Childbirth is an excruciating process, and when naturally felt in the body a woman reaches the crescendo of pain, the point called the “transition,” where it feels like the body can’t handle one more moment, this is the very point the body transforms the pain into new life, into the birthing of a new being.
It is the point at which we think we cannot bear any more that we are given the liberation of new life. This is the point we find ourselves in today, in Christianity that is Emerging out of the past and into the equally painful and uncomfortable present. The great gift of being in this space, at the point of transition, is that it brings us to the brink of new life. It takes us to the precipice of manifestation. We are in the hardest part as a body of faith. This is the space into which Emerging Voices gestates–this excruciating transition place on the edge of birth.
This is a seriously messy space–all full of blood and guts and exhaustion. But it is a necessary place. For new life to be born we must go through the pain. The past week or so the world of faith and blogging, of emerging, and emergence has been rocked by suffering personified and vocalized–and we have all suffered the exhaustion of the necessary pain. This began with a post penned by blogger, cartoonist and “naked pastor” David Hayward (whose art work titled “metamorphosis” serves as our metaphoric emblem, above).
A Post & A Past
Following the post was a flooding of pain, suffering, unaired wounds and unheard stories of pain experienced through the emergence of this post-evangelical, progressive form of Christianity known as Emergent Church and Emergent Village. Then all the voices came into the mix, post-evangelical, post-emergent, post-christian and beyond.
So many voices of hurting on all sides, from all perspectives. All grieving the loss of some kind of hope that had to die away for new hope to be born. There is no perfect faith. There is no perfect religion. There is no perfect people group. We will, all of us, get it wrong and messy and get stuck in the pain and guts that is our inner battle for grace at some time or another. We will all question our faith, question others, and forget what we remembered once upon a time, that we can’t expect perfection from any one person, system or community. In that forgetfulness we get so hurt.
In my forgetfulness of that I get myself hurt all the time. Sometimes, in retrospect, it feels foolish and other times it feels necessary when I do it–like the gateway, the transition to newer and deeper understanding. Some days I am so angry at my denomination I could scream. Sometimes I am so disappointed by what I read in progressive faithdom online that I could cry. It is going to happen. The boomerang of these sacred wounds, only so painful because they are equally so sacred in origin, can whip back around and snap us in two.
That being said, part of the process, for us individually and communally is the getting back up, the moving through the excruciating transition to new life–for us and whatever community we call our sacred home [or homes]. Through all the messiness, I think we are in an exciting and liberating time in faith [on most days], one where anything is possible. This particular lineage of possibility began with a few folks who decided to create something called Emergent–to define the place they were standing, between what was and what could be.
There is something so brave in that and I think we can honor that while also critiquing what came from it–another system of flawed humans trying to find their way–and struggling with the great chasm between faith and ego, possibilities and certitudes, humility and platitudes that all those who paved new ways had to contend with, some more successfully than others in this, in history, in our Biblically flawed predecessors of faith. We are all atoms in that matrix and lineage of change and grace, over time and in our own lifespan.
In this place where we stand presently, at the transition point, it is possible to emerge from learned lessons to new faith understanding and carry our history with us on our back–our traditions, our lore, our hurts and our hopes. We can sit in the muck and guts and blood of the transition and know that we are on the edge of another new birth of life. I hope that Emerging Voices can embody that space, of transition, and new birth. It will be messy on some days and it will be full of grace on others–and many days will be a mix of both. Sometimes we will cry together or at each other and other times we will laugh so hard we cry.
I am honored and blessed to be on this journey with all of you. I am not someone who comes out of the emerging movement. I am a newcomer into whatever is currently manifesting, and this process of becoming. However, as a therapist I am very used to coming into spaces of pain, transition, and possible transformation, where I can’t possibly know all that came before. I work with people who don’t always tell me their full history, and often times they don’t need to. For the purposes of healing, learning the nature of pain is essential and how it can be healed to make new beginnings. That being said, after a decade of doing trauma work with people, therapeutically, I have realized that me knowing the story of the hurt has little to do with the work I do in collaboration with my clients towards something new. The story is not the primary conduit to the healing, often it is the thing in the way of the healing.
Our stories, whatever our own is in our hurts, wounds and suffering, does have its place and value, but it is not the place of healing. The place of healing is beyond the story alone, into the imagination and towards the future, into the possible. The healing place is where we are today, in this moment, and how we transform what was our deepest suffering into something new and bold and beautiful. The healing is in the metamorphosis.
Thank you, all you on this journey past and forward for being part of a dream of individual and collective metamorphosis [like David Hayward’s beautiful image above–perhaps my favorite in his sophia series]. Thank you for being part of this spiritual new life and new beginnings we are creating one post, one chapter, one voice at a time in this space of emerging voices. I have so much hope for the road ahead, not without pain but into it and through it. I have so much gratitude for the lessons learned which will make us better for having learned them and grown through the hurt and out the other side.
Gratitude & Beloved Community
I want to say a special thank you to Brian McLaren, of all the forefathers and foremothers of emergence he is the one I know of the best and someone, in getting to know him some as a person, recently, has such gracious authenticity about him. I appreciate all he gave into birthing this community we now write and speak out of–this emerging community of beloved neighbors in faith. I know that journey to new beginnings is no easy path, and I am grateful to what he gave, and along the way gave up, to make what we talk about today even a possibility.
There were many others, I know, but I wanted to offer a name of someone who was inspiration [along with, in great part, Richard Rohr] on my journey, and my husband’s, as we struggled to emerge [seperately and together] from our Catholic [mine] and Brethren [my husband’s] roots.
Part of the ritual of healing is also the honoring of our ancestors, ancient and new, and so I do this as thanks for the past that paved the way ,and thanks to be moving into the future in beloved community with all of you–whoever you are, whatever your hurts, whatever your hopes, and whatever your journey.
We all have a place in this discussion and this community. That is the beauty of truly beloved community. Thank you for listening to my small voice in a larger discussion. Thank you for being a part of this community of faith with us. Faith, spirituality and community is always on the precipice of emerging, that is what keeps it alive and growing. Thank you for sitting on the edge of what emerges next with me, with us [our authorship at Emerging Voices], and with the wider world of faith and faith voices.
Addendum: I can’t say I know where we are headed or what it is called, but I have always preferred the term “emerging” since I was introduced to the concept of “emergence.” I think it is fluid, it denotes change, and it is not a static place but rather a process. And transformation, metamorphosis and change is a process-one that we repeat over and over throughout our lives, lest we get stuck in place, and possibly even continuing post-death. Whose to say.
I don’t know if I could have ever been defined as “emergent” from the basics of not being post-evangelical–because I was never evangelical–but also because I was not really ever involved in the community or dialogue until this recent new iteration of what is emerging. In these “emerging voices” and conversations, which are at least half voices that would also not have ever been called “emergent” either we see the process in practice. That is exciting. That, in itself, is the process of change in action and in writing. It is a great experience to engage with and I am enjoying being in this “emerging” process with all of you.