A room in the house


People, Walking with Jesus / Saturday, June 1st, 2013

Side notes:

  • First of all, thanks to those of you who shared glimpses from personal experience—I am honored by your honesty. You round out the discussion in ways I cannot.
  • I want you to know that in all I say, I am not trying to pressure anyone into a box. My goal is not to present a case for Mennonite living, as though it’s The Way. I want to offer a perspective to those who find themselves here.
  • And last, I painted the good side of our church’s discussions on covenant. You who are experiencing it virtually will not see the uncomfortable side, and I want to assure you it’s there. I didn’t talk about the sore bums after seven hours of meetings, the fussy children, and the tense moments in which two of us strongly disagree, or one of us says something so ludicrous that the whole group halts and even the one who said it starts babbling to get out of the hole he dug. There’s not a one of us in the whole church, I bet, who doesn’t anticipate the hash sessions with a small sigh, thinking of all the things we’d rather be doing on a glorious April weekend. So—I want you to know it’s good. It’s not romantic.

Thanks for listening and talking.

*****

Confession: Sometimes Mennonites remind me of hobbits.

“Where our hearts truly lie is in peace and quiet, and good tilled earth.” Bilbo Baggins

Everybody loves hobbits, but nobody wants to be one. We’d rather be the inscrutable elves or the mighty men of Gondor. Undoubtedly individuals among us can be, but as a class of people we’re more hobbit than anything else.

A hobbit may not create the glorious art of Rivendell, or lead the armies of Minas Tirith, but he has his own place in heroism. His roots and simplicity make him surprisingly resilient. He can fight hard for the things he loves, and has a peace and wisdom all his own.

“And, yes, no doubt to others our ways seem quaint, but today of all days, it is brought home to me: It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.” –Bilbo Baggins

[amazon_link id=”B002BD2UR0″ title=”Mere Christianity” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]C. S. Lewis wrote[/amazon_link] about Christianity as a house. Upon entering the house, one finds oneself in a hall, with rooms (Christian denominations) branching out on either side. The thing, he said, is to enter a room. That’s where the warmth and living happens.

For first generation Christians, it’s an excellent analogy. But many of us entered Christianity within a room, born into a spiritual family already living there. While we were newborns in Christ (requiring frequent feedings of milk, making much ado about nothing, and throwing up on everyone who held us wrong), spiritual mothers and fathers dandled us on their knees, swaddled us in safety, coaxed us to crawl.

Many of us were adolescents before we even realized there were other rooms. The furnishings of our own were as familiar to us as the walls of the house itself. Sometimes we thought the furniture was the house.

And then as we got older, romped more, played harder games, some of us started feeling cramped. What is all this furniture doing here, anyway? Do we need it? Where’d all these mother hens come from? You mean there are other rooms out there with different furniture, and less trappings, and we don’t get to go in them? Why can’t we all be one big happy open house? And finally, What if this is not the room for me?

There are reasons to leave one room for another—sometimes we form deep ties out of our room; sometimes our room implodes; sometimes we encounter such severe pain that we want to bail out of the entire house, and changing rooms is all that saves our faith; for one reason or another we feel we must move on. Not everyone thrives in the room in which he’s born. Please hear me as I mean this—you can certainly change rooms. I have seen it done well. But those who have done it say it’s surprisingly difficult and unmooring. Rootedness is hard to regain, belonging is hard to reestablish.

We can spend our whole life wishing to be Something Else, but peace comes in accepting with gratitude, at one level or another, the Something we will never quite escape. If we can find Jesus within the room we entered, it’s no bad thing to stay. If He’s there, let’s enjoy Him and His people. Roots are one of His gifts. Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God. (1 Cor. 7:18-24)

Sometimes (not always) our restlessness and discomfort indicate our teenage years in Christ, going through the inevitable stage of pushing back on our parents so we can own our beliefs for ourselves. We think it’s the beginning of the end in this room, when maybe—maybe?—it’s the end of the beginning, and we are about to become adults. We are poised to take our place now by choice in the room we entered by default. Maybe those spiritual fathers and mothers, once so trustingly embraced, now so easily dismissed, are about to become what they were created to be–the dearest of brothers and sisters. We don’t have to stay; but now we finally can.

I find peace in this Mennonite room not because it is the only one, or the best one, but because it is the one in which Jesus found me, in which He nourished me and goes on nourishing, in which He chose me and goes on choosing.

Why are you in your room?

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Travis
9 years ago

I hate to break up your metaphor, but when it comes to hobbits I’m pretty sure that any of them besides Bilbo would put the heart of a hobbit closer to a pint of ale from the Green Dragon in Hobbiton. It may be that I’ve spent over much time with Sam, Merry and Pippin instead of Bilbo.

Mama Zook
9 years ago

I was loved into the room that I now abide in…first as a young child that had not been born into a lovely room inside the house with nurturing mother and father, aunts and uncles, but loved into that room by dear saints of God in a little church down the road from my shanty filled with nine dirty children, all undone!! It was not that I hadn’t been into many of the other rooms within that house at other times in my growing up years, because VBS opened the doors to many of them every summer. But when I needed a place of safety, my heart chose to run to the home of someone that I knew belonged in one of those rooms, and God met me there. Actually I think Jesus ran with me down that road to that house where I was welcomed into the room that I now find comfortable!! Mennonites, By Birth and By Choice!! Great book! I love you Shari!!

9 years ago
Reply to  Mama Zook

When you say “loved into that room by dear saints of God in a little church down the road…” that’s EXACTLY the kind of birth into a room I was talking about. Those saints were your mothers and fathers in the faith. I love your story, Mama. And you. 🙂

Cheryl
9 years ago

I’ve been pondering some of these very things lately: knowing we do have a culture all our own, feeling a bit frustrated at how that sometimes deters or frustrates people. There was a group of ladies discussing this and we came to the conclusion that it is true Christlike love that bridges the gap. Back to your metaphor, we on the inside of the room must love like Jesus does or the room quickly becomes stuffy, and the trappings cumbersome; those coming in have to love us with His love to forgive our failures and help us on our weak points.

9 years ago

I am in the room I am in because it’s the room where I am allowed to serve the Lord, and to raise my children with special needs. It’s the room where I am allowed to be the woman God has created and called me to be. It’s the room I arrived at after a long and painful path. I don’t always feel like I fit in the room–don’t always understand all the subtle nuances, and don’t have enough friends yet in this room to feel really comfortable in some ways there, but I am mostly content there because I know that I am where God wants me. It is also the room that has been a place of peace in many ways after a long and circuitious journey to get there. . . My Dh and I have come to believe that God may lead us around in and out of rooms to create growth in us, to purge and heal . . . it has not been easy, but I don’t regret the good things He has done in my heart through the “room changes”. He is good–all the time.

Luci
9 years ago

I’ve loved your Mennonite series, Shari! I can’t really articulate the whys right now. Maybe I will be back to read and comment again. You are so, so insightful and brilliant. I love so many lines of especially this post. Thank you for all the hard work you put into spinning words that hold so much truth. Love you.