At the very core of everyone is fire.
Like the sun or earth, everyone has a center, and that center is combustible. Some people blow up, others use that core as fuel, but everyone puts their respective most important things near the core. It may be deep within, it may be just under the surface, that core is ever-present. Whatever is closest to the core, that which is kept most warm, is the object of faith and devotion: everything else around the core is ordered, as the solar system is ordered around the sun based on its gravitational pull. Religion is the process of providing gravity to everything surrounding the core, and humans are fundamentally religious, regardless of whether or not one practices a particular religion. How one’s life is ordered demonstrates one’s religious proclivities.
Though I, under crises of conscience, like to think the time I spent growing up in the church (…going to a Bible college…and then seminary…surviving numerous abortive attempts to enter vocational ministry…and generally being abused or ignored along the way by those who were tasked to protect people like me, entrusted to their care…) was a waste (or wa$te), it was not. Rather, it was the expression of my [ahem] core commitment, even if I’ve spent my adult life trying to adequately put into words what that core commitment actually is. Religious zeal, coupled with an often-too-intense desire to understand things, faith seeking understanding, as Anselm put it, incarnate.
That journey led me away from vocational ministry–denominations are more interested in faith than understanding, it seems, while academia, the natural fallback for someone of my makeup, enslaves itself to, while at the same time cannibalizing itself by understanding–and into the wilderness of the real world, where it is clear that American Christianity has long been lacking in influence. In person, I don’t wear my background on my sleeve, I’m not one to be explicitly Christian, while I don’t shy away from it. Instead, I try to live the principles of Christ, as all believers should, in being decent, compassionate and fair to others and, in a surprise to even myself, picking my battles and being diplomatic. I try, I’m not always very good at it, but I try. If you were to go back to some of the earliest posts here and move forward, I would hope that it demonstrates growth bother as a writer and a person.
Yet the fire still burns, despite the crazy path my life has taken, wife and children, the highs and lows of higher education, moving trucks and boxes, celebration and sadness, joy and despair. It’s still there because it is part and parcel of life itself, and it has, speaking for myself, found its fuel in the limitless mystery of the Christ-event. My life isn’t always ordered in a way that demonstrates the beauty and mystery of Christ, but for that, grace and mercy. Things seldom go the way we want them to, but for that, trust and endurance. When they do, for that, humility and gratitude.
For now, I trust and endure, and the fire still burns.