Walking the Narrow Road

I needed to journal these thoughts out. I’m sharing them because I thought maybe some of you might relate.

I grew up Quaker, which was a deeply personal, private Christian experience on many levels. But the thing about being a Friend is that your deeply personal, private Christian experience will undoubtedly manifest itself in a public way. For a Quaker, the Spirit-ual experience gives animation to a tangible human experience. This tangible human experience usually looks like participation in social justice movements. Not a bad thing.

Post-Quaker years, I found myself doing short-term mission work with a rather charismatic (Christian) non-profit organization. The non-profit community dwelled heavily on one’s dependence to the supernatural ways of the Holy Spirit. Quite honestly, it’s a hard thing to escape inside of the international church anyway, but before you knew it, I was conditioned to Spirit-talk. Prophetic words, miraculous healing, angelic visitations, demonic manifestations, and getting “slain in the Spirit” became normal. Every day was an adventure living that lifestyle. Every. Day. But then I left the non-profit.

Post-charismatic years, I found myself slowly slipping away from any western notion of Christianity. After living out such an unscripted way of faith for so long, returning to the faith-in-the-American-bubble was underwhelming. It was too boxy, too stiff, and too limiting. I mean, I gripped the superstructure of it all like something fierce, but I started to disallow myself to be shaped by it, and to instead be shaped outside of it.

Over time, it prompted my return to the church. Perhaps I was too shaped by it to root it completely out of my life, but there was something different this time. It’s like there was a small voice in the back of my head saying, “There’s something for you to offer here,” and so like a kite being driven by the wind, I submitted myself to the whisper. The whisper led me to seminary.

And as I distance myself further from it, I realize that seminary was also an underwhelming experience to say the least. While I was a successful student and learned a lot about why the church needs to be the church, I could tell you why the church needed to get its act together long before walking through the door. My seminary sought to equip future church leaders with the necessary knowledge of how to transform local churches from insulated, white country clubs on the corner into pioneers of social justice. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I simply found it lacking in much spiritual depth. Again, perhaps my appetite is still too whet for the supernatural.

And so here I am, sitting in the back corner of a coffee shop in “gentrified” Atlanta wondering what the hell I’m going to do with my life. What am I supposed to do with all of these faith experiences? How does Quakerism fit with a charismatic Christianity fit with a Baptist seminary experience fit in a local Baptist church where I work?

I’ve been obsessing over this question for the last 10 months and I haven’t arrived at an easy answer. Honestly, I think the answer to my question is less of an “answer” and more of an invitation to a journey.

I cannot abandon what I learned from the Quakers in regard to a deeply personal, private Christian experience with its outward, public manifestation. I cannot neglect the power of an unscripted life led by the Holy Spirit with its life-altering, reality-defying stories of transformation. And I cannot deny what I’ve learned from the Baptists when it comes to shaping institutional structures into instruments of social justice. On some level, they all bring Heaven to Earth.

Jesus said, “The wind [Spirit] blows wherever it pleases.” I suppose it’s blown me down this path riddled with all of these faith experiences for a purpose. It’s at least shown me the different ways that God moves in the world through His people, that really, the greatest limitation to God’s grace manifesting itself in the world is… well… us.

So I’m done trying to stay in one “lane,” I’m through trying to fit into someone else’s idea of what faith should look like, and I’m finished with trying to justify my experience with the Divine. I’m ready to live in the fulness of who I am becoming with Christ.

What about you?

 

MS

 

About Matthew Snyder

Matt is a thirty-something writer and young adult minister. He lives in Atlanta with his wife, Merridith, and their dog, Finn.

3 Comments

  1. Matthew… what if it’s not either/or? What if it’s “yes Lord”. What if living for God can’t really be about coloring inside of someone else’s lines of what’s proper, orthodox, or the “right lane”? Besides… when did Jesus ever satisfy the religious establishment’s idea of proper? I’m putting my money on you. You can hear God, you are grounded, and you know how to love. That’s probably going to keep you busy for the rest of your live.

    Love you.

  2. You go thru these deep places (including seminary) & come out on square one, again!

    Maybe, this side of heaven, you won’t get it quite right, or feel quite right about your efforts.

    Mary Beth B. has started on the World Race with an all female team (by divine chance).

  3. I loved this blog. I felt like I could have written it from my own journey and current place. I really want to facetime sometime and just ask you questions that might help me understand own journey. Got 20 minutes I can steal?

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