Stuck in the Middle with you.
Yes I’m stuck in the middle with you,
And I’m wondering what it is I should do,
So sang Gerry Rafferty on Stealers Wheel’s 1972 hit. I’ve been feeing like that a lot recently. My relationship with God, and more particularly with the church, is going through a tough patch, what was simple has become slowly more and more confusing, and I’m stuck, trying to make some sense of it all.
Black night is a long way from home
There may be a way out, I have come across something written by theologian Brian McLaren he says that spiritual growth has four stages: simplicity, complexity, perplexity and humility. It’s this third stage, perplexity that has me interested. There seems to be some overlap with the Catholic idea of the dark night of the soul, though I would hesitate to describe myself this way, as the idea of a dark night presupposes some sort of spiritual maturity. Spiritually mature is anything but what I feel.
McLaren’s four stages tie in, more or less, with the simplification of Fowler’s six steps in the first link above. Rather than he full breakdown, I’m interested at this time in the attitudes to authority and to God.
Here’s a simplified version:
Stage 1 Simplicity
Godlike, God’s representatives, they know and give answers
The ultimate authority figure or ultimate friend.
Stage 2 Complexity
Coaches. They help you grow and succeed with know-how.
The ultimate guide or coach.
Stage 3 Perplexity
Controllers. The enemy. Trying to impose easy answers on the naïve. Trying to use the naïve.
A mythical authority I’ve outgrown.
A mysterious reality I’m seeking.
The opiate of the pathetic masses.
Stage 4 Humility
People like me, imperfect.
Sometimes doing their best, sometimes dishonest, sometimes sincerely misguided
Knowable in part yet mysterious. Present yet transcendent. Just yet merciful.
Anarchy in the UK
As I said earlier I feel stuck in stage 3, on the positive side there is the seeking the mysterious. Though the attitude towards authority,as McLaren sees it, has very much a negative side. Seeing those in control as an enemy, something to be avoided.
I don’t see it as as bad as that. It is, like those stages before it, a transitional phase, something I’m going through, so its only a problem if you are stuck. In fact there’s a lot to enjoy from all of them I’ve experienced so far. But even though I can enjoy where I am I can appreciate that to others, and especially those in a position of authority in the church I can be a little challenging.
I need a way forward, and that way is not the slide towards liberalism. I have experienced the active love of God too much for that. I have seen people healed through prayer, both gradually and immediately, in answer to prayer. Just a week and a bit ago our church was told of healings that have happened in Malawi, where a congregation member is a missionary. What that way forward is though I have no idea.