It has been a little over four years since the last time that I could call a church home. My journey since then has been one of learning and unlearning, encouragement and disappointment, searching, settling, unsettling and then searching some more.
I have also become a Dad in the course of those four years.
Dads get to do fun things like picking up a Dr. Suess book and attempting to run through it at a lively and cheerful pace without stumbling over the changes of meter and rhyming scheme throughout. It’s a little like running too fast down a rocky mountain path.
The most recent story was my first shot at Oh, The Places You’ll Go. I came out of it with relatively few bumps and bruises, but the reading did serve to reveal a couple that I already had.
About halfway through, I came to a familiar passage. Not familiar because it is a book that I have become accustomed to reading (there are a bunch of those), but because it so well described a place that I had been.
The events that began my walk out of the exit of the church had left me in an extended “slump” and as the story says, “unslumping yourself is not easily done”.
” You will come to a place where the streets are not marked. Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked. A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin! Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in? How much can you lose? How much can you win?
And if you go in, should you turn left or right…or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite? Or go around back and sneak in from behind? Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find, for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.”
It speaks of a place where the streets are not marked. In a previous post, I had contrasted the well-worn paths of mainstream religion to the often seemingly overgrown path that it felt like I was walking. It wasn’t that these paths didn’t occasionally cover the same ground, but my travels searching for that next step have made me keenly aware of the feeling of being in a place where navigation can be tricky.
On those occasions that I have found myself in the common space with those well-worn paths, I have come across those who have presented themselves as the lighted windows from the story. I have happened upon people whom God has placed in my path that have helped me navigate these unmarked streets. They had a view of the main street that I recognized as the path that I was following as well. They also helped me to navigate the side streets and avoid the dark alleys. I was able to share with them the knowledge I had of this strange land that we were traveling in as well.
Much of what I came across, though, came in the form of those dark windows. The ones that make you doubt that there is any light here at all. They try to lead you down those dark alleys where muggers and pickpockets lie in wait. They will sell you a map to the stars, where you can find idols in high places, well off of the main street.
More often than not, the purveyors of darkness were the ones who watched over those who carried the light. There was the tangible concern that you couldn’t come into the presence of the light without being subject to the dark. The very real question was whether you dared to stay out, or dared to go in. Coming into community with those who had that light was part of what your heart desired the most. There was so much to win. Their community meant close contact with the darkness. To truly come into that community you needed to become subject to a darkness that threatened to push the light out of you and the other light bearers as well. The stakes are high, there was so much to lose.
Is there a way to go in without risking all there is to lose?
Can you fight the darkness, so that you can keep the light?
Can you be a part of the light while ignoring the darkness?
If you enter into the darkness, will your light make it less so?
I have found a little place where my light has been allowed to shine, and a few others have been allowed to shine with it. The streets are a little bit easier to navigate with the extra light, but the darkness still lingers behind us, and the craving remains to add to the light.
The craving remains to call those that carry the light out of the dark places.
Curiously, the penultimate page of Oh, the Places You’ll Go gives us the Dr. Suess translation of Matthew 21:21.
“And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)
KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!”
It’s like a shout into that strange dark and confusing place to have faith. Not only will the darkness fail to snuff out or even dim your light, but “even if you say to this mountain,’Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen”.