A reason for the protestant reformation is that people wanted to have a say in the church. They wanted to participate. The priests were doing all the stuff in the church. So now we are here today. How much of what we have now is lip service? How much can the people really do? How much are we taught, and how much are we kept at arm’s length?
I feel that today’s church does not empower. It does not teach us how to hear the voice of God. It does not teach us how to be awake or how to serve. It teaches us to be good docile sheep.
I’m starting to have an empathy with Mary, with Peter, with Martin Luther, and with John Wesley. What was it like to be them? They all started something new, but they didn’t mean to. They had no template and no map. They all knew a change was needed, or was happening and were swept up in it. Some of them thought that they were part of the past, just bringing it up to fruition. They didn’t realize they were bringing change.
How come I am able to have conversations about God at the Y, but I can’t at church? These are deep conversations about how God has talked with us, right here, right now. I would mention something God had told me, and my conversation partner would then tell me something that God had told her. We would both be uplifted by sharing our experiences. We now seek each other out to have these conversations. There are three of us now who meet to exercise in the pool on Sunday afternoons and we have our own little version of church.
I told my priest from the very beginning of my re-joining church about my conversations with God, but when I started telling others at church about them I was chastised. I was told it was a conversation stopper. I was told that it made them uncomfortable. Of all the places in the world, it isn’t OK to talk in church about how God talks to you? I was told it made them uncomfortable because they weren’t having such experiences. Church would seem like the very place to find like-minded people. I would figure that would be a reason to go to church – because you want to share your experiences.
One reason to go to church is to share your faith. To share means to grow in it together. I like hearing about how other people hear from God. It strengthens my faith. It lets me know I’m not “hearing things.” All too often the stories from the Old Testament are just dry stories, dry as bones. They aren’t alive. When we awaken to God, when we listen to His call, we are connected. We become alive. Those stories serve as a template of sorts. They let us know we are on the right path. They let us know when it is God talking and when we are just stuck in our own heads.
Our God is not a God of the dead, but of the living. Our God is alive, and real, and loves us. Our God is constantly trying to reach out to us, to connect with us. All our lives is a returning to God. We are born into this world of division and noise, and all our souls seek unity and peace. We long for communion – for union with. To be one with.
If we go to electronics school, we expect to learn about electronics. We expect to learn about resistors and diodes and LEDs. If we go to craft school, we expect to learn how to make things. We expect to learn about pottery and glassblowing and embroidery. We expect in both instances to be given enough knowledge to be able to do it ourselves.
But church right now isn’t a school. It is a museum. The rituals have stayed the same for over 2000 years. We are told stories about past people who heard from God and acted upon His word, but we aren’t empowered to do this ourselves. We aren’t taught how to hear from God.
Is this because the ministers are afraid we’ll not need them anymore? Is this because the ministers themselves don’t hear from God? Or is there something else going on?
I’m just going to be brave here and say this. God talks to me. I have heard from God since I was 12. It isn’t all the time. I have wrestled with this reality for many years because I didn’t know if it was real or not, because I’m also bipolar. I don’t hide this. This isn’t a secret. I have twice checked myself into a hospital. Twice I have realized that something was wrong and I sought out help. I have had spiritual directors and counselors tell me that is very unusual. Most people who are way out there don’t know how close they are to the edge and they just fall off. I knew. I got help. But I’ve had way too many verifiable experiences to just think that this is all in my head.
But I’m terrified of misleading people. It is absolutely critical that I don’t lead people astray. There are way too many people who say they “hear from God” and it is obvious by their actions that the god they are talking to isn’t a very nice one, or isn’t a very healthy one. When I mention this to spiritual directors and counselors they say that my desire to not mislead people is a good sign. They say that it means that I’m on the right path. But it still concerns me, and I still hold back.
In church I asked my priest for training and for oversight. I want to know how to best help people, and I want to be watched. I don’t want to stray from the path and lead people astray. Instead of training and oversight, I got responsibility and micromanagement.
The church is like this. Say I want to go over there to help those people who are hurting. They are lost and broken and need help, but I don’t know what to do to help them. The church says that is great, so here’s a diagram to build a car to get to them. It took two years to get into the deacon discernment process. Meanwhile those people are still hurting and lost. Then once in the process, I’m asked about my spiritual history and my work history and my current financial status and there is a physical exam and a mental exam….and on and on and on. There is absolutely nothing about how to help people. It is all examining me and my motives.
Something feels very deeply wrong about all this.