Tim's Spiritual Journey

Well, I'm still on break from blogging, but I wanted to share this reflection.  One of my favorite parts of running this blog/site is interacting with readers who have gone through similar journeys to my own.  Tim contacted me after reading The Evangelical Experience and we have been dialoging a bit about various aspects of Christianity and our spiritual paths.  I asked him if he would like to share his story on the site and he said yes!  

I think it is powerful both to hear the stories of others and to tell our own.  In my own experience, this has really helped me process my past and articulate how both the positives and negatives of that past have shaped me.  One forum that I really enjoy in this regard is The Deconstructionists Podcast.  I highly recommend checking them out for similar "faith journey stories."

Tim has a background in Mechanical Engineering, Music Performance, and Religious Studies.  He graduated with an MA in Religion from Emmanuel School of Religion in 1991, focusing on New Testament studies and the development of the NT Canon.  He served as a pastor from 1984 to 1996 in the Church of Christ and is currently a member of a Disciples of Christ Christian Church.  

I will list the start of Tim's story here and you can click the link at the end to see the full written version.  If any other readers are interested in sharing their spiritual journeys on this platform, feel free to contact me at anthony@thecontemplativelife.org.  Thanks for sharing Tim, and I hope it's helpful for you all to read...

"A lot of years ago, when I was a 22-year old Church of Christ preacher in an isolated eastern Kentucky county, I visited an elderly lady church member at her little log cabin in the woods.  That might sound homey and pleasant, but there was not much of that about it.  The house was old and rundown.  We stepped into a dreary low ceiled interior that was dirty, dark and dank.  I found myself pitying her for her living conditions, but then she told me that this was the house she was born in, she had lived here all her life, and she was happy to stay there.  More than that, in her whole life she had never been too far away from it, and never once beyond the tiny county of her birth.

This immobility was not something to fault her for.  There had been little opportunity for otherwise.  She had had to depend on her extended family, and this was the best that they could do.  Such was her lot, and she was accepting of it, even happy with it.  

For some of us, our spiritual movement through life is like this lady’s physical movement.  We never wander too far from where we were born and raised.  There is no fault in this, not necessarily.  Perhaps the catalysts for change never appeared.   After all, we humans thrive not just because we adapt and change when necessary, but also because we do not change when not necessary.  When one’s situation seems satisfying and secure, why move?  

For others of us, however, our spiritual journey takes us far from where we started.  We go off not just into different counties but different states and regions, even countries and continents (or planets and galaxies, as it may seem to our friends).   We who fall in this group usually take no great pride in it.  We changed and moved because, at the time, it was what we felt we had to do.  Most of us did not set out to move in the directions we did, and could never have predicted where we ended up.  

My own story is closer to the movers than the stayers.  In fact, I am now quite far from where I started.  I moved away, first, from the sectarian, fundamentalist-like Christianity of my upbringing, on to a conservative evangelical form of the same.  From there I went on to a rather moderate, left-leaning evangelicalism, and in the end out of that as well.  At last I am in a place that I’m not sure how to name, so I will call it the “post” situation  -- post-evangelical, post-conservative, post-orthodox.    

On the other hand, I am not yet post-spiritual, post-religious, or post-Christian.  I still have faith, by which I mean the sense that there is, underlying it all, an ultimate transcendent absolute -- a deep, eternal source and foundation of meaning and being, of goodness and beauty and truth, of life and love.  I sense at the deepest levels of time and space, not the energy and mass of physics, but the meaning and value of spirituality.   There is much in my experience that continues to open faith up to me, including not least the story of Jesus Christ.  

My experience in conservative Christianity, however, which introduced me to faith, at last I found to erode it.   The farther I went into conservative Christianity, however moderate or scholarly, the more problems presented themselves that were unanswerable and unbearable inside its framework.  I found myself heading not deeper into faith, but up and out of it.   

I wish I could say that, upon finding that out, I ended at once any associations with evangelical Christianity, in order to salvage my faith.  For me, however, it took awhile.  I have never been one able to change quickly.  What some people can manage after a few years in seminary, or a few months of exposure to a non-evangelical or non-religious friend or teacher, I can only manage after years of reading and thinking and living.  But in the end, here I am.  I stand at the milepost, and I cannot go back.  But neither can I just stand here.  I have to find a way forward.

Perhaps you are the same.  Maybe you too find yourself in that no man’s land, which is neither this nor that, and no place to stay for long.  Where is the road forward for us?  

I would imagine that a great many post-evangelicals have struggled with this question.  Some, perhaps, are post-evangelical on the inside, but evangelical still on the outside, simply because they have no idea where to go.   On the other side are those for whom the question is not so hard.  Evangelicalism equals Christianity equals religion, and so they journey directly into some form of non-religion.  Or perhaps they move easily into a Christian community that is ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ or even ‘radical’ (or, at least, ‘non-evangelical’), or into a non-Christian spirituality like Buddhism.   For myself, however, and I think for many others, it has not been so easy.  No option strikes us as completely satisfactory.   

It’s for you that I write, who live with the stress of this perplexity.  I do not have an answer.  But I do have a story.  Perhaps, in the telling, it will help you to clarify your own path.  At the least, I hope it helps you (and me!) to keep trying.  We post-evangelical seekers need to keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking, until the way opens up to us, a way in which authenticity and love, meaning and courage, and peace and joy journey with us..."

For the rest of Tim's story, click here.