Losing My Religion

Whenever I slip out the back door I grab a little green key ring. It has the house key, which is also the key to my music room in the garage. I like to keep the house locked up so this is also my way back in. And my little ring has a gate key from D&D Fence. I keep the gate locked because we have a hot tub and, now, a pool back there and I want to keep everyone safe. Now, I lose that ring all the time. I always find it – it’ll be on the desk in the office, in the bathroom, on the kitchen counter. Or in those shorts I just tossed in the laundry. It never stays lost for long – I need it so finding it is a priority.

I headed to Hixson the other day to visit Home Depot. I got what I needed, well, at least most of it. So I stopped at Lowe’s for the rest and headed home. Much to my surprise I could not find my little green key ring. I rarely leave home with it – but realized I had done just that. It must have fallen out when I pulled my car keys out of my pocket. Which meant it was in the parking lot of either Lowe’s or Home Depot. Which meant it was gone forever.

I lamented the loss of my little green key ring. Of course, I have copies of the keys elsewhere (especially on the little purple key ring) but the green one had a connotation attached to it. It’s how I enjoy my lifestyle. That ring mattered!

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’” Luke 15:4-6

How do you lose two chihuahuas? On the Facebook group Soddy Daisy Grapevine there is a continuous stream of lost animals – dogs and cats, of course. But also horses (!) pigs, goats, chickens. I even recall a llama, but I may be making that one up. Funny thing is that none of these pets were news until they were lost. I’m sure the owners loved them when they stayed in the yard but now that they were out, roaming the streets of Soddy Daisy, well, they become the most important thing on the planet to their sorrow-wracked keepers. But chihuahuas? How do two of the those little yippers get away from you?

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’” Luke 15:8-9

This lost coin did not have huge purchasing power but was part of a necklace worn by married women – missing one of the ten really mattered. As a nine-year-old in Kentucky I got a weekly allowance of $1. Not a lot of money but it was possible, in 1967, to buy quite a lot. At least from a kid’s point of view. I remember being downtown and wanting to buy something, but my dollar was gone! I searched every pants pocket, the seat of the car. I feared I had dropped it – my kid-fortune gone forever! On the way home I opened a book I had been reading (I was that kind of kid) and, lo and behold, there was my buck, holding my place. I was overjoyed at my good fortune. And promptly bought a dollar-wallet so I could keep track of my cash in the future.

We lose some keys, we lose some pets, we lose some money. And while all those things matter to varying degrees, what if we lost something huge? What if that loss changed our lives forever, left us incomplete, lost and wandering? What if that loss left us looking up at the sky with an emptiness and yearning for what was?

There are some things that are absolutes in my life. I love and treasure my wife – we are “married on purpose, forever.” I love my kids – they are four unique and wonderful humans that, for better or worse, I produced and set loose on the world and they have produced three adorable grandkids to keep it going. I adhere to a faith that was founded in heartache many years past and it has sustained me through suffering and joy, gain and loss, tragedy and victory. There is one God, maker of the universe. And He loved us so much he made a way for us to know him like a father. These are things that do not change.

But maybe the expression of these things does change. Relationships grow and develop over time. Even that relationship with God above.

I have spent nearly four decades as a Christian, a follower of Christ (that’s what the word means). I was baptized and married in a Baptist church. Grew my faith in a variety of independent churches. I am ordained in two, served in nearly every capacity. I have been on the board of denominational churches, boogered up the rug in the Church of God, sung acapella in the Church of Christ, got lost in a sea of people in mega churches, welcomed a tiny group in my house church. It has all been an adventure of faith and in every instance, I have fellowshipped with people of the most sincere faith. Many have spent their lives in that one branch of Christianity and many even in that one church building that their parents and grandparents helped build.

I look around now, searching maybe, for that thing that is lost. I see the ads for the latest churches. You’ve got your Rock Point (“a strategic partner” with a famous pastor), your Journey Church (for people who aren’t perfect but, on a journey,), Freedom Church (where I am free to worship), City Church (self-explanatory), The Crossing (see what they did there?), Relevant Church (and who doesn’t want that). Hundreds of Christian churches, all with good intent, good people, good programs and good teaching. And you can even grab a latte at most. I say none of this in mocking and I know people at many of these fine establishments.

But I think I’ve lost my religion.

Let me clarify before you jump in and invite me to your place of worship. I define Faith as that relationship with God. And Religion in the way that it is displayed. I do not waiver in my belief but am no longer sure of the why/what/when/where in which to walk it out. Yes, I continue to “Love God with all my heart and my neighbor as myself” which is our bottom-line requirement. At 60 years old I’m just no longer compelled to gather together with a brand that matches my personal demographics.

Many years ago I visited a huge church outside Chicago called Willow Creek. This was the prototype mega-church. Every service (and there were many each weekend) they packed in 5,000 people. The music, the lighting, the assorted ministers all were geared towards comfort. And anonymity. It was a stunning display. More recently, for five years I hosted a group of twelve or so in my living room, for Bible study and fellowship. And dinner – we always ate.

Both extremes were correct. Both, and all in between, had their place. But in my mind I keep hearing Bono’s voice:

I have climbed the highest mountains
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
I have run I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
Only to be with you
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for

U2/1987

A couple days after losing that little green key ring I decided to go looking – I really needed it back in my life. So, I decided to call both hardware stores – a long shot, I agree. I mean, who would walk back in and turn in a little key ring and, if they did, would a big-box store even have a lost and found? After punching through the phone menu at Home Depot I got a nice lady named Teresa. Why yes, they have a lost and found. And yes, they have a little green key ring that was turned in. I wondered if it had a little gate key that had D&D stamped on it. And of course, it did. So off I headed to the Depot. I think I was as happy as someone who finds their lost coin. Or chihuahuas. Maybe even the llama.

You broke the bonds
and you loosened chains
carried the cross of my shame, of my shame
You know I believe it

Maybe it’s a good thing to lose something that was of value. Maybe losing your religion is just another step on the journey. Maybe I’ll find another way to express my faith, to find my way.

And that’s a lot to learn from a little green key ring.

2 thoughts on “Losing My Religion

  1. Alan

    You can’t lose life, which is not a religion anyway, but only live it well or not. The “demographic brand” is a really good way to describe modern western religion. The further I get away from it the clearer it is that God is life, lived right here, right now. Keep up the great writing!

    Like

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