Size Does Matter
As I was collecting personal data for my memoir on my life in the church, I remembered an encounter with a young man. His mother had sent him to me because he was being courted by Mormons, and she was concerned for him, and also for herself. She hoped I could sway him.
I wasn't sure it was my job to sway anyone, but I agreed to meet with him and hear his story. He was a university student, in residence, and lonely, when two attractive young women knocked on his door. They were inviting him to a young adults' group at their church. He went along, partly because he was grateful for their attention. Now he wondered if he should join their church.
That made sense to me. So this was all I said. “I think we have to ask ourselves, at any crossroads in life, which way will make our lives larger, rather than smaller. I think God has a big plan for us that demands the most openness we can muster. We call that openness faith. If a way is going to restrict us, to make us smaller than we are, or asks us to be closed rather than open, we have to ask if that’s where our soul really wants us to go.”
I don't know what ever became of that young man. I prayed for him. But I realized, if nothing else, I was speaking a truth ... to myself! This may bring me as close as I'm ever going to get to my deepest concern for the church. Does it invite us to live our lives larger, or smaller?
Jesus looked at people struggling to live their lives, constrained by poverty and political oppression, and he saw children of God. He looked at the natural world, filled with both the commonplace and the extravagant, and saw signs of God's "kingdom." When he preached, he invited his hearers into a bigger world, to see their lives as scenes on a larger canvas. He still calls us out into a reality more glorious, and limitless, than anything we could ask for, or imagine, ourselves.
So, when the church spends its time and energy debating the limits to the kingdom--who is in and who is out; who deserves its sacraments and who does not--it seems to me it has missed the mark, widely. It's not about limiting our worldview, but expanding it. It's not about constraining our humanity, but liberating it. Anything less is, well, just less.