Disorganized Religion

I have a love/hate relationship with the art of organization. In my physical life, I have tidied up with Marie Kondo, GTD-ed with Dave Allen, and Swedish death cleaned with Margareta Magnussen, all in fits and starts. While I tend more toward chaos, I enjoy an organized life, where everything is precisely where I expect it to be, in its proper place.

It’s comfortable, but in five minutes, I’m bored. There are no mysteries, no surprises, no fresh discoveries in old tea tins, shoe boxes, or disorganized bookshelves. While looking for one thing, I find another entirely – often the very thing that I needed in the first place. 

I feel the same about organized religion. It’s comfortable to have our faith pre-determined, pre-packaged, and pre-programmed. Tell me what to believe and not believe, what to read and not to read, what to wear and not to wear, who is in and who is out. Give me a Sunday morning church service divided strictly into seven minutes for this and twelve minutes for that, where there are no surprises, and we can be sure to end on time. 

Of course, we need order – in our lives and our churches, but is there room left for mystery? And what is God if not pure mystery wrapped in love, waiting to be searched for wholeheartedly, and then found in burning bushes and rock clefts, stormy seas and bloody crosses, ancient liturgies, and sacred practices?  

If you tell me what to believe, then I stop thinking, asking questions and finding God for myself, guided by his Holy Spirit, who lives within me. If you tell me what to read and what not to read, I may forget that all truth is God’s truth and miss the riches of knowledge and wisdom tucked away in unexpected places. What’s worse, I may be afraid to read anything that the group deems out of bounds in case it challenges my faith. 

What if my rigid belief system, so carefully constructed since my earliest Sunday School days, comes crashing down? It might, but unchallenged faith is shallow faith; it has no roots to hold us when the storms come. And if the walls come tumbling down, something better will rise from the ashes – the truth that sets us free.

For many years now, I have found myself drawn deeper and deeper into places where I have more questions than answers, where the more I learn, the less I understand, where all my former certainties turn to dust and only his love remains. I have grown used to this often-uncomfortable, sometimes-messy, ever-learning, always-evolving life of a follower of Christ. 

It is the way of the kingdom, and it will lead me home. 

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. – 1 Corinthians 13:12

Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash