Monday, February 19, 2007

Taking Flight

Pomoprophet recently shared the following on his blog:

Though I no longer identify with Exodus in many reguards and though I am not sure if I will continue on that path or continue on the path to accepting these feelings as the way God created me, I can not deny that life was more full then. Not happier. Not easier. I spent plenty of time being miserable. But when I was on that journey, I had a sense of hope, of fulfillment. Life was bigger than me. It's something that has been missing in my life for a long, long time. And its left a hole...

That statement stood out to me, because there was a time when I could have written something very similar. I don't want to make the mistake of assuming that what he's experiencing is what I went through; I could very well be reading my own experience into his words.

For my part, though, I can attest that the closest I ever felt to God was just before I transitioned into a Stage Four faith. For quite a while the colder, starker realities of Stage Four left me seriously concerned that I was spiraling away from God, but despite my fervent prayers and best efforts I couldn't make the questions stop flooding out, and the way back to that safe, warm spot I'd been in seemed permanently closed.

As I was reflecting back on that time over the weekend, it made me wonder if that isn't how the butterfly feels when it first leaves the safety and warmth of the cocoon for the colder, emptier and seemingly endless expanse of sky that's suddenly all around it.

Or perhaps it's like the young bird that's just been pushed out of the nest and forced to find its wings. Even after it discovers that it can halt that terrifying initial plummet and begins to taste the incredible freedom of flight, there's no doubt a sense of loss associated with the realization that it no longer 'fits' back in its mother's nest.

And what do the other birds left in the next think of their 'fallen' brother? Even if he flies back to reassure them that he's still alive, will they call him a rebel for straying so far from what for them is still home? Will it occur to any of them that they, too, might someday be destined to fly?

Not that I suddenly ceased needing God; I need him as much as ever. But my relationship to God has changed, just as an 18-year-old relates to her parents in a different way than she did at the age of twelve. Is it such a stretch to imagine that God (who knows us better than we know ourselves) meets us where we're at, rather than forcing us all to be in the same place? Just as the nest is absolutely essential to the well-being of a chick that's just hatched from its egg, so I needed God to be close to me during certain key times in my life. Who knows how having him that close right now might actually impede my growth?

The open sky can be a daunting place. There are challenges to overcome and perils to avoid, but there are also wonders beyond anything that those still in the nest could imagine.

For those new to my blog, an overview of Fowler's Stages of Faith can be downloaded here.


Dwight said...

It's nice to see that my blog still gets a link or two to it (for those that don't get the joke, I am hosting the fowler document).

In all seriousness though, the bird analogy is a good one. The mother bird (God in this case) works to get the baby birds to the point of flying and moving out of the nest. Once that job is done the relationship between the birds changes.

This breaks down of course because we must rely on God, but in different ways then before. Having survived my hell in stage 4 for too many years I can attest that God was distant during that period and that was a hard and a good thing. Now in stage 5 God is closer but in a very different way then in the comfortable stage 3.

When reading A Churchless Faith by Alan Jamieson he concludes through numerous studies and surveys that the American church is primarily stage 3 and then stage 2 (he only studied adults) and those that have left the church are in stages 4, 5, and 6. Is it no wonder that people when they begin to question things (like biblical sexuality maybe) they are thrown out of churches, either on purpose or accidentally?

BentonQuest said...

I think part of the problem with stage four faith is also that people who do not understand what is happening freak out. I have heard people worry about their kids because they "don't go to church anymore." But if they would learn that this is actually a healthy thing.

I have often wondered if the actual moment of "being born again" is the movement from stage three to stage four or maybe stage four to stage five. Either of these movements seem to be more of a type of rebirth than moving from stage two to stage three, which is where I think most people who claim to be "born again" fall.