When I visited my parents’ home in Illinois after three months out of the country, the first thing to catch my attention on that long bus ride home from the airport were the cornfields, a magnificent sea of green receding forever into flatlands of our gorgeous state.
Now having grown up in the Land of Lincoln, I have driven past corn and soybeans since forever. Yet sometimes to appreciate the full beauty of something, you have to be deprived of it for a while.
Those three months in Mexico allowed me to return to the States and rediscover anew the simple beauty of the blue summer sky and a whole bunch of green leafy corn stalks.
I have had much to rediscover lately.
Two years ago I left the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ.
While this “abandon ship” moment was not physical—I still continued serving at a local Christian Church—spiritually and emotionally I had checked out.
Overwhelmed by political power plays and a watering down of Jesus’ teachings, it was fight or flight to save my faith, and I no longer had any fight left in me.
I remember sitting in the cafeteria of the Christian Church University I was attending at the time with a clear thought in my head: “I will not devote my life to this. If this is Christianity, I do not want anything to do with it.”
By “this” I meant the things I detailed in the post I wrote two years ago (I’d encourage you to check it out for further background).
This was not a statement of unbelief or apostasy, quite the opposite.
Every cell in my body screamed “more.”
Lying awake at night, the refrain repeated in my head: “there must be more.”
In a lonely apartment during the winter months, I battled depression and utter confusion.
Should I take communion?
Should I keep going to church?
Is there a true church?
Why would God let it get like this?
Why won’t He help me?
I am just trying to do Your will; why won’t You help me?
What am I supposed to do?
This was my dark night of the soul. And into the dark night I limped out in search for that “something more.”
I began attending services with the German Baptist Brethren, while also studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses (only a few people at the time knew I was seriously considering becoming a Witness).
The most recent consideration was the Apostolic Christian Church of America.
However, it was during the year I spent poring over Scripture with the Witnesses that I began to emerge from the darkness.
As I reasoned and debated with them, the false god I had been worshipping, which we both worshipped, was set clearly before my eyes: the god of Certainty.
I was certain that we had it right, that we were doing right, and that I was in the right group.
And that was fine until my eyes were opened to our huge gaping blind spots.
Suddenly, the certainty I had made my hope vanished and I went running to fill the vacuum.
Because for Witnesses there is (practically) no daylight between “Jehovah” and “Jehovah’s Organization” (their church), if the Organization goes down, so does God.
I tried to reason with them, that we have only ever had imperfect churches under the headship of a perfect Savior, and that security–doctrinal, ecclesial, or whatever–is no substitute for Christ.
What I didn’t realize was that I was preaching to my own heart.
As I have written elsewhere, there is simply no church that can be everything its people need it to be or everything Jesus intended it to be.
And that means there is no system of doctrine or theological answers that can dot every i, cross every t, or put all of faith’s complexities and gray areas into a neat little box with a bow on top.
We can pine away endlessly in a search for “something better” or we can learn to love what we have been given, praying that God would make us into something more.
That is what I have chosen to do.
Like the beauty of the cornfields, moving away from the Movement helped me to appreciate its unique beauty in new ways as I began to inch my way back in.
I appreciate what David French says:
The Church is like a navy, a collection of ships united in purpose and in destination. Each denomination is like a different ship in that navy, and while each crew is primarily tasked with the health and well-being of its own vessel, it’s also deeply invested in the strength of the fleet. Each vessel is more vulnerable as the fleet weakens. Each vessel is stronger surrounded by its protective armada.
You, my brothers and sisters, have your ships. My ship is the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ.
I believe in our principles. I am challenged by our history. I weep at our failures.
Here is where I feel I can best exercise the gifts God has given me.
And as long as that continues to be the case, this is where I will stay.
I am planting new seeds and asking God to help me love what He’s given me.
Editor’s note: A version of this essay was first published at Unpretentious Spiritual Musings.