“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you.” – C.S. Lewis
I feel lost in the chaos of my mind.
Each thought leads to a different path. Each path can’t be taken at once. I have to choose my path.
But, which path should I choose?
A compass always points north. When the compass is broken I cannot find my way. I begin to follow paths that bring destruction to my soul rather than life.
It is time I choose…
The Ecclesiastical East
When my compass points East, I find myself focused on the church. It isn’t the church in the biblical sense. Instead, it is a obsession with an institution.
I live by how a group of people view me. Do I meet their standards? Do I appear good enough to them? Have I covered up enough for them?
The weight on my soul is a pharisaical pressure. The rules, the lists, the image… The very core of my being is held together by how well I handle their pressure on my soul. It is the same weight given by the religious leaders in the time of Christ. They tiered your relationship with God by how well you followed their standards.
Do you dress a certain way? Do you stop listening to certain music? Do you believe the right positions? Do you go to the right kind of church? Do you say what you are supposed to say and think what you are supposed to think?
You cover anything “too worldly.” Your path is one of following in the steps outlined for you. There is no guidance of the Spirit down this path. It is man’s traditions and man’s systematic theology that dictates where to step.
It is honestly a path of slavery.
Where does it lead?
I have been down this road. It is a path of destruction. The Ecclesiastical East caused me to cover up, wear masks, and fall in line. But, the burden inside grew heavier and heavier. It was their way or the way to hell. It is all I could see. I popped, and attempted to take my own life.
So often I forget where this direction led me, and I return towards the East. Remembering keeps me off this path.
The Worldly West
However, if my compass takes me to the West, I end up worldly.
When I say “worldly,” I am not saying smoking, drinking, sleeping around, etc. That is the Ecclesiastical East’s path. When I study Scripture, I truly believe that being worldly is to reject God and not live in his creation with him as your center. Instead, you put yourself as the decider of the path.
When I John 2 talks about not loving the world, it is not about what you’re actually loving. Instead, it is about what you love more – God or your own desires and decisions. Everything becomes about you.
The Worldly West is about giving up my faith. So many people have asked after all the hurt I’ve been dealt by Christians and the church, how can I stay inside the church?
Because, there is something inside me that can’t let go of Jesus. There is something inside me that draws me to Scripture. There is something that draws me to worship music.
It is not the opiate sensation creating a high for the masses. Instead, those things bring me life. For the longest time, “the spiritual disciplines” were seen as a way to God. But now, they express my relationship with God.
How can I throw off my faith when God really has done so much for me? He spared my life. He brought me an understanding wife who loves me and never gives up on me when everyone would tell us to divorce. He placed friends in my life when I walked away from fundamentalism who showed me Jesus reaching for me rather than judging me.
To throw away my faith and leave God would leave me in despair. Nothing would make sense without God. Even though the Worldly West puts me in charge, it takes away the relationship I was created to cultivate deeper than any romance on earth.
The Stalemate South
When I turn my eyes to the South, I am met with the stalemate path. This is the direction that focuses on my past. The guides are those who have abused me, used me, and take to me to sit stuck sulking in my past.
This is a path I love to turn and fantasize about. I want to follow the justice I want towards those who have wronged me. I want to run after the “what ifs” of changing the past and swimming in the rivers of regrets.
Yet, this doesn’t lead to anywhere. It is a dead end. It is the Stalemate South. It never goes anywhere. It is a path that circles and circles and circles. You think you will obtain justice, you think you will escape pain, you think you will be better, but where does it lead?
It leads to a dizzy end of vomiting out bitterness and unforgiveness… which leads to that cycle again and again.
The New Life North
However, when my compass points North, I become uneasy. I become anxious.
It is because it is New Life North.
The path is of a new life I’ve never experienced. It is unfamiliar with things I am not used to. It is filled with twists and turns unexpected and mysterious. It is filled with questions, tensions, and paradoxes.
Everything in me doesn’t want it, because it is new. New is not comfortable. New is not safe as I see it.
The guide towards New Life North is the true Jesus. It is not the commodity Jesus who hangs on the cross just to get a transaction complete. It is not the picture perfect, white Jesus. It is not the Jesus who calls me to a list of rules or an image.
This Jesus holds my hand. This Jesus promises an abundant life. This Jesus reaches out to me, tells me to pick up what I see as the bad in my life, and to follow him.
He is the Jesus who brings life; while all other paths bring destruction.
It does not make sense that Jesus would want my struggles, my confusion, my paradoxes, my questions, my tensions, and my chaos. But in this new life, it is truly new. He takes me one step at a time. He does not want me worrying about finding all the answers. Jesus looks at me and says, “Take my hand. Let me carry your bags. I was meant to take up your cross. I will walk ahead of you. Just follow me.”
You have given me a compass to walk the path of abundant, joy-filled life. I swat your hand away, because I fear the newness of where you lead me. I turn away to all the other directions, because they make sense. There is more comfort in what I know, than in a new. But, the more I follow these directions the more death and chaos is brought into my life. I have forgotten the Jesus of life and believed the false Jesus presented to me in my past. You desire a relationship with me that is intimate, close, and special. You don’t desire my works, perfections, and looks. You do want my struggles, tensions, paradoxes, and confusion. Because when I give them to you I follow your way through them rather than running in every direction to avoid them. Avoiding them leads me away from your living water. Your living water gives me the strength to face them, to look them in the eye and be bold with you by my side. Jesus, I have been wrong in turning all directions out of fear of the new. Forgive me for how I have left your hand for the chaos of all the other directions. I take up your hand and take on your path again.
In your name and in your relationship of the new, Amen.
This is where I start again.
This is where I take a step back to where I was.
This is where I let go. This is where I can accept being the “Bruno” of my family. This is where I can wrestle with the “inner red panda” of my life. This is where I can safely cry, question, doubt, and be vulnerable.
This is where I can be me with no masks, no fear, and no instability.
It takes time. It takes more time than I thought.
But, I will admit. I am weak. I stumble. I want to turn everyway. I need friends to pray for me, love on me, and to walk with me down this path. I need to be open and honest when I turn the other directions.
But, when I follow my compass North to New Life, I find the everything swarming around. However, it no longer stresses me out or causes panic. Sometimes it may, but I know there is something there I’ve longed for.
As I walk North, hope arises in me that I will see and find a relationship in Jesus like I’ve never experienced before.
This is where I am at.
This is where my compass is pointing.