Three Taverns Church

Religious Rigidity, Part 2: A New Knowing Of God


“Every single one of us comes to a place on our spiritual pilgrimage when our way of doing things fails. God on our terms as we know God is no longer adequate…If we can bear and tolerate this moment of crucifixion, the prize will be a new knowing of God.

But if, on the other hand, the terror, the loss, and the fear of the unknown abyss is too much, we will retreat from the edge and regress back into a former way of knowing, loving, and worshipping God…Our fear and our terror will set like wet cement and we will become increasingly rigid.” Michael Dwinell, Fire Bearer

I practically shouted with joy when I first read these words because I realized I was not losing my mind.

Over the past few months I have experienced deep dissatisfaction with my spiritual life to the point that schisms developed between my church’s leaders and I. People and programs I used to feel emotionally connected to were suddenly bereft of meaning. I withdrew from every area of ministry because in my dissatisfaction I became a fault-finder. Everyone around me behaved as if nothing was amiss so I concluded something was wrong with me. To be honest, the past few months have felt like a spiritual crucifixion.

Then I read Dwinell’s words above, and for the first time in months I felt hope return to my spiritual life.

My ways of knowing God on my own terms have failed. There is nothing wrong with me; I have simply outgrown my understanding of God. It is frustrating, even terrifying, to go through this process: Worship songs which used to bring me joy now sound shallow; pastors who used to speak to my soul now sound desperate, manipulative, and irrelevant; rituals which used to bring me peace now cause irritation.

I have a choice: Suffer through my terror, loss and fear of the unknown, and continue to seek a new understanding of God, or ‘retreat from the edge’ back to my old ways of knowing Him.

I cannot choose the latter option; it’s just not in my nature. I know people who made the choice to revert to a former way of knowing God; the signs of rigid religiosity are obvious, and that is not a road I am willing to travel.

Now that I know I’m not taking ‘crazy pills’ and understand that what I’m experiencing is just another stage of my growing relationship with Jesus Christ, I’m thrilled! I can take certain steps, make certain decisions, and pursue certain opportunities to know, love, and worship God in new ways!

If you have gone (or are now going) through this phase of your own spiritual pilgrimage, would you bless us by sharing your story?

4 thoughts on “Religious Rigidity, Part 2: A New Knowing Of God

  1. Hey Mongoose… I have understanding in what you are saying. In the Old Testament GOD told the Israelites HE would give them ALL of the Promised Land…eventually. HE told them that they were not big enough to possess the whole land but, as they grew to possess it, HE would cause it to be yielded to them, as they fought.

    I was at a point where my “church leaders” told me they evn doubted my salvation because I wouldn’t/couldn’t bend to their thinking.

    As a result, I have rejected “church” until I can find a group of believers that says they accept one, and then actually does it….a group that truly understands the “body” concept Paul discusses instead of acting like they would chop off their little toe when it becomes “inconvenient” instead of treating it…a group that is willing to put more behind “love” than mere lip-service…people who will talk to you instead of ALWAYS being too busy.

    Furthermore, regarding the “abyss,” I have a few thoughts. I was told by a WHEEL in a national church that my problem is that I am TOO ready to pay the consequences. Apparently, most others look into “the abyss” and retreat in fear. I look into it an laugh, daring it Learlike to consume me.

    I prefer Jacob’s approach to GOD. I know HIM. I love HIM. I honor HIM, but I will not lay down. I will contend with GOD HIMself…not that I am close to equality, but that what I know of HIM says that HE DOES make sense and I DEMAND some kind of answers. If I walk away with the scars of contention, I am fine with that. So far my “scars” include a broken knee, a broken back, other physical maladies and 6…no, wait…7 mental disorders.

    I am David with a bed in Sheol. I am David in the back of the cave while his own men plotted against him. I am a spotted lamb being put to the slaughter daily.

    I am not Christ, but I am expected to die like HIM every day. People scream, “DIE” in my face! I am not Paul who was caught up to the Third Heaven so he could see what his trevails would end it, enabling him to be so self-sacrificial.

    I am just little ole me. A slight reflection of the man I was…now old and broken.

    As far as “the abyss” goes, though, I am not afraid one bit.

    Look into it and despair. I see it and look for a friend. If I find one, he can grab my belt and aid me leaning farther over the edge, helping me stare into the all-consuming fire as I scream, “SHOW ME MORE!”

    Does the ‘world” even know what a friend is anymore or does everyone except me know THE TRUTH?

    • Those are some great thoughts, my man! Yeah, I am like you in that I must ‘wrestle’ with God…it’s just in my nature. I think that attitude scares some ‘Christians’ because they think it’s disrespectful to wrestle with God…I would argue that the to disrespect God would be to ignore Him completely; wrestling with God is not disrespectful or heretical at all; in fact, it means that I care so much about knowing Him more that I must struggle and suffer.

  2. I do want to add one more thing. I don’t ALWAYS contend with GOD. No way. I know the inflections of HIS voice in my head and I know when it is time just to shut up, accepting that everything doesn’t NEED to make sense to me. That is when GOD does his Job thing to me: “Where were you, BOY, when I made the world?” “No where, GOD. I’ll be quiet!” Then there are just times that I am hurting so bad I grab on to HIM with everything in me and refuse to let go, or be let go. Sad thing is, THAT (clinging to HIM) is how I should be all the time.

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