Real Life

It’s been difficult to focus on making something to post today. Not because the week has been uneventful. Quite the opposite. Let me explain:

In the old ways and older days, my life was church. I was in a community where services were held on Wednesdays, Fridays, Thursdays, and three times on Sunday mornings. In addition, more Bible studies were held on Mondays, Saturday mornings, Sunday evenings, and offsite on Tuesdays. I could go to church in some form literally every day. And many weeks I went at least three times, if not more.

The overwhelming amount of times, most of that was my desire. No one forced or pressured me. I wanted to be there. These people were not blood but they were truly family to me. They embraced me.

But what happened over time is that they literally became my whole world. I hardly kept in touch with anyone else outside of that group. I wasn’t interested in going anywhere else. I wanted people to join the group and experience what I had for themselves.

Now looking back, that was a dangerous position that proved problematic when I started to question things. I was rejected. Directly and indirectly. My entire world crumbled apart. Not only did I lose my housing and employment when I chose to leave, but I lost my entire social community and my family over time.

This was devastating to me. I grieved for years. I was scared to get attached to any other group ever again.

But God.

Little by little He walked at my pace. He showed me little by little new people. Then new ideas. Then joy. Then peace. Then new community.

I am very thankful this holiday season for renewed hope. You can get through almost anything when you have real hope.

All to say this new season is refreshing, but also uneasy for me. There was a formula for the old way. It was simple: you’re either for us or you’re against us. And if you’re against us then we don’t associate with you.

The new-to-me way is TOTALLY different. I am at a loss. I am like a toddler trying to find my legs. I don’t know how to navigate all this freedom. I don’t know how to be. I don’t know what to say. I feel like I’m becoming human again.

My best teachers are those very fine human beings who most often are not in the church. Who treat other people with dignity, respect, and compassion. Who don’t take themselves so seriously. Who allow themselves to be completely enraptured in moments of love and laughter. Who celebrate the beauty of Creation in animals, artistic expression, and food.

It is like I am alive for the first time. I see God everywhere when I step outside my mind. When I actually open myself up to deeper connection with the people that I cross paths with every day.

I was completely stuck in my head before. I can get lost there. Intellectual pursuits can be extremely stimulating and captivating. But this new way is all about relationship. With God and others. Real relationship. Beyond the superficial.

Either address your b.s. or it’s coming for you. Not in a tricky sense. But for our healing. For me that means less of me talking at you. Less of me talking at all really. Which is why it is difficult now to switch gears and get inside my head again. I’m too busy actually living. Actually putting the things we’ve been learning all these years into practice. Not in an insulated superficial sense, but rather allowing myself to risk connection by truly being vulnerable again.

Now I feel like I have less and less to say. But so much more to do. I feel like a person who was just released from decades in prison. I have so much to catch up on. To make up for what seems like lost time.

I’ve been spending less time seeking all the right answers and more time being a better coworker, a better friend, a better neighbor, a better… etc. etc. etc. It’s almost as if my learning opportunities and learning appetite have both dried up. Like, “You already know enough. Go live. Go practice what you preach.” All very good changes. Not that knowledge is bad. But our precious Bible does say all is loss without love in action.

And yet I have this desire to create this Already Included project. I want to share my experience in hopes that similar seekers will find the encouragement they need as they go down paths I’ve traversed recently. So I press on. Even as I realize real life is the priority.

“It’s time to smash some boxes, cause God doesn’t live in those.”

Mike Zenker

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