Walking Away

I thought this story was interesting.  Here is a bit from it…

You look at the note again. You’d missed the fine print at the bottom.

It reads: If you see anything that looks familiar you are still in your old neighborhood. You are going where you have not been.

Great, you think. Moving into a different house is one thing, but to travel to a town you’d never seen and move into a new home is something altogether different. For a moment you are tempted to turn around. In the distance you can hear your friends calling you. They are yelling about how great the worship was in the park and praising God for the revival in the church and someone is shouting that two skateboarders got saved and are coming over for breakfast.

You walk on. Soon you don’t hear them anymore. You have left the old city.

Thoughts? Comments?
What do you think the author meant?

Jonathan asks some difficult questions in his post, The Christian Refugee:

Refugees are forced to wander, and disconnected from community they have no roots to plant. Forces have appeared to work against them leaving them with no place to settle.  Their heart is with their homeland, yet where is that?  Is it back where they left?  Is it somewhere right next to them?

Walking away, to where?

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14 thoughts on “Walking Away

  1. Grace,

    It seems like a bit of verbal dejavu … like Aslan calling to Lucy to follow, even if the others don’t come … like somewhere we’ve heard that this world is not our home, we’re just a passin’ through … like Jesus calling to the disciples, “follow me”.

    I read Jonathan’s post yesterday. I think we all have felt a bit like the refugee. (Brad and I and other “interpolators” perhaps a bit more intensely than some.)

    This refugee has been forced to wander far enough away from “religion” to be able to perceive the dance of the Triune God … and, at times, join the dance.

    …still learning the steps, but they are patient….

  2. sometimes we really have to have nothing but Him.
    I’m not saying we stay there – but we learn something while there.

    we can be trusting in many things that aren’t really Him

  3. I once sat and listened to the stories of Bosnian refugees who were brutalized by their long-time Serbian ‘friends and neighbors’. They used to drink and play cards together on weekends. Then one day their neighbors teamed up with Serb soldiers and drove them off their homesteads, often commiting unspeakable acts to family members. Now they lived in crowded camps with little more than the clothes on their backs. Yet, they longed for those ‘good old days’ when they drank and played cards together. I still cannot get my mind around it.

    I believe that included in God’s original purpose for creating man was ‘community’. It’s something inherantly built into our ‘needs’. Sin has certainly corrupted community, but it hasn’t obliterated it. Some of those corrupted aspects can cause pain and injury, and can cause one to flee – whether slowly and cautiously or quickly with a hope of finality. But we find that finality is difficult to achieve because there are still redeeming aspects of community – shared experiences and memories that create strong bonds. Once we have experienced ‘beloning’ it is difficult to see ourselves not. We discover that fleeing can be just as painful as staying. Somehow we need to appropriate grace to do either. Grace is more than a coping mechanism. It is a gift of healing. Once grace is secured, perhaps the ‘where is there’ isn’t all that big of a question.

  4. The story was very interesting. I have read it about 3 times today. I’m not entirely sure what the author means in all of it (I know the meanings I would give to it) but I know the feeling evoked in the lasts few paragraphs certainly feels familiar…except the loneliness that he says is not there. But at first I did not feel it either. Just the excitement of getting out.

  5. Grace, when I wrote that post in the back of my mind I thought of you and so many who have wrestled through these questions and experiences. I know my own leaving and coming home was interesting to say the least. But it was good.

    I think your dialogs and posts on the subject make it easy for people to hear others wrestling with it and know they are are not alone.

  6. hey all
    I believe that I have experienced various levels of leaving personally, starting with the initial choice to leave the violence and destruction of my “home” and “family.” That seemed to thrust me into a journey of exploration.

    Since then, I left the camp of mega-church which for me was never really home, just a camp along the way, a friendly place for a refugee to heal.

    Upon leaving there, I am wandering, not necessarily lost, but without a map to a destination called “home”. Sometimes I wonder if the journey itself will now be home.

    Because of the charismatic elements in the story, it reminded me very much of the leaving that I am experiencing now. It isn’t a separation of fellowship, but a distancing in my heart from the former ways. (thus the recent posts)

    I’m not sure about where I’m at now. I don’t feel lost or homeless, but neither do I feel rooted in an identifiable form of community.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It is always encouraging to know that there are such wise and loving friends to be encountered on the journey.

  7. This post is a timely one for me and I thank you so much for posting it. We are….in transition. We have one foot out the door and are still “hearing our friends (and family) call us”. It’s scary to leave the only type of “religion” we’ve ever known and yet the idea of stripping everything away so that we just have Him is exciting.

  8. I’ve been re-reading Bonhoeffer’s little book Live Together. A few excerpts from the first chapter…

    “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethrento dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1)…

    It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work. “The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared?” (Luther).
    “I will sow them among the people: and they shall remember me in far countries” (Zech. 10:9). According to God’s will Christendom is a scattered people, scattered like seed “into all the kingdoms of the earth” (Deut. 28:25). That is its curse and its promise. God’s people must dwell in far countries among the unbelievers, but it will be the seed of the Kingdom of God in all the world…

    “I will… gather them; for I have redeemed them:… and they shall return” (Zech. 10:8,9). When will that happen? It has happened in Jesus Christ, who died “that he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad” (John 11:52), and it will finally occur visibly at the end of time when the angels of God “shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matt. 24:31). Until then, God’s people remain scattered, held together solely in Jesus Christ, having become one in the fact that, dispersed among unbelievers, they remember Him in the far countries.
    So between the death of Christ and the Last Day it is only by a gracious anticipation of the last things that Christians are privileged to live in visible fellowship with other Christians. It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God’s Word and sacrament. Not all Christians receive this blessing…

    It is true, of course, that what is an unspeakable gift of God for the lonely individual is easily disregarded and trodden under foot by those who have the gift every day. It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed. Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.

