Sunday, May 2, 2010

calvary as constancy

Today I had one of those nostalgic moments in which I was flooded with memories about a significantly influential part of my life.

[This has been happening quite a lot recently. Does it have something to do with it being my first year out of college? Hm. Maybe.]

I cannot count the number times I have been in the sanctuary at Calvary Christian Church. That's exactly what I was contemplating during the service there this morning. In the midst of "This is the day that the Lord has made..." I was inundated with memories from the past nine years - since the first day I came to Calvary in 2001. Well, I suppose, the first time I came to a Sunday service.

I view my relationship with the church like my relationship with any person - perhaps at times that encourages commitment and loyalty and investment. But also at times that encourages frustration, disappointment, and sometimes even petty mistreatment [that is from my end, of course]. The past nine years have definitely had their ups and downs. To be sure, my life has changed in a million ways since that first day in September my freshman year of high school:
I've gained and lost boyfriends, friends, 
graduated from high school, 
from college
moved back for the summer and again back to school, 
moved into my first apartment, had my first job, 
watched best friends get married, 
watched [older] close friends have babies, 
watched pastors come and go, 
watched my family go and come.

Each of those events had its own influence on my perception and willingness to engage with the church [that is Calvary]. In high school, Calvary was the perfect place for me. In essence, it was the place where I truly encountered God. It was there that I first realized it was not enough to simply be a good person and go to church on Sundays in order to check the boxes and make it into heaven. I found some of my best friends that year - friends that I still have and I treasure. The love I encounter everysingletime I walk into that foyer began that very first day and has blessed me every single hour of my life since - whether or not I am always conscious of it. Especially now [now that everything in my life is nostalgic since I feel like I am rapidly aging] I am just overwhelmingly grateful for it. 

In college I went through a period of backlash against what I felt Calvary represented that was...the...less than positive elements of Christianity. I think it had a lot to do with going to Wheaton and being exposed to all denominations and realizing that you might think differently than I, but we can still both be welcomed in heaven. In retrospect, I realize it is extremely likely that I misread what I was being taught - took my own passion and intensity and applied it in a somewhat twisted and ignorant way. 

As in all things of my life - I went from one extreme to the other. I went from a rather fundamentalist, narrow point of view to a rather liberal, [wider?mmm not so much] point of view. I decided, only a few months after thoroughly enjoying a Chris Tomlin concert at Wheaton, that Chris Tomlin was in fact not sincere and that he represented everything that was wrong with conservative Christianity today.

I couldn't find a church a liked, and coming home to Calvary sometimes felt like nails on a chalkboard. Of course, they were going through their own problems - shuffling of ministers and trying to figure out where God was leading them. My parents were suffering in their own way in their relationships with Calvary [I'm sure I didn't help matters much] - and I wondered if I could ever again find solace in the place that had literally brought me into the relationship I have with Christ today - something I could never, ever, ever repay. 

Then I found Rez. And, not to make Rez into such a messianic experience and the epitome of church-going experience that most Wheaton students do [for good reason, to be honest] - but it truly provided for me an excellent combination of liturgy, tradition, and contemporary experience. I rebelled against liturgy for the first two years of college [ask my dearest Sarah M.] but in the end my heart was irrevocably drawn to it. Now I am a member of a growing Anglican community in Chicago, and I am so happy and blessed and grateful and excited to be a part of it. Five years ago when I went off to college full of Christian fire, nine years ago when I first began that committed life with Christ - I never imagined that I would be a core member of a small Anglican community on the north side of Chicago. Ever. That just goes to show you how we cannot, ever plan our lives. God knows SO much better than we do what is good for us.

Now I see myself slowly but surely settling on middle ground. I no longer evaluate a Christian perspective or belief or opinion based on my feelings or gut reaction. I [try to] put more thought into how it might fit into my worldview. I've come to the conclusion that there are good things about both Calvary and the Anglican church [as a whole], and that both of them have equally molded who I am - Calvary of who I am today and the Anglican church of who I hope to be in the future. Calvary is irrevocably a part of me and I would never take it back, for the world.

[NOTE: For those of you unfamiliar with my church, this might seem slightly melodramatic. Ashley, you say, it's just a church. There's a million of them. But Calvary is different. We are a small, close-knit community with passionate love for each other and the church community. That passionate love can go both ways, and it has. Every church experiences a time of turmoil, and we have definitely gone through it. And because we have seen it rise out of that turmoil, I feel ever the more closely connected to it. That, and I dearly love those people who have seen be grow up from an immature, self-centered freshman to a [more] mature, independent young adult. And they loved me through every second. You can never, ever replace that.]

I think perhaps another element in this reawakening of my soul to the blessings Calvary provided for me is the fact that I am, really, old. I am [slowly, hopefully] growing past the petty stages of life, where I approach my life with less...reckless...intensity and approach it with intentional, calculated, spiritual, and holy intensity. Maybe it has a lot to do with being away from home, on my own, and missing those areas of my life that were so formative, that provide me such comfort, where I feel so loved

All in all - I know one thing. Calvary Christian Church represents to me the constancy that I know God provides. It has been for me, through the ups and downs of our relationship, a constant source of love and support. I do not always agree with its choices or with perhaps its approach to scripture or the worship service. And I am definitely sure they do not always agree with me. But that doesn't matter. Like I realized freshman year - we can agree to disagree, and it will be all the more joyous when we are together at the foot of the throne of God, rejoicing together. 

I can't wait for that day. And I can't wait to see what's in the future for me. 

This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.

1 comment:

Taylor Yves said...

Oh, I loved reading this. I assume you are home then, because I didn't see you yesterday. I am so glad for the peace and reconciliation God is giving you and Calvary.