Note: this post is building on the image of seeing God through stained glass and will make more sense if you read Stained Glass first. But here is the key part, “we must take our art, our DNA, our human experience, and hold them up to the light. Imagining them projected onto an empty wall of a cathedral, we could glaze them into stained glass and let the sunlight shine through, casting images onto the concrete floor. It becomes a double projection: We are projected up into the form of stained glass, then God projects back through the stained glass.”
Well here we are, down on the cathedral floor of life, with that pure and holy light seen through the stained glass of our human experience. This is beautiful, but not without its challenges, which center around how that pure and holy light can be seen only *through* the stained glasses of human experience.
Some of you have long known this, and others will disagree and say we can know things for sure without the coloring of our own view. But I am in the middle of the transition from one to the other and so I will write to understand.
“Most people do not see things as they are, rather, they see things as they are.”¹
Our faith communities are formed around common projections
When our human experience changes, it can change our view of God and relationship to the faith community. We may be in a comfy situation, sitting on the cathedral floor centered around an image of God, appreciating the varying colors shining through our shared stained glass. We have something new to hold up to the light, but others around us may be content looking at the reflection they already see on the floor. Why do we have to stir things up?
Think about what holds your faith community together. Is it shared faith, or shared humanity? Faith seems the answer, but when we lose or change a few of our faith chromosomes, so to speak, do we still fit in the community?
In that time of change we may feel alone, wondering where we fit.
But why should our faith communities lose the wanderer in all this? Aren’t churches also filled with humans? If we share our humanity AND our faith, then when faith wavers we can continue in community. (And, paradoxically this has greater potential to bring us back to faith.) We might wonder aloud,
“What if we were united by our questions instead of our answers?”
If I think of the church as a family of faith into which many children are born or adopted, I can imagine the immense and unconditional love poured into each kid well before knowing how they will turn out. What they believe is not a pre-condition for family membership – in fact they have done nothing to earn it.
Now for some good news: If we’ve lived cloistered in a faith community it can be freeing to discover how much we have in common with once-perceived “others.” We can toss some of our fears into the communal bonfire and throw our arms around the others (like the random lady next to me at last summer’s Coldplay concert, draping her arm over my shoulder and full-voice belting out “Para-para-paradise“). I remember the dread of certain situations where I might be asked what I believe or why my morals were a certain way and need to have a succinct answer. Ironically it was also my secret ambition to live such a life that would cause others to ask me this. Now I’ve wrestled with so many core questions, I look forward to conversations with fellow questioners and am even more willing to explain the few answers I do have.
The thankfulness remains – we didn’t get here without our community – but we may flow through many communities in this life to do all the growing required of our garden. And we work to make our existing communities among those which accept the questions our shared humanity asks of faith.
♦ weekendswell ♦
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¹From Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life