    The measure with which God bestows the gift of visible community is varied. The Christian in exile is comforted by a brief visit of a Christian brother, a prayer together and a brother’s blessing; indeed, he is strengthened by a letter written by the hand of a Christian. The greetings in the letters written with Paul’s own hand were doubtless tokens of such community. Others are given the gift of common worship on Sundays. Still others have the privilege of living a Christian life in the fellowship of their families. Seminarians before their ordination receive the gift of common life with their brethren for a definite period. Among earnest Christians in the Church today there is a growing desire to meet together with other Christians in the rest periods of their work for common life under the Word. Communal life is again being recognized by Christians today as the grace that it is, as the extraordinary, the “roses and lilies” of the Christian life.

    I think we can go back and learn a few things about community from Bonhoeffer…and Merton…and Eberhard Arnold…and others.

    I can identify with what you are working through, Grace. Good questions. “sometimes, I feel like a motherless child…”

    Tom

  9. jenn,
    Blessings to you on this journey.

    tom,
    Bonhoeffer’s thoughts on community always challenge me. From this passage there seems to be a reprimand in regard to being settled or comfortable in community instead of being scattered, yet also a recognition that when we experience community, it is a blessing to be appreciated.

    It leaves me unsettled about whether I should be accepting of the state of exile, seeking a place of community, or avoiding looking for the comfort of friends.

    In my current nomadic existence, I experience the blessing and grace of community as Bonhoeffer described, yet it is lacking the definition, commitment, and continuity that might be considered walking together.

  10. Grace,

    I had to practice restraint (what! Me!?) and not copy/paste the whole chapter (chapter 1, Life Together by D. Bonhoeffer). DB goes on to say that Christian community is the “roses and lilies” of the Christian life, that

    Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this. Whether it be a brief, single encounter or the daily fellowship of years, Christian community is only this. We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ.

    that

    a Christian comes to others only through Jesus Christ. Among men there is strife. “He is our peace,” says Paul of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:14). Without Christ there is discord between God and man and between man and man.

    and thirdly

    when God’s Son took on flesh, he truly and bodily took on, out of pure grace, our being, our nature, ourselves. This was the eternal counsel of the triune God. Now we are in him. Where he is, there we are too, in the incarnation, on the Cross, and in his resurrection. We belong to him because we are in him. That is why the Scriptures call us the Body of Christ. But if, before we could know and wish it, we have been chosen and accepted with the whole Church in Jesus Christ, then we also belong to him in eternity with one another. We who live here in fellowship with him will one day be with him in eternal fellowship. He who looks upon his brother should know that he will be eternally united with him in Jesus Christ. Christian community means community through and in Jesus Christ. On this presupposition rests everything that the Scriptures provide in the way of directions and precepts for the communal life of Christians.

    DB the expands on that presupposition;

    What determines our brotherhood is what that man is by reason of Christ. Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us. This is true not merely at the beginning, as though in the course of time something else were to be added to our community; it remains so for all the future and to all eternity. I have community with others and I shall continue to have it only through Jesus Christ. The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and his work become the one and only thing that is vital between us. We have one another only through Christ, but through Christ we do have one another, wholly, and for all eternity.

    That dismisses once and for all every clamorous desire for something more. One who wants more than what Christ has established does not want Christian brotherhood. He is looking for some extraordinary social experience which he has not found elsewhere; he is bringing muddled and impure desires into Christian brotherhood. Just at this point Christian brotherhood is threatened most often at the very start by the greatest danger of all, the danger of being poisoned at its root, the danger of confusing Christian brotherhood with some wishful idea of religious fellowship, of confounding the natural desire of the devout heart for community with the spiritual reality of Christian brotherhood. In Christian brotherhood everything depends upon its being clear right from the beginning, first, that Christian brotherhood is not an ideal, but a divine reality. Second, that Christian brotherhood is a spiritual and not a psychic reality.

    Bonhoeffer describes our tendency toward “psychic reality” as a “wish dream”;

    Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves.

    DB then notes the final result of wish dreaming on the community;

    Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

    I don’t think you should be satisfied with “settlement in exile”, nor should you or I be content “friendless” (though if we have not realized what it is to be Jesus’ friends, then we won’t be the right kind of friends to our brothers and sisters).

    Frank Viola speaks to this situation well (imo) in his book God’s Ultimate Purpose. He describes 4 places where we may live; Egypt—bondage; Babylon—false religion; the Wilderness—which we must all go through either by way of leaving Egypt or Babylon; and the Promised Land. Only the Promised Land is the true habitat for God’s people. The Land of Promise is found in Christ, not in our ideas or wish dreams.

    “Definition, commitment, and continuity” are realities of Community. Unless those qualities flow out of our realtionship with the lord (Who is our definition, commitment, and continuity) then we will not likely experience life together. The danger I see is that we often try to demand or force those qualities by some religious structure rather than entering into these blessings through relationship.

    I don’t think that “relationship” is one of your weak points. Your post The Real Faces of Chrismania is an example of that. Some intentionality and structure and organization in living in community with other Fellow Travelers is not a bad thing.

    Tom

  11. Thanks Tom.
    The passages you quoted remind me very much of the thoughts of Frank Viola in RC concerning community within our fellowship with/in the trinity.

    It is good to remember to neither idealize or idolize the idea of community, but perhaps to recognize the fellowship that already exists, and maybe dismiss the myriad of voices trying to say what it should be like.

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