On the Path

I’m in this study at church called Disciples Path. I signed up because our pastor asked for full congregational participation and I like him, believe in him, trust his requests. Having joined many of these kinds of groups in the past, I didn’t have grand expectations for new knowledge. I am not so arrogant as to assume I knew it all, just figured it would be more of a refresher, which I can always use. Plus I knew it would be enriching to meet together with the wider group each week for a meal and fellowship. I am accepting accountability on two fronts: I was wrong about the material and I am discovering what it truly means to be on this path.

Gaining a true understanding of the Methodist movement has been an eye-opener. I joined this denomination after traveling through Catholicism and a stint in Episcopal churches and then wandering away from regular attendance. Many years ago, on my daily hour commute I listened to Christian radio, I tried to be a good person but didn’t spend Sunday mornings with my butt in any pew. One particular program, just a quick blurb really, always caught my attention. A local female pastor who led an alternate worship at the local theater house spoke directly to me each week. I listened to her faithfully for a year but still wasn’t motivated to attend her gathering, until 9/11. Like much of the country, I needed a place to safely mourn with others, seek understanding, find peace. I went to her church, drug my family along.  Thus began our choice of Methodism. It wasn’t about the principles of the religion, it was about how the group worshiped, accepted, welcomed. We found a church home. As the kids grew, we moved from the aging congregation to one with more programing geared to youth, across town. We have been members for years now, without really looking at what that means. Fifteen years later, I can admit that I am finally grasping the basis of the practice I chose, the place I am sure God led me. Thankfully, what I am discovering still fits me and my values, my faith grows deeper each week in mining the rich history of the disciple John Wesley began in the 18th century.  I was wrong, I had much to learn.

I am really comfortable in my faith, my beliefs are rock solid. I thought that was enough. This class, the material and discussions, is challenging me to act out those ideas in a deeper more intentional manner, one that is requiring more of my emotional energy and inner peace than I anticipated.  Fully aware that I am not Mother Teresa, I knew I had more to give but didn’t consider how far off I was. While I am wrestling with how to get on the path, it occurs to me that my resistance is that the path is littered with others who are just as bad off as me. It would be infinitely more fun to travel with Mother Teresa or Ghandi or Mister Rogers. The people in my life are not so selfless, wise or sweet. They don’t wear cardigans and invite me in, they often are actually quite hurtful in their rejection. Rather than share great knowledge after thoughtful meditation, I get text after text of utter nonsense in the midst of emotional upheaval. Instead of living a minimalist existence to care for others, I am surrounded by people who want more and more of what I have for their own gain. How can I be a disciple outside of Wednesday night class, Sunday morning church?  I would have more confidence in my abilities if I could just stay in close proximity to my fellow congregants.

Trying to maintain and/or establish healthy boundaries to protect my well being seems at times to be in direct conflict with the call to rub elbows with the needy when those very same people are family. If only we were all walking the path, how much easier it would be. Yet I know all about that plank in my eye, I am certain others wonder about traveling the path with me. Realizing that boundaries are not walls, that emotional distance doesn’t mean exile, I am exploring what that means from a Jesus based perspective rather than the psychology fueled concepts I am more attuned to.  In a culture that is rife with labeling people as toxic and assuring us we have every right to banish people who don’t agree with us, I believe the intent of self-preservation in the face of danger has been hijacked into selfishness and self-centeredness at any cost.  A culture of reconciliation, room for healthy disagreement and respect for differences, has no room in this “my feelings are paramount, me-first” society. Where does that leave me and my desire for s smooth path? Out of luck.

I am being called to pray more, give more, act more, attend more, all with intention. I can’t find acceptance of knee jerk reactions and comfort zones anywhere in the material. Being a disciple is life encompassing, it wants all of me. Wednesday night and Sunday morning aren’t going to be enough anymore. I am being called to pray even for those who are building the bumps in my path, those who throw obstacles in the way. I know I can’t get anywhere unless I am willing to take a few souls with me, especially the ones who God just keeps putting alongside me. I hear you God, I am seeing what you want. I commit to trying harder to walk the path with the difficult ones and not just those who feel more like saints. I wonder if He is telling them the same thing, “Please child, just give Lisa a chance. I know she drives you crazy but there is something really special hidden inside. Take her hand, I will walk with you both.”

The class is almost over, I admit to being completely wrong about it. I can honestly say that I will also be bit more wary the next time my pastor asks something of me. He is not just after my time, he wants my soul.

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