Spent the evening with a glass of McGuigan‘s 2004 Black Label Shiraz watching The Lake House with the wife. Good movie, about people connecting from two years apart. A nice wine too — and though I usually skip the Flash intro’s, I recommend McGuigan‘s for the quotes that go by… Martin Luther, Henny Youngman, and others.
Anyway, the movie is set with Sandra Bullock in 2006 and Keanu Reeves in 2004, which causes a bit of a pickle in the overall plot. It’s 2006 now and I’m drinking a wine from 2004… and I remember the last bottle of wine I opened also happened to be a 2004, and I remember thinking… where was I in 2004?
Well, my second blogiversary is coming up in just over a month… which means that two years ago now I was falling out with my CLB. It was about two years ago then, that I hacked, coughed, spluttered, and spat up the blue pill and swallowed the red one instead. I unplugged from the matrix. Okay, that’s enough Keanu Reeves movie references for one post.
A lot of change two years can bring… some subtle, some not. It didn’t take a lot of reflection to tell me that I’m happier today than I was two years ago. Two years of detox…
I read Roger’s House Church Blog entry, “Life After Detox,” in which he says that the sense of relief is still with him almost four years after leaving the institutional church. I still feel it, and hope not to loose that sense of freedom, as expressed by a pastor he quotes in his post before going on to reflect on what life is like after detox.
On the other hand, I wonder when “after” is? I’ve been reading (slowly) Paul Vieira’s Jesus Has Left the Building, and there I read yesterday:
Changing the structure in and of itself is not the magic cure. If you still think in an old way, meeting in homes is worse than going to church on Sunday. At least in “church” there is a crowd and some live music to keep you awake. Meeting in a house and yet still having a “bricks and mortar” mentality is the worst of both worlds.
I learned this the hard way. Years after leaving institutional forms of church, I still found that the system was inside of me. The very things I hated lurked within. Getting out of the “organized church” was only half the battle. Getting the “organization” out of me has been nearly impossible to do. This was much the case with the Hebrew slaves that were delivered under the ministry of Moses in Egypt. By the hand of God, Moses was able to lead the people out of Egypt, but was helpless to extract Egypt out of the people. Egypt was more than a place with roads and buildings; it was a system that permeated the hearts of those who had grown up within its walls. I find that even though I was out, the ideas that were engraved upon my mind by religion were very difficult to undo.
Of course, some will take offence at the metaphor of the institutional church as Egypt, but this misses the point… the point is that in reality, it matters little… because it isn’t the institution, the outward form at all. The issue has to do with the religion that’s in our hearts, and for many of us, the the institutional church was the context in which this inner religiousity flourished.
I reflect on my own path of detox. As I’ve written before, I believe it began while I was still in the instituional church, feeling disillusioned for several years before leaving. At that point of course, the pace and depth of detox increased… and yet it remains a continual struggle to resist the negative aspects of religiousity that continue to rear their heads, familiar as ever.
But like Roger, like Paul, and like the pastor in Roger’s blog post… I am free. And though they didn’t express it this way, I suspect they would all agree — not only am I free, but I am being freed, and one day I will truly be free. So to end with a suitably mixed metaphor, although the blue pill always awaits, I won’t be going back to Egypt.
Thanks for this post. You encouraged me today.
After almost two years since I took the *red pill*, it is still a struggle to not be *religious*, but I take each day as it comes.
But I, too, am happier today.
Thank you for this post. I took the “red pill” about 3 years ago, and I am still in detox. I’ve realized that it is very unlikely that a church can ever “emerge” into a missional community. Missional communities, it seems, must be formed after enough time has passed for each member to go through this detox period. Micael Frost calls this period a “liminal” stage (neither in church, nor in missional community). I have recently begun meeting with others that have “taken the red pill.” We all have very similar stories. We have not formed a community yet, but we have been building friendships, breaking bread, reading the gospels, etc.. together every week. These people are also members of the artist tribe of my city. Until we met, we didn’t have christian friends in our city. Now we are overjoyed to have met one another. Soon, I hope that purposeful community can grow between us, as we continue to participate in the artist tribe here in Bellingham.
This passage reminds me of a personal insight that I received from Matthew 16:6. Jesus is warning the disciples of the leaven of the pharisees and the saducees and it hit me that He was talking about their doctrines and that this same warning applied today. The leavening effect of pharisaic religeous doctrines are mighty hard to get out of our systems once they have begun to germinate.
Still detoxing in Baton Rouge.
i dunno. . . i’ve spent the last 25 years tending to the fleshpots in egypt, and have seen/experienced enough toxicity to have at least minor symptoms of minimata disease, but I have also seen/experienced such astonishing support, courage, risk-taking, grace, and overwhelming kindness to have offset much of the damage. Maybe it’s a matter of call. Some are called to minister inside the institution, some outside, and maybe this too is seasonal. . . we move in and out and find pasture and carcinogens. I find myself pretty much at peace on this stuff – I’l keep on walking inside as long as God seems to want me to and when/if God seems to take a notion that taking me out for a walk is a good idea, i’ll gladly get my leash and go. I am really glad for those who are called to detox and develop new forms/expressions, but i hunch in the end they’re still gonna encounter roughly the same number of demons/toxins because the crappy stuff is inside us as humans. Just takes a little while to work its way through the food chain in new institutions/noninstitutions – so you get a bit of a break.
I’ve heard you frequently refer to CLB and always wondered what it stands for…unless that’s classified information. :)
On your recommendation, I rented the Lake House and got me an adult beverage. It was a good, sweet “Serendipity-ish” movie.
I’ve also wanted to ask about CLB… I realize it stands for Church I Left Behind, but I can’t figure out how you get it to pop up when you hover with a mouse. Is CLB copyrighted?? May I use it?? I believe you have coined a new phrase!
As another of your annoying friends, let me chime in with a nugget gleaned from our own detoxing journey:
Simply, I’ve found as many dysfunctional and toxic house/simple churches as I have dysfunctional and toxic “institutional” churches. Some house churches I’ve visited or been a part of were WORSE the the CLB’s!! Thanks for the permission, btw, I’ve adopted CLB ever since you first used it — it’s shorter than my CAWKI (Church As We’ve Known It). And we all know that there’s a special anointing on Three Letter Acronyms (TLA)…
I’d like to suggest that some people, AFTER adequate detox, may re-enter “the system”, but the system will no longer control them. At the same time, for others the detox is the beginning of a new and completely different journey altogether.
I’m hoping that we have a “generous ecclesiology” that allows for a range of expression post-detox.
Wow … I go to a hockey tournament for a few days and look what I miss!
I’m glad to finally know what CLB stands for, the hover thing never worked for me, but perhaps it’s my browser (Camino). I’m also glad to have permission to use it because I haven’t had any good word or title to use for where I’ve been.
Brother Maynard, you may be on to something with your cat analogy. My mother is a good example. When she sets her mind to something, that’s the way it goes. She decideds how she is going to feel and/or react to a given set of circumstances and then … that’s just what she does. It constantly amazes me. She doesn’t understand why everyone doesn’t do this and has no concept that this is a unique personality trait that she has. She managed 20+ years as a teacher in the public school system without becoming bitter or rancorous at all. Some people can manage to be in institutional settings and become implements of redemption from within. Others (like me) cannot so easily dodge the slings and arrows …
I’ve long been an advocate of both/and … the idea that the institutional church works for some people (but not everyone), house churches work for some, emerging/missional churches work for some. There is no one-size fits all. We have this idea that **the** thing that works for us (whoever we may be) will work for everyone else and it’s difficult to continue to honor the places that have been so painful for some of us. I honestly don’t know how to do both sometimes and fail miserably. I strive for a “generous ecclesiology” but I don’t always arrive …
strange convergence, I was posting recently on a completely different theme and quoted Rilke, who has a poem about gravity and how ‘things’ understand how to give themselves to that force, but in our arrogance we rebel and so entangle ourselves and generally mess up. And so we need to learn from things: “This is what the things can teach us:/to fall,/patiently to trust our heaviness./Even a bird has to do that /before he can fly.”
When i have had the courage to fall, without first setting up some kind of net, to really fall, then I can work in the institution. And when the institution is willing to fall then, big and clumsy as it is, it can, at least for a time, become a bird. But it’s gotta know that the other possibility [other than flight] is smashing into wee bits.
Which kinda takes you to that deeply spiritual song from Disney’s Dumbo, ‘I’ve see a horse fly, I’ve seen a house fly, but I guess Ive seen about everything when I’ve seen an elephant fly” [or words to that effect]