I’m thinking this year, 2013, will contain many changes.
“I’ll be done with this post since I’m getting tired and my thoughts are not as clear and crisp as they could be. But in my next post, in the future sometime, I want to touch on how my beliefs have changed in the last 5 years, who has changed my mind on certain things, and where I find hope now. That last part, the hope part, is so important. Because I get that there are a lot of disenchanted Christian church people out there who might relate with some of this stuff – but still love Jesus and want to find something to believe in. I know. Me too. And I think I’m coming out of the dark cloud pillar… but only to realize I’m wondering in a wilderness for the rest of my life. (I love the Exodus story for Moses and all that if you haven’t picked up on that yet… brilliant writing. Seriously. Brilliant.)”
Me – Exodus Part 2
A little something for you to listen to while you read the rest of this post. ^_^
Leaving “The Ministry”
Sometimes I stare off and wonder where the hell I’ve been the last 4 years. I mean after leaving my job in the church as a Youth Pastor in Thousand Oaks. I wonder if it’s been worth it, or if I made some grand mistake. It’s not that I am not happy with where I am today, but it is easy to look back and wonder “what if”. For those who know anything about chaos theory, there are an infinite number of results to every decision made every single day. What if I went left instead of right? What if I went 65mph instead of 45mph that one day? A good example: just today there was a shooting at the Clackamas Mall (less than 10 miles from our house in Portland) and I can’t help but wonder… what if we were still there? What if we never left? Only God knows if we would have been there today… Ok, I encourage you to stop thinking about chaos theory if I got you started – it never leads to anything productive. But it is definitely interesting to wonder…
And for this particular post, I am interested in where I have come spiritually over the last 4 years as a result of leaving the church (and friends) behind and moving on to other things.
[edit: the original video I posted got removed, so I updated it with this version]
I decided to write this post while jamming to Marley’s 1979 live version of Exodus, which he performed in Santa Barbara. I suggest you hit play on the video above while you read. If for no other reason except that it’s amazing and probably way better than what you’re going to read here on this page.
On with it!
“Ja come to break down oppression. Rule equality. Wipe away transgression.
Set the captives free! Set the captives free! Set the captives free! Set the captives free!”
– Bob Marley
It has been four years since I left the pearly gates of the church behind me. Well, four years since I stopped working in the church and moved from my home town to Portland, Oregon – which could have been described as an exodus.
I have not written publicly about these things as of yet. I have hardly talked about them publicly. It has been hard to find the right words, or if not the “right” words, the words that I feel do justice to what I have been through and what I feel about these things. But the time has come to at least begin to publicly explain my personal exodus from the church and organized religion in general. This, I am sure, comes as a shock to some people – and to others they have but assumed it was true. I feel that for even myself, it is hard to summarize what has happened as an “exodus from the church and organized religion” – but in fact, that is what it is. So I will try to use words to explain what has transpired, why, and how I feel now. Please have grace as you read (if you read) these words. I am not claiming absolute truth (although that may be some people’s main problem with my words… not enough claims of absolute truth), but what I am trying to do is make sense of my experiences – mainly to see if where I am at is a legitimate place, or if I am just scared and running away. Because running away is not the same as an exodus. One is caused by external forces, the other is a personal choice. We will see which it has been: an exodus or an escape; or maybe both.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Below I will post the last stanza of this poem, but I encourage you to click the link above and read the whole poem (it is not long). It ends with this:
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Perhaps some people read this as inspirational to take the road less traveled (based on the final line “And that has made all the difference”, but I do not.
The key to the meaning behind this poem is hidden in the first line of this final stanza:
I shall be telling this with a sigh
I added the emphasis on “sigh”, for it is with this single word that I think the poem’s secret lies. There is a heaviness in this foretold recolection of having taken the road less traveled by. Just because it was this decision that made all the difference, does not make it a better decision by any means. In fact, I believe that by adding the word “sigh”, the other is trying to warn us of something… that road, the one less traveled… it’s not as easy. It is hard. And it is hard simply because it is less traveled by.
Some people want to be unique, special, an individual like no other. To be a rebel and go against the grain, to travel the road less traveled. But it is almost as if Frost is warning of the temptation to do what teachers are always telling kids to do – be an individual, don’t follow the crowd, stand out and be unique. Really? At what cost?
I’ve been down that road, and I too shall be telling, with a sigh, that because I chose the road less traveled, it has, indeed, made all the difference.
But I should stop, for a moment of reflection. Because my first reaction to the word “sigh” was to think that it was with some “regret” that the author reported that he took the road less traveled. But perhaps “regret” is the wrong feeling or emotion. No, perhaps it is simply what a sigh so often is… a pause, but a weary pause at that. A tired, reflective, introspective pause. It may not be regret at all. It may simply be a heaviness carried over the “ages and ages” from walking alone… seeing the woods around you in a way that the other travelers never did nor ever will.
It is like the man released from Plato’s cave – who sees the world as it is, outside of the cave of shadows, and returns to tell his friends that what they are seeing is not, in fact, real. And he is booed. He is insulted and told to leave. He is called crazy, among other things, because they walked the road that the others walked – they saw the woods from that angle, and anyone who says there is even another road to walk – is downright insane.
It’s a heaviness. A burden. A lonely journey, but not necessarily a regretted journey.
I suppose it is as you want to see it. Would you rather walk alone, seeing the world from a different perspective, having the masses not understand you or support your claims of a different viewpoint? Or would you want to walk the weathered road, step by step with friends and family and familiarity? A road where everyone agrees with you because you share the same experiences. It does seem nice.
But maybe there is a weight and heaviness to Frost’s “sigh” that is not a burden at all – but instead is just that – weight. It is full. It is complete. It is full of memories, experiences, stories, challenges, discoveries, disappointments, surprises, victory, defeat, loneliness, enlightenment, confusion, joy, sorrow, contentedness, beauty, darkness, light…. all the things life can and should be made of. It is the finishing a very long book sort of sigh. The finishing of a marathon sigh. It is full of adventure, perserverience and fulfillment.
That is the road I want to travel, no matter how lonely it may seem at times. And I hope the “sigh” in “ages and ages hence” is full of weight and fullness, and is not a sigh of regret or of giving up.