Editor’s Note: As we know from recent posts, this Clergy Project member has gone from evangelical pastor to accidental humanist. It turns out he’s been flying the whole time. Where or why, it’s sometimes hard to say. But he’s enjoying the ride. /Linda LaScola, Editor
By Fresh LA
Philosophically speaking, like Icarus of old, I’ve experienced both the thrill of flight and the pain of falling. Nonetheless, despite potentially crashing, I still love the thrill of risk-taking. To be honest, I’m addicted to taking “leaps of faith” into new realms of possibilities. I’ll confess though, the fear of failing and falling remains ever present within me. I suppose this is not uncommon.
Recently, I ran across the following quote by the poet Oscar Wilde:
“Never regret they fall, O Icarus of the fearless flight. For the greatest tragedy of them all, Is never to feel the burning light.”
Developmental Psychology informs us, our first “burning light” is none other than our mother’s gaze. Her eyes tell us who we are and her nurturing arms reinforce this knowing with a sense of safety and well-being. It’s not a rational, thoughtful knowing; it’s a heart-to-heart, touchy-feely type of knowing.
Later, as a toddler, curious lesser lights catch your eye, enticing you to become a risk-taker. Crawling, then walking, you soon pursue new lights beyond your mother’s reach, but rarely far from her gaze. Shortly thereafter, you learn the value of taking along a tethering security item. With Blankie in hand, you venture further outward towards more distant burning lights.
As communication skills develop, feelings become words, then conversations and ultimately relationships. Within the burning light of your family and friend’s eyes, your personal sense of identity and purpose evolves. Growing older, the instructing eyes of teachers, coaches, pastors, employers and peers inform you further concerning who you are and what you should become. Obviously, you discard Blankie along the way; however, Blankie reincarnates as degrees, possessions, memberships, religious affiliations, etc.—anything that provides security.
This may explain why; some adults still behave childishly when they don’t get what they want. Also, it might explain why some tend to be more susceptible to over-promising products and messaging. Cue the fad diets, gurus, televangelists, talk-show-hosts, get-rich-schemes and political candidates.
Recently, a dear friend said to me,
“Don’t you think most people are looking for better life skills? Maybe they could even stand a little re-parenting too?”
I had good parents, flawed, limited, but still lovely and loving. They raised me in America’s Heartland where the hottest, most brilliant lights in our community were the fierce eyes of our faith community. The church told us who we were, what we should value and who and what we should avoid.
Over time, I took a risk and ventured beyond my native ethos. Eventually, I encountered less religious, more objective bright lights. The encounters were illuminating. Still, I quietly concealed my inherited securities: catechisms, creeds, rules, traditions, apologetics, dogma, etc. These old, dim lights kept me feeling safe and informed of purpose and meaning for the time being.
People with a similar background will understand when I admit that these inherited securities were difficult to let go of. People who had nurtured me in the faith had handed them down to me. At first, they were like toys that I played with in Sunday school. Later, they were tools to assist me with problem solving and decision-making. Still later, they became weapons with which I could bravely defend the faith.
From childhood into adulthood, these things pacified my fears and insecurities. What’s more, they came with a promised eternal lifetime warranty! I had been instructed for my entire life that, without them, I’d be forever lost, drifting aimlessly in a black hole void of light, purpose and meaning.
“Oh wretched worm thou shalt be!”
A touch over-dramatic? Not by a long shot!
As a blankie-toting toddler, I always felt safe when taking risks as long as I had my blankie with me. I thought it had super powers, but apparently, its powers were limited to childish, touchy-feely emotions also fulfilled by Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.
As a Bible-toting adult, I felt safe with the Handbook for Life, a.k.a. “Sword of the Spirit.”
In every situation, I was safe and eternally secure. Eventually though, maturity allowed me to acknowledge the truth: a book which doubles as a weapon does not make anyone safe, not even the carrier!
It’s been a long, arduous task, but I’ve finally packed up my Sunday School toys, ecclesiastical tools and imaginary weapons. After all, the ancient saying is true:
“When as a child, I thought as a child; when as an adult—please think as an adult!”
I’m going to be ok. I know I can survive without the imaginary salvation helmet and spirit sword.
Without these things, I am no longer convinced that I’ll lack identity, purpose or security. I know I’m not lost. I know I’m not aimlessly drifting in a dark, lifeless void. Such superstitious thinking is infantile! I can say with complete assurance that my skies are filled with beautiful burning lights dancing in the richness of just being!
Although my fear of falling is ever present, I’m currently entertaining a new thought, which is helping me cope. It may not be a sound theory, but it is poetically inspiring:
Perhaps, this is an upside-down world where falling is flying.
Bio: “Fresh LA” is a child of the 70s who grew up northeast of St. Louis, MO. His life journey involved a two-century old family farm, a mid-west bible college, almost 30 years of church planting in the northeast and responsibilities as a professional evangelical adviser, nationally and abroad. These days, he’s content to work as a project manager by day, and at night, to blog about his past and present experiences as a human, nothing more and nothing less. To learn more, visit http://www.freshLA.me.
>>>>> Photo Credits: By Napoleon Sarony – Metropolitan Museum of Art, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30638597 ; By Jacob Peter Gowy – Icarus http://www.museodelprado.es/imagen/alta_resolucion/P01540_01.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27493281