This past weekend the band indeed got back together. The band to which I am referring is the Muff Divers, a fictional band created by me and a few friends during college when we spent more time playing rock band than pursuing academics. It was a much needed respite from what has become my life the past few weeks. For the first time in a while I felt like how I had back then, full of ideals and passion, surrounded by people whom I love and trust completely. Although the time was short, I can’t imagine something I needed more than to spend time with those folks because recently I have begun to slip back into the self-depricating cynical attitude that nearly destroyed me last year.
Its hard to explain just what it felt like to be in St. Louis and the effect it really had on me. Yeah, I brought it on myself. I was a young idealistic kid who thought I could be some sort of prophetic voice in the wilderness. I wanted to bring the good out and burn away that which did not matter. I wanted to change things. But that didn’t happen. I was the one who changed. I entered in an empowered idealist and left a fractured and broken cynic. A shell of my former self, completely destroyed mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.
Back in college people would ask me why I wanted to be a pastor in my denomination if I had so many problems with it. If there was one question that pissed me off the most it was that one. It was as if by questioning the established standards I was in effect turning over my membership card because dissension somehow meant I was no longer part of that group. Yet in my mind it was the opposite. The more I cared about that system the more I wanted to do what I could to change that which was a detriment to it so that others, the outsiders and marginalized, could see it and experience it for its best qualities rather than for its worst. Whether or not I was ever able to communicate that love for the system in which I grew up I will never know. I’m not sure if the LCMS will ever know how much I loved it, and I don’t know if it would care or make a difference if it did.
Recently I have been listening to a lot of music via Spotify. During one of the song breaks I heard that song by Bruno Mars which my wife hates and I have to admit annoys me as well, Grenade. However, as I listened to the lyrics I felt like that has become my song to describe my relationship with the tradition that gave me birth. There was a time in my life when I would have done anything for it, just so that people could know all the good I knew. Sure there was always bad and there always would be but I felt like there was a place where I could make a difference so that we could move beyond being the “frozen chosen” and start embracing an identity which forces us to engage with all facets of society and all types of people.
Right now in my life it seems like that dream is long gone. Like I will never be able to go back. Too much has happened. Today I am part of a community that has done nothing but seek to help restore me and revive a passion within me. Its a place that does not seek to force me into a mold but rather allows me to form myself into that for which I am meant. And as I go through this process I am realizing just how much I have gained from growing up in the LCMS. Being in a place which isn’t Lutheran has showed me just how Lutheran I really am. But I do not hold that identity in such a way as to disallow the viability of another tradition. For me, doctrine will never matter as much as people. Not just the people in the pews but those in the streets. Those who have and those who have not. Those who belong, and those who have no place to call home.
And so as I sit here and think about everything I have been through I still want to believe there is a way or a chance to change everything in a much more fundamental way. Maybe it won’t be what I had imagined but that doesn’t mean I have to give up the hope that I hold. The hope that people know they are loved and valued regards of their past. The hope that brings meaning and purpose to those who feel they have none. The hope that teaches us that we are all in this together. The hope that one day I might actually get the chance to go home.