The Boxes We Leave Behind
The other day I was reading an article about the rise of Christian fundamentalism in the late 1960's and early 1970's, and I found myself feeling conflicted.
I was reading how many Southern, all-white, fundamentalist churches in the late sixties and early seventies launched Christian schools so that their children would not have to go to de-segregated public schools.
This hit home for me. I've always known that the Christian high school I graduated from in Central Florida was a school like that--one of many created out of fear, built upon a foundation of hate.
I was raised in Christian fundamentalism, and spent my formative years attending churches and schools where we were either implicitly or explicitly taught to fear "the world," and to exclude certain people from grace.
And yet, it was in those environments where I also first learned the story of how God so loved the world that God became one of us in order to rescue all of us.
I was also captivated by the Bible at an early age, learning everything I could about it, absorbing the stories, asking too many questions for my Sunday school teacher's liking.
At the time I didn't understand the breadth of God's love because I was taught that God's love was finite and focused.
No one used those kinds of terms in the churches I went to, but that's essentially what was taught: God loves, but God's love is focused only on the people who respond to God's love, and (coincidentally) who agree with us about God.
And yet, this was the beginning of my journey toward Jesus---one that continues today with all of its starts and stops, stumbling and racing.
As I read that article, I suddenly had a strange sensation that spread from my head to my chest---a warmth of feeling.
And I realized something...
I'm beginning to look back on my fundamentalist past with more honesty and openness than ever. I've had a lot of anger and resentment that I've held on to for years, but I feel as though I'm beginning to let it go.
I recently read something that author Sarah Bessey wrote about this very thing. She offered a prayer for people like me who struggle with the things they left behind as their faith evolved:
I pray you will bless the box you once needed for God and that you will treat it tenderly even as you leave it behind you.Maybe you have had similar experiences in your life of faith. You left behind boxes that you needed for God... boxes that held all the things you'd been taught to believe, but knew you could no longer hold on to.
There's a good reason to leave them behind once you no longer need them. But it's also right and proper to see the good that came from those seasons of your life as well.
May it be so for you. And may you find peace as you bless those left-behind boxes and move forward. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.