Monday, June 12, 2006

Monkey in the Middle –-

I often find myself torn between conflicting influences as I try to figure out where the Lord is trying to lead me. One day last week was indicative. I started my day out with the latest Ensign as my morning scripture study. I listened to an inspiring sermon from the pastor of an evangelical church I follow. I was uplifted by a spiritual thought sent to me courtesy of the Episcopal News Service.

I sometimes see myself at the crossroads of three distinct influences these days.

The focus on morality, personal cleanliness, and devotion to God from the LDS church resonates with me strongly. The sense of mission of the members is very compelling.

In my inner mind, I tend to express myself mostly like an evangelical Christian. I made the decision to commit my life to Christ on 29 April 2005, and that decision was transformational. Jesus is my savior, and I am a broken vessel. I owe him everything, and I place absolutely all my hopes for future happiness on his grace and forgiveness. Not on my own righteousness, priesthood ordinances, temple marriage, or anything else. My entire hope for the future comes from Jesus Christ and not on my own strength or righteousness.

The one challenge I have with the first two paths is that I am suddenly no longer a biblical fundamentalist or primarily a moral or social conservative. I believe the bible to be a record primarily of what people thought God was trying to tell them, with the inherent inaccuracies of decades, and in some cases centuries of oral transmission. I believe the bible message to be inspired, but not inerrant. There are too many internal contradictions for me to believe that it’s literally word-for-word inspired. There are too many cultural things like women keeping their heads covered in church mixed in with more timeless messages for it to be totally obvious which is which. That’s where the openness of the Episcopal church comes in. For me the Episcopal church seems to establish a framework of worship centered on the Book of Common Prayer and elements of an almost Buddhist mysticism that turn our hearts towards a connection to the divine, while allowing wide latitude for interpreting what the scriptures say to us. This is a framework I can operate within without having to clench my teeth at many of the messages from the pulpit. This is a faith community where I can speak my mind without looking over my shoulder for the doctrinal inquisition.

Imagine a road intersection with three roads coming into it, like a wheel with three spokes, and you’ll get a good idea how I feel most of the time. Accidents and emergency vehicles seem inevitable.

For awhile I had the idea that I would be led to choose between one of these paths. Now I am beginning to wonder. I draw so much strength from all three that my testimony feels like a 12 cylinder engine some days. Maybe where I am being led is to remain in the middle, drawing from the strengths of all three traditions . . . but how to keep from being pulled apart – that’s the critical question.

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