Ed is referring to a rafting trip he took through the Grand Canyon and the way he experienced God in that place. Every time I hear this song I think of my places - places that have been beneath my feet at times when I have really experienced God. Loveland Mountain in Colorado where I discovered God's awesome creative power and beauty. The Beaches of Ocho Rios, Jamaica and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where I first played in the ocean with my wife on our honeymoon and my daughter on our first family vacation. There is a barren mountain top in Peru where I found a heart for the oppressed, the poor, and the hungry. There are lakes, hunting leases, and back porches where my father became my friend. There's an overlook in Lenior City where I've left so many unanswered questions, and lonely roads through the Smokies where I've found so many answers. These are places that are special to me, places that feel Holy. Sometimes I think that if I ever get to visit some of these places again I may not be able to resist the urge to take my shoes off. These are the locations of my burning bush, places my heart has built alters. Tonight when I heard this song none of these places came to mind.
I've often given the church a hard time. I've been pretty upset with the church in general for quite some time now. That's beginning to change. In small group this week we talked about the great commission. The topic of people being hurt by the church was brought up. It got me talking about this guy I know that I generally feel is horrible at telling people about his faith. He does it often, and I respect that, but the way he does it bothers me. It turns a lot of people off. You can see people's eyes glaze over and feel the energy drain from the room when he starts talking about Christianity. I've always wanted to avoid being associated with or compared to him. I want to say, "I'm not like that. That's not me." The problem that I'm starting to see with that is that in the only way that matters I am like him - he is me. We are brothers. Part of the same body.
I learned this lesson for the first time several years ago. I was going through a rough patch and so I starting acting like a real ass. I said some really mean things to people that I really love. One night on the way home from dinner my wife was getting on me about it and I told her that I didn't see what it had to do with her. She informed me that if I kept acting like a jerk no one was going to want to hang out with us anymore. She said that if people quit wanting me around she would end up stuck at home with me all the time and never get to see her friends. It turns out no one is going to call my wife and ask her to come hang out and insist that she leave her jerk husband at home. We are so closely connected that you can't take one and leave the other. You get both or neither.
I've been guilty of asking people to do that with the church. I don't think it can work that way. It doesn't do any good to say to someone that has been hurt by the church, "well, that church sucks. We aren't like that. It won't happen to you here." That's a lie. We are like that. It probably will happen to you here. We cannot separate ourselves from the body of which we are a part. It wouldn't do my wife any good to say, "sorry my husband's a moron, but I'm really nice and will make a good friend." People will reject her for her association with me, no way around it. I think in that situation she did the only thing you can do. She had a difficult, honest, and (until now) private conversation with me and I'm betting she prayed real hard and real consistently that I would get my act together. I'm now convinced that's the way the church should handle its differences.
I've been thinking about this for a while now, but it wasn't clear to me why until I heard Canyon tonight. I've always know that I'm a person of extremes. I'm either hot or cold. On or off. Lately I've been off. For some reason I starting reading over my blog again today and it was a great reminder of where I've been, who I am, and the way God has moved in my life. I also noticed something else - I either write a lot or not at all. God is either the most important thing I my life or I shut him out all together. Tonight as I began again to wrestle with my relationship with God all these passages of scripture, old testament stories, and parables began running through my mind, it was like a snapshot of who God is and what he wants from and for me. It was me revisiting my foundation. Reconnecting with a truth so deeply buried in my heart that no amount of abuse from the world will ever be able to shake it loose.
Tonight as I listened to that familiar song it wasn't mountains and beaches my heart retreated to, it was Sunday School rooms and AWANA classes. It turns out the church I so often criticize and try to distance myself from was, is and always will be my foundation. It is the portion of earth beneath my feet.