wouldn’t even like trying to pretend to have it all figured out. The Church *needs* to be a community where it’s OK for people to wrestle with things. The Church *needs* to be a community where it’s OK for people *not* to have it all figured out because if the Church ceases to be these things then it just turns into an exclusive club where people sit around and stroke each others egos.
Anyways, the point of this note isn’t for me to rant about how shitty the church can be, rather, it’s to talk about God’s provision through unpleasant circumstances. I was fired back in March and Christina was just working relief at an organization in Newmarket. I decided to apply to go back to school and was accepted. We then talked about moving to Toronto to be closer to school (and for the change of scenery) and so we were looking without much success at apartments around town. Through that we ended up scoring a *sweet* place @ Yonge/Charles just about a 7 minute walk to school and right in the middle of downtown. About three weeks ago Christina was offered a new job that pays better than another job she had wanted and is closer to home (Yonge/Finch as opposed to Newmarket)! Also, I’ve been looking for a part time job for the fall and seem to have found one although I’ll write more about that later as it’s unofficial at the moment. Also, we’ve found a new faith community to call home here in the city which, refreshingly, is a safe place to ask all sorts of questions!
It’s funny how one moment you can be in a place where you feel uncomfortable and then the next moment that’s all crashing down and at the end of the day you end up somewhere that’s a better fit. The only way I can really describe how I feel is how a good friend of mine put it to me about his experiences: “I just feel like for the longest time I’ve been wearing shoes that are too tight and finally I’ve been able to take them off.”
Grace and peace,