Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Average Jane Misfit

I would like to point you to my friend Cindy's post, Place and Time, where she brilliantly voices some thoughts about the emerging conversation and about the awkwardness toward church that it creates.

It seems that if we embark on the journey of discovery about emerging church and challenge the traditions we have known, we find ourselves stuck in an inbetween place - no longer in synch with the old, but often not part of something new.

Perhaps there should be a warning on emerging/missional blogs - "Beware! Reading this blog will seriously hinder your ability to fit in traditional church settings!"

I really resonated (smile) with Cindy's post because I feel like the poster child for misfits.

When I sit in church, all of the underlying issues, the beliefs that don't fit in at normal church, sit beside me like an unruly child that occasionally needs shushing.

As Cindy said, "I don’t fit at church (any that I know of) anymore. Neither do I fit out of church."

Those who don't fit the church still carry a deep passion for the church. Heidi Daniels describes it like this in her post "The Girl Formerly Known as a Normal Christian":

"I am the girl who slowly but surely moved away from being an attendee at a church and being to realize that the passion God had given me for his church wasn't about buildings, or programs, or budgets, or attendance."

I think that many, after a time of reactionary thinking, learn to harness thoughts and energies, to contain them with socially-acceptable restraint. We learn to be more comfortable with the tension of being a misfit, no longer biting on the bridle that holds our tongue from accidentally spilling these thoughts.

We can learn to behave, right Randy?

"But I’m not a prophet. I shouldn’t have to be without friends. I guess I should just dumb myself down, overlook the stuff I see, stop worrying about it, be another evangelical robo-Christian, get some bumper stickers, put a fish on my car, and get with the program. I can be a fun guy."

Fr'nklin, who eventually succeeded (kind of) in adapting, describes it like this, "I was still going in the opposite direction, but I was a pleasant rebel...a likable revolutionary."

And what about the conversation?

Occasionally I read concerns about the diversity of the conversation, questioning whether it is strictly for educated, white males. I have often felt that it is mostly a conversation among theologians, pastors, and professionals.

In spite of my blog name, I don't have much invested in the emerging part of the conversation. The only aspect of emerging that is significant to me is the willingness to consider changes to the structures and models of church we have known. In that regard, I am not interested in stylistic changes, but rather in changes that affect the fruitfulness and redemptive ministry of the church in the world.

If this is truly a grass-roots movement of the Spirit, there has to be a place in the conversation for the Average Jane and Joe. For many of us, simply stepping out of the church bubble and shifting the focus of our relationships to people in our community is a radical change in our Christian walk. It doesn't have the glamor of overseas or urban ministry. The missional things that we accomplish have an air of ordinariness about them.

I plan to keep blogging as an Average Jane in the conversation. For now, blogging is my remedy for the dilemma of not fitting in.

Do you remember in Forrest Gump when he started running and had this need to keep running for "three years, two months, fourteen days, and sixteen hours", and then suddenly one day, he was done? That's how I see blogging. I started, and for now, I just keep blogging and blogging, but I think that some day, I'll just be done.

"That's all I have to say about that."


Lily said...

And...a place to meet other Average Jane Misfits just like ourselves.

Thanks for being here with me.

Heidi said...

Yes, yes, and YES!

Thanks for quoting me. ;) I really, really identify with this post, and the feeling of being a misfit. I'm coming to be more and more comfortable outside of church - I didn't do well at the socially-acceptable restraint part. But I think Jesus was a misfit too. That helps me feel not quite-so-alone.

Sue said...

"Occasionally I read concerns about the diversity of the conversation, questioning whether it is strictly for educated, white males. I have often felt that it is mostly a conversation among theologians, pastors, and professionals." This was a concern that I had at the 'old church' that has carried itself over to this 'new church'. I have this mental picture of a bunch of guys standing around wondering 'What is that bleeting sound?', not recognizing that there are many who have moved beyond conversation and are making an impact on this world through their actions.

Bruce said...

I've got mixed emotions reading this post. On one hand I'm happy that you are planning to keep on blogging as (more than) an Average Jane. On the other hand it made me sad to think that some day you'll "just be done." I'll enjoy it while it lasts.


Robbymac said...

I'll be REALLY watching your blog in three years, two months, fourteen days, and sixteen hours!

(btw, could you advise as to the exact time you started blogging?)

Once again, you've put words to my thoughts. I realized some time ago that -- someday -- I'll just be done. But in the meantime, it's quite an intriguing and enjoyable roller-coaster.

Lori Bowen said...

Keep pressing forward girl...God is about to rock your socks off! Stay open to the Spirit's leading in your life, and don't let go. It's the ride (and opportunity) of a lifetime. He will begin to place like-minded people in your path, and delights that you are awakening to the possibility that there really is something MORE!


Cindy said...

thanks for the link, Grace. I think I can overlook a little resonating since you said such nice stuff about my post. ;-)

Inheritor of Heaven said...

Agreeing with Bruce, I would say you sell yourself short in calling yourself an "Average" Jane. I am thinking about your comment,
"Beware! Reading this blog will seriously hinder your ability to fit in traditional church settings!"
On the one hand...totally correct. On the other hand it depends upon what era of tradition you are talking about. Emerging and missional at best seem to be a return to the "traditional" church we see in Acts. At their worst...hmmm...I suppose they could be just as sinful and irrelevant as any traditional church.
As for traditional church at it's worst I think we are seeing it... irrelevant, either legalistic or full of cheap grace, narcissistic, exclusive, etc etc. I think at its best it can do the same things the emerging, missional church can do.
The question is, will it? I'm guessing that by and large, it won't.

paul said...

Yes, average misfits are us :). To me i am starting to grapple with how we are defined not so much by the past but by the future, the full realisation of the kingdom of God, or the full expression of ourselves as people created in the image of God. There is a radicalness about the equality of the NT where our individuality [or our misfittedness] is needed and we become some crazy paved dwelling place of God.

The tension I find the most is that we want to pull away and seperate - we might no longer grappe with relality of their being no Jew or Greek, slave or free but we still fight with being modern or postmodern, missional or evengelitic, seeker centred or goer focussed etc.

Rather than being conformed into the image of Christ i want other christians to be conformed into the image of me. Or I don't think i can find a place and therefore seek to create my own.

Still at least we get to bring this out into the open...

grace said...

Yes, that has been the best thing about blogging, meeting other people who are dealing with the same questions and ideas.

You're welcome. I think we can come to the place where we are comfortable in our own skin, but still realize that we are outside the realm of "normal Christian" as you so aptly described.

Moving beyond conversation is an important point. One of my mantras is "Be who you are." At the end of the day, it is our being that will give evidence of our beliefs, not our conversing.

Bruce and Robby,
Based on Forrest's numbers, I would be done September 25, 2008 at 10:04 AM.

That is less than a year and half away. I'm not sure that I can say everything that I have to say yet by then.

I loved your encouraging words! I am always open to God rocking my socks off. :)

The conversation wouldn't be the same without you.

More later!

Anonymous said...

I so resonate with this post. Thank you for writing it.
Molly (formerly of AinM)

grace said...

You are right that "traditional" could refer to any era. It gets a little tricky trying to delineate what forms of church I'm talking about sometimes.

Your question "will it change?" is intriguing. I think it is a question that lots of people are asking.

To the degree that change is a threat to the system itself, I believe it will resist change. To the degree that those involved can see change as necessary to the future existence of their church, they may be willing to change.

It is so true that it is more than just our own personalities or weirdness that make us misfits.

As we become shaped by the image of Christ, we sometimes find that our "shape" no longer fits within systems or structures that aren't open to what that looks like.

Very good point that it isn't necessarily about finding conformity, but instead simply living out our radical uniqueness and encouraging that freedom of expression for others.

Good to see you! It sounds like good things are happening in your life. I hope you will continue with occasional updates. (Is your husband's name Howdy?)

fr'nklin said...

grace...as always, well done. I've been feeling for quite some time that the day could be coming when "I'll just be done". I was kind of scared of that thought at first. Blogging has helped me heal so much...it's my therapist, and since when did a therapist say "we're done"?!?! ;)

Anyway, I guess I'll know I'm "done" when the words of T.S. Eliot come true for me: “And the end of all our searching shall be to return to the place where we started and know it for the first time.” I'm closer to that point today than yesterday.

Thanks so much for blogging. Your the best "average Jane" I've never met;).

Karen said...

Great post Miss average-but-not-so-average Jane. I've been peeking in on occasion, and I have to say that I so relate to these tensions regarding the state of the church today. I don't blog about it much because my reader base, many who have become dear friends, apparently don't have the same frustrations. Now if I had been blogging a couple of YEARS ago... it would have looked much different. But now, I've grown accustomed, as you mentioned, to being a misfit and enjoy relating and functioning very differently than those days of being emersed in church-culture. My identity crisis lasted for a season and now a new season is upon me. I think I like it, but I'm not sure. So I try to find humor in life and keep myself laughing and resting in the hand of God. He's still in control, no matter how chaotic it all seems to me.

Thanks for the insights.

lyn said...

Thanks for posting this Grace. I really appreciated Cindy's post. It inspired me to write my own thoughts!

Pam Hogeweide said...

that would be a great name for a book people.
Average Jane Misfit:
How Grown-up Girls Fell off the Pew

(so, it's good to be back in the blogosphere. i have a lot of catching up to do!)

bryan riley said...

Amen! Oh, wait, that was kinda trad'l church.. :)

Matt said...

Thanks for your story. I can relate to it. Yet being a misfit is lonely. Very lonely when neither Church attending Christians or non-Christians can understand you. It's forcing my wife and i to 'feed' ourselves rather than expecting to be fed. This too is dificult as we need to make time for it and often dont. Blessings, Matt

grace said...

Maybe we will all move past the point of blogging for therapy to just recording what God is doing in our lives now. I hope that no matter what you will occasionally blog your updates.

Hi Karen,
It's nice to meet you. Thank God for new seasons! I'm glad you found a place of rest also.

You are welcome. You have been writing some great posts.

Love the book title! :)
There is no such thing as caught up.

Yes, Amen Brother Riley!

The loneliness is difficult. I found some of the resources at Lifestream, via Wayne Jacobson on my blogroll, were especially helpful during the lonely season.