“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His likeness, from one degree of glory to the next.” 2 Cor 3:18
“… make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Pet 1:5-8
Those two verses are a good summary of the road map I was using for the first 25 years of my spiritual journey: every day in every way I was going to be getting better and better, growing in wisdom and virtue, gaining knowledge and crafting a more perfect and refined theology.
There came a day when I could no longer ignore the obvious: I really wasn’t any better, wiser, or more loving. One Sunday at a church gathering called by the Elders to explain why they were taking a particular course of punitive action against one of their wayward flock (no, it wasn’t me, it was a man who refused to allow an asterisk to be place by his name in the church directory… it’s a sad/funny story and you can ask me about it sometime), I looked around the room at this group of brothers and sisters in Christ, most of them older than me and longer-time Christians. Each of the Elders was doing his (yes, “his”; women can’t be elders in this denomination) best, and it wasn’t very good. Despite their years of serving the Lord, they fell short of wisdom, compassion, and love. If that was the best I could hope for, if that was the best God could do with them, if God doesn’t really transform us, then what is the point? I looked at their lives as the future of mine, and I despaired.
At the same time my finely-tuned theology was falling into pieces.
My road map no longer matched the road.
I guess one could say I had a choice, that I could have stayed in that church, ignored the inconsistencies in my theology. I could have stuck to the road map, even though it clearly wasn’t working for me, but deep inside there was a restless need for something True.
Casting aside the now-useless map, I stepped into the wilderness. The Quakers I found out there taught me that having the Guide is better than having a guidebook